You’ve laid out all the supplies. You planned out each step. You know what it’s going to look like and where you’ll proudly display it. And then the toddler enters the room. No matter what you do to prepare, you will inevitably face the same mistake with all toddler art projects.
What could possibly go wrong?
The paint might spill. Clothes get stained. Perfectionist children freak out that their drawing isn’t what they wanted.
Yes, these all are very real things that happen during a toddler art project, but they are pale in comparison to the true problem.
While we want to believe we are the best parent ever – and really, we are – we are all destined to make the same mistake: not letting go. As soon as the project begins, our instinct to help with every step kicks in. But we must resist and give control back to the kids.
My daughter gets extremely frustrated when she is disappointed with her art. She’ll beg me to do it for her. She becomes so upset that she quits; I get it, I really do. This is why I usually go ahead and draw whatever she is asking me to.
Does that actually help her? Yes and no. Yes, she continues to learn that I will be there to support her. But it also tells her that she doesn’t need to learn from her mistakes, that someone else will come along and fix them for her. Granted, she’s five, and it’s not like drawing a penguin is a huge life lesson, but we are planting the seeds for their confidence and personalities.
There’s another way our hesitance to let go during art can rear its ugly head. We want to jump in because their interpretation of the project doesn’t match up with our vision. If you’re Type A, it can be difficult to watch your kids to use too much glue or pick the entirely wrong color for grass. I’ve learned, as we’ve done more and more toddler art projects, that simply going with the flow takes the stress away. Instead of saying “You know the sky isn’t brown, right?” ask “That’s a unique choice! What made you think of it?”. Who knows, maybe they have a fun reason. Or, maybe that’s just the crayon closest to them. For the record, always get the Ultra Washable crayons and markers. You don’t even need to ask how I know.
At the end of the day, we choose to do toddler art projects because they’re supposed to be enjoyable for everyone involved. But when we are asked, or feel compelled, to jump in and take over, take a moment to decide if that truly is what’s best. You will probably find that your kid is more than capable of creating something wonderful on their own (even if it’s a bit more unconventional that anticipated).