earliest art experiences

a handfull of my friends have little ones who have recently celebrated their first birthday. along with new experiences of toddling around and mastering some words, they are also ready to begin some early art-making experiences. a few moms have asked me what i first did with N in that realm. this sent me back through my memory and my zillions of photos of my wee little teeny N-bear.

playroom 12.5 months

generally, the very first art materials are those that we refer to as “pre-art materials.” this basically means they are safe items that can either be digested (such as beans, whipped cream, or dough) or that are large (such as building blocks, balls, bowls). they promote tactile experiences and are used for sensory-motor stimulus, and are great for kids between one and two years of age. pre-art materials are still useful beyond the two-year-old mark because they reinforce the sensory experiences that a child is discovering, and since children at this stage can become easily frustrated, pre-art materials may provide them with a sense of mastery over the art task.

N was a kid who, at around 9 or 10 months old, loved to hold the stems of two leaves in her hands everywhere we went. then two drumsticks from her toy drums. which evolved into two fat crayons, one in each hand, with which to make her first marks. often, two or three crayons were in each hand, making marks together.

15 months

she loved the cause and effect of being able to create a mark… to make something on the page! how powerful that must feel for the first time, for a brand new being to assert herself and push pigment across paper and watch what happens! she was sold.

15 months

as you can see in the photo above, we have always loved taping off the borders of the page — not only does it keep the paper from wobbling all over the place for early artists, but it also creates a lovely frame around abstract scribbles.

14 month scribbles by N (bottom pastel rainbow by me)

we ventured into the realm of homemade dough as we got closer to 18 months old. mostly she just loved to mush it around, pull it apart, squish it, feel it, poke it with straws. she would command certain things for me to make for her like balls, snowmen, various animals, and then manipulate them, while cracking up, after i created them.

playing with dough at 20 months old

and always, sandtrays, water tables, and natural materials found outside are great for exploration… (keep an eye on where sticks and rocks end up at this stage, of course.) have fun introducing these tiny artists to their own creative potential — it truly knows no bounds!



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  • thanks jen, these are great!
    especially love the borders for scribbles – didnt’ think of that before.

    awesome work and thanks for these teeny artist inspirations!

  • what a beautifully written post, jen! everything you’ve written is spot-on! my 10 months old started playing with beans and other tactile objects, and is now mushing around play dough and drawing with crayons and markers. it must be so empowering for babies to exert their will in this way. thank you!

  • jen

    thank you, rachelle!

  • Mia

    Oh, I like the idea of creating a boarder for the scribbles -it looks very nice.