We do almost all of our toddler programs on the floor. We don't have child-size tables for them and this allows their caregivers to work with them and not take up another child's space. Plus, clean-up is a breeze if you just have to roll up brown craft paper after the program.
I come up with one station idea for every 5-6 kids. There will be stations that will have more kids there at one time, but that's okay. This teaches them to take turns. You will never be able to predict what the most popular station will be-this year it was glitter glue and last year was watercolor paints. Use 1 idea or concept at 1 station because these kids are learning to do these activities themselves. Think of supplies that kids this age like to use but don't get to use very often-paints, glitter glue, crayons, stickers, chalk, markers, stampers, etc. They don't have to be complicated stations. Once you have your ideas, look for supplies that the kids can use themselves (this is their program, not their parents). I look for easy-to-squeeze bottles of glue, chubby crayons, and stampers with big handles or large stamp pads to ink the stamps.
This year's stations
This year we set up 5 stations. We used:
- 8 sets of watercolor paints-If you use paints, don't use water cups. You want something with a wider base that doesn't easily tip over. We used a large bowl this year.
- Glitter glue-I recommend the Colorations Rainbow Glitter Glue from Discount School Supply as little kids can easily squeeze the bottles. It also doesn't dry up. We currently have around 20 bottles of glitter glue from running this program each year. As a bottle empties, we get rid of it. You will be surprised at how long 1 bottle lasts.
- Chubby markers-These are fun because they kind of roll across the page as the kids color. Because the bottle that holds the ink is thicker, they are easy to handle for little hands. They also come in fun colors.
- Dinosaur stampers-I bought a pack of 24 dinosaur stampers from Oriental Trading. They are smaller than I would have liked, but the kids were able to easily use them once I took all of the bases off. I put out larger stamp pads for them to use.
- Stickers-I found a box of foam dinosaur stickers at Michaels. I also put out mini paw print stickers and leftover star stickers from our Dino Collage program. If you put out stickers for little kids, know that they LOVE stickers. To make it more user-friendly (and to not have the first kid use up all of the stickers), cut your stickers into strips of 4-8 for the mini stickers or cut each sticker apart for larger ones. There will still be the kid who will sit in front of the sticker box for the entire program, but this lets the other kids have access too.
What I Have Learned
As you run Toddler Art programs, you will build up your supplies. While we do a little refreshing each year (a couple of new bottles of glitter glue, some new paints, fun stickers, etc.), most of the supplies can be reused. This keeps the cost down. We spent less than $20 to put on this popular program.
When you advertise your program, add in a line about bring paint shirts or messy clothes. Most parents will have something that their kids can wear even if it isn't a paint shirt. It will save you from cringing when the first kid dumps the paint water over the floor.
We have a lot of parents who don't do art at home, other than coloring, due to the "messy" factor. They love this program as they get to see their children have fun. The kids love it because they get to try new things. I love it because I get some great decorations. Once the parents see different things that they can do with their child (and that we don't end up with paint all over the carpet), they are more likely to try these activities at home. I had one child today who was off with his mom to buy glitter glue at Target after the program. Another mom asked where I recommended that her child could paint at home and we came up with her plastic picnic table so they could hose it off.
The kids love to bring their siblings, parents, and grandparents along with them to their summer programs so they can show off their artwork. It is like an art show-the dinosaurs are up all summer.
To see last year's Toddler Art program, please visit here. Below are this year's pictures of some of our finished products.