Once I was finally able to ditch art as a subject at school I thought my days of drawing laughable trees, wonky flowers and strange stick men were behind me.
But the big problem for people who are rubbish at arts and crafts is when we come to have kids, we quickly realise we’re back at school all over again.
Worse still, it’s not just one hour a few times a week any more. It’s every single day, for hours a day.
My toddler loves crafts, painting and drawing, whereas I would be quite happy if I never saw anything by Crayola ever again.
But when you don’t want your child in front of the TV all day and you can’t face the “I’m booooored” complaint for the 50th time, I’m afraid you’re going to have to roll your sleeves up.
More than this though, unleashing their creative side is good for them. And it’s great for bonding. Sometimes it’s quite funny.
So I’ve been working on arts and crafts activities that even I can manage. I’ve put a few baking recipes in here too which are really simple but great fun to do with small kids.
For all of these ideas I’ve used washable paint specifically targeted at toddlers. Do pick your paint wisely if you don’t want lots of ruined clothes.
Many of these ideas are pretty cheap to do and some can be done with stuff you may already have lying around the house. Enjoy!
1. Giant self-portrait
Draw around your toddler on a large piece of paper. Then let them colour themselves in.
2. Paper plate faces
Get plain white paper plates. Draw the features on and then let your toddler colour them in with pens or paint. If you’re feeling really creative you can stick some strips of paper on top for hair.
3. Making coasters
These kits from Baker Ross are so easy for you as everything comes in the kit and they’re nowhere near as messy as painting or colouring. Your child doesn’t have to follow the pattern exactly, mine made a rather odd zebra but her lion came out brilliantly.
We want to try this kit next: Ladybird Coaster Kits for Children to Make and Decorate (Pack of 6)
4. Make binoculars
Get two toilet rolls and glue or tape them together. Next get a piece of string and tie each end around each loo roll to make a loop. Now go out into the garden and spot some birds.
5. Bubble wrap print
Don’t ditch the bubble wrap that came with your latest Amazon order. Cut out squares of it and your toddler can use it for print painting. Simply put some paint in flat paint trays or a plate, then encourage them to put the wrap in the paint before pressing it to a piece of paper.
6. Chocolate cornflake cakes
This is such a simple recipe but kids love getting involved with making it.
The big bonus here is you get something delicious to eat at the end of it all. Plus you will get five minutes of peace and quiet while your kids are eating their cakes! Win-win.
7. Rolled golf ball paint
Roll a golf ball in paint in a bowl. Use the golf ball to create cool lines and shapes on a piece of paper. Your hands will get messy but your toddler will love this.
8. Bubble painting
I remember doing this at school, it’s the one craft activity I was vaguely good at.
Mix your paint with water and a squirt of washing-up liquid. Stir it up and then blow into it with a straw to create bubbles. Help your toddler to gently place the paper over the bubbles to take a print from them. Repeat with different colours to make a pretty picture.
9. Egg carton flowers
Save a few egg cartons and then use scissors to remove the box lid. Then cut the egg holes into groups of four.
Use the holes as petals and encourage your toddler to create pretty designs.
Once the paint is dry, use sellotape or glue to add a stick to the back of your petals so it resembles a flower.
10. Homemade play dough
This was pretty ambitious for me. I can cook, but this kind of thing is really daunting to me! Yes, you can buy it in the shops, but making it yourself adds to the excitement for your toddler. Also the ingredients are really cheap.
11. Finger paint butterflies
Draw the butterfly’s body in the middle of a piece of paper (it basically just needs to be an oval with some antenna on top). Then encourage your toddler to create the wings using their hand print or with their fingers. You can draw an outline of the wings to help your toddler.
12. Leaf painting
Gather some leaves from outside. Encourage your toddler to paint them different colours and then press them to a piece of paper to create a pretty autumnal collage.
13. Sponge painting
Get a cheap bath or cleaning sponge and cut it into squares. Alternatively you can buy a pack of paintbrushes from Hobbycraft that include these brushes with sponges instead of bristles.
Let your child smear, print and brush on a piece of paper with lots of different colours of paint.
14. Toilet roll multi-pen
Get a used toilet roll or kitchen roll. Gather five or six different coloured pens. Stick them all around the outside of the roll with sellotape.
Now your toddler can create cool multi-coloured patterns.
15. Marble painting
Get a tin foil tray, find a piece of paper or trim one down to fit inside the tray. Pick a couple of colours and dollop them at different spots all over the paper.
Put the marble in the tray and then help your toddler tilt the tray all around so that the marble trails through the paint and creates cool lines and random patterns across the paper.
16. Blow painting
Use a foil tray or do this one outside. Put a piece of paper in the tray. Put a dollop of paint on the paper and then give your toddler a straw. They can blow through it, aiming at the paint. To make it splatter across the paper. Remember to tell your toddler not to suck on the straw, they don’t want a mouthful of paint!
17. Cup painting
Get plastic or paper cups. Any size will do. Put paint into flat-bottomed bowls or on plates. Press the cup upside down into the paint, then press onto paper.
Encourage your toddler to make flowers or pretty patterns with the circles.
18. Duplo painting
Similar to cup painting above, but use Lego blocks instead. You can chuck them in the dishwashers afterwards or put them into hot, soapy water.
People might call this a cheat’s craft. I don’t care. My toddler loves stickers. You can get so many different ones now that they never get boring. You could encourage your toddler to decorate a toy box with stickers or they could put some stickers on a plastic cup which they could then use as a pen holder.
20. Egg carton caterpillars
Save some empty egg cartons. Cut them up so all of the egg holes are separated.
Punch holes in the sides of the egg holes. Thread a piece of string, or a pipe cleaner through the holes of each egg hole and tie a knot at either side. You could also draw a face at the head end of the caterpillar.
21. Cardboard box drawing
Got a large cardboard box from the last time you moved house? Stick your toddler inside it with pens and let her go crazy colouring all sides of the inside of the box.
An easy and limited clean-up activity. Plus the box should still be ok to use again afterwards.
22. Leaf and petal collage
Take your toddler for a walk to gather leaves and flowers.
Pick the petals from the flowers and then encourage your toddler to create a nature collage by sticking them down on a piece of paper or thin card.
My mum’s cupcake recipe is simple to follow and reliable. The cakes are always delicious. My toddler likes to help stir the mixture and watch me measuring out the ingredients.
She can also help to put the mixture into the cake wraps and loves decorating them once they’re cooled.
24. Icing and decorating biscuits
If you don’t have time or don’t fancy the effort of baking, this is a brilliant option. Simply buy a packet of biscuits, mix up some icing (or buy some readymade in a can) and let your toddler decorate them.
25. Painting on texture
Gather old bits of cardboard, including thick and thin pieces, and paper. Cut them into smaller pieces and stick them to a piece of A3 card.
Give your toddler a paintbrush and let them decorate the picture. The different textures will inspire their painting.
26. Wool stamps
Get some string or wool, or garden twine. Wrap it around a Duplo block or similar shaped solid block. Tie a knot to keep it tight.
Encourage your toddler to dip this into paint and then make stamps on a piece of paper. It creates a really interesting pattern.
27. Tree Finger painting
Draw the trunk and branches of a tree with a brown pen. Then get some green and yellow paints in bowls. Encourage your toddler to use their finger to dip into the paint, then splodge some leaves on the branches.
28. Potato stamps
You can make elaborate shapes with this or keep it simple.
Get a potato (the variety really doesn’t matter) and cut it in half. If you want to make a specific shape, draw it on the flat side of the potato and then cut out with a sharp knife. Alternatively just use the potato half as it is.
All your child needs to do is paint the flat side and press it to the paper they’re painting on.
29. Comb rainbows
This makes some really cool patterns. You can buy cheap combs from the supermarket or pound shop.
Dollop all the colours of the rainbow onto a tray or large plate. Make them close to each other and roughly the length of the comb you’re going to use.
Get your toddler to dip the teeth of the comb into the paint. They can then brush the rainbow colours into a piece of paper with the comb.
There are loads of free printables for children’s colouring activities on the Internet. Do a search for your child’s favourite theme – unicorns, cars, whatever they like. There’s something for everyone!
31. Scratch art
Baker Ross do some amazing scratch art shapes. You can get animals and all kinds of other shapes. All they need to do is scratch away the black coating to reveal the colours underneath.
32. Sand painting
Get some play sand (the stuff you use to fill sandpits). Mix together with paint. Make as much as you think you need using the ratio of one measure of sand to 0.5 of the paint.
Give your toddler a paint brush and watch them enjoy their extra special paint.
Got a special occasion coming up?
Get your toddler to make a card using the craft, colour or design of their choice. Your relative will love the personal touch.
34. Sun catcher kit from Baker Ross
There are so many amazing craft ideas at Baker Ross and it’s all such good value. The sun catcher kit is really easy. With this value pack you get a few pens for the decorating.
The glass sun catchers are ready to decorate, simply encourage your toddler to colour the different shapes and spaces. You can then add a piece of string and hang it in their window.
35. Brilliant brownies
I’ve yet to come across a better brownie recipe. I am a total chocoholic and this recipe satisfies my cravings and then some. They are totally amazing because they have chocolate chips in, giving a different texture as well as the gooey cake.
My toddler loves helping to drop the chocolate chunks into the mixture.
36. Decorate something for the Christmas tree
Hobbycraft do Christmas tree decorations in loads of shapes and sizes. There’s a brilliant selection. I bought a little star for my daughter to paint.
Alternatively, you can visit a ceramic painting centre which usually have Christmas themed pottery to paint at this time of year. If you get a bauble or similar that’s big enough you can capture your child’s handprints, which makes a beautiful keepsake to get out every year.
37. Paper plate picture
Use a plain white paper plate to create a pretty scene. You could encourage your toddler to paint it blue, then get cotton wool and stick it on to create a blue sky with clouds. You could also stick pipe cleaners in wavy lines to symbolise the sea.
38. Foot painting
Do this one outside and use a very large piece of paper. Get a tray and pour some paint into it. Remove your toddler’s shoes and socks. Encourage them to stand in the tray and then walk across the paper.
39. Lollystick wand
Get some cardboard and cut out several star shapes. Encourage your toddler to paint these and some lolly sticks.
Once the paint is dry, stick two stars to the top of one lolly stick (one on each side of the stick).
40. Tissue paper sticking
Grab some tissue paper or wrapping paper, cut it into squares and then let your toddler stick it to a piece of paper however she wants.