So inevitably we all ask, when’s the right time to start getting creative? Well you see that glorious mess all over the highchair? See those fingers in her food? That’s means baby has already begun her quest for artistic expression, so now it’s time to get serious!
There probably isn’t a minimum age to begin introducing baby to creativity, but generally, at around 11-12 months old they’ll happily grasp a crayon or splash around finger paints, and begin doodling away on a sheet of paper you’ve taped down on a board, or on the highchair tray.
There are actually a number of reasons why using the highchair or similar is a good idea. For one, there’s the mess! No matter what materials you’re using, it’ll get messy, and you’ve got the rest of the house to protect – if you’ve got a toddler, the highchair restricts them from wandering off and spreading all kinds of art materials over the walls, sofa, carpet, dog, etc!
The other aspect is focus. We all know the attention span of a tot is pretty short, so by concentrating the action in one little space on the highchair, they’re less likely to become agitated and complain to be set free to roam! Well for 5 minutes anyway.
So what to use? The most popular by far is wax crayons. Cheap, safe, non-messy and easy for baby to grip, especially the big fat stubby ones! Just tape a sheet of thick paper to the highchair tray, help baby grasp the crayon and off he goes! And as you help him make different kinds of marks, encourage the use of different colours for development and variety.
A last quick word on crayons – if you’re concerned about the environmental impact of wax crayons (they’re derived from the petro-chemical industry), remember that beeswax crayons are also available. They’re completely natural, but much steeper in price.
When you’re brave enough to progress to paint, finger paints are where to begin. I’m not really sure why they’re called finger paints, though, because most tots would get their entire bodies in the gloop if they possibly could! But anyway, they’re non-toxic, washable and otherwise safe for all manner of splashing around on card or paper. Also a big favourite for outdoor fun, where you’ve only got the grass or patio to mess up, and can easily be washed off afterwards.
There’s also the option to make your own finger paints. There are lots of recipes on the internet, using just cornflour, water and food colouring. You could even add flavouring to make them edible as some parents do, but that’s just asking for trouble if you ask me! Edible paint!
Big chunks of chalk are another lovely, traditional way to encourage creativity in your little ones. Either on a blackboard, or on the patio slabs on a warm day, it’s such a simple pleasure, and a wonderful bonding experience, to just sit with your tot and make shapes, choose colours and enjoy the time together.
Whichever way you decide to begin, it’s a great thing to take the step, get over the thoughts of mess and clean-up, and just get stuck in! And as mentioned, it’s not just baby who benefits. These little art sessions can become treasured moments, and a special thing for you both to do for many years to come.