Sensory “Art” Group for Infants and Toddlers


The Infant/Toddler Art Group is Back! Now that the weather is more predictable, I plan on hosting an art group each month.


This month instead art as usual, a friend had the inspired idea of a sensory “art” group. She provided most of the sensory bins but I brought a couple too.


Available tools included various sorts of containers and spoons.



Tools?  Why hands  . . .



and feet, of course!



Aside from the moon sand, sand, waterbeads and rice bins pictured above, there were also bins of corn/wheat mix (hen scratch), whole corn kernel, natural materials and a water bin (not pictured).




This is my friend’s enviable collection of rocks, shells, driftwood, and a lone feather.


This was a collaborative effort so there were more sensory bins than I would have offered were I to host this one alone. If you are considering hosting a playgroup like this it would be just as wonderful on a smaller scale. Despite the many choices, the children did not seem overwhelmed. I think that having the freedom to choose which bins to play with and being able to at them for as long as they wanted was key to making this a playful event.

Painting on Reflective Surfaces

For this month’s Infant and Toddlers’ Art Group, I couldn’t settle on what to bring to the park. After rummaging through two cupboards and a box of materials (yes, I desperately need to get more organized), I settled on bringing some aluminum foil.


I set out the foil with sandy paint for a gritty contrast to the smooth, cool aluminum.



I’ve started to set up some paint on the benches of the park picnic tables. They are the perfect height! Moon (12 months) can stand and easily access the paint.


Inspired by the idea of the reflective foil, I decided to look around the house for other painting surfaces that would shimmer outdoors. The babies painted with this Mylar type paper and a cornstarch water mix (the paper was leftover holiday wrap).



While some babies experimented with texture, Moon was compelled to explore her relationship to the spaces around her. I’ve noticed this at home as well. I think there are some changes to our home environment that need to be made in order for her to further study the relationship of her body and how it fits in the world around her.




Thirdly, I set out a mirror and paint.




The collaborative work above was painted by children of various ages (young school-age, preschool age, and two years old), and was as elaborate as they decided it should be. At one end, a toddler painted the entire surface, and at the other end the older children painted lines and the spaces within the lines.


While the art group is titled “Infant and Toddler,” open-ended art experiences can be captivating for children of any age. I’m curious to know how, if at all, art experiences are different for older children when they paint alongside toddlers and infants.


Have you ever noticed any differences in the way older children work when they paint alongside very young children?


Art On The Go



For now, we have a place to host our Infants & Toddlers’ Art Group. I’m so thankful for a warm place to paint on these wet days. Unfortunately, colds in our home kept us from attending our last art group. So I was challenged (and who doesn’t love a last-minute challenge?) to pack up the art materials and keep cleanup as simple as possible for the moms who would be packing things up instead of me (thanks Kimmy and Anne).




 Sensory Play and Action painting


I poured a few drops of food coloring in a ziplock bag along with the finger paint, and mixed it by squeezing the bag instead of packing it in small jars as I usually do.



Aside from the art medium, paper, and/or tools themselves here’s a short list of things I bring with me when setting up art anywhere but at home. This time, I replaced all my reusable cups and plates with disposable ones so that the other parents would have less to take home/return to me.



  • Drop cloth – Doesn’t keep paint from getting everywhere, but it helps.
  • Paint cups or plates for infants – Since I was not going to be able to help clean up, I sent paper plates.
  • Masking tape
  • Clothespins & clothesline – to hang art with. I can always manage to find something to tie the line to and let the art dry.
  • Weights – depending on where we are going I may just use rocks or paint bottles, but it keeps the drop cloth in place when the infants are moving throughout the art area.
  • A trash bag – or two
  • Wipes or cloths – I generally use wipes because we don’t often have access to water.
  • Extra smocks
  • Markers – just in case there is a child who is hesitant to use any of the materials provided.
  • Optional*  easels and clips – I have used cardboard for makeshift easels to provide a hard surface for the children to draw or paint on when we are at the park.


Finger Paints on Textured Surfaces

Since we were finger painting again, I thought I’d set-up a varied texture experience. I cut several pieces of bubble wrap wide enough for a child to keep both hands in front of them.



I also cut several pieces of foil for something smooth, and perhaps cold, to paint on – or in this case, sit on.


Lastly, I always try to have a tool for children to paint with, just in case they are uncomfortable with getting the paint on their hands. I try to stay clear of anything too gimmicky that may devalue the painting experience.  For example, I cut 10-inch pieces of twine for the children to paint with, which I’d cut much shorter next time.



Art Group versus Art at Home


When I set up paint or sensory places for our art group, I offer them several choices because I don’t always know the children well and their developmental abilities often vary (some are sitting, while others are running). We also have art group once a month right now, so several things at once is still manageable.


When I set up art for the girls at home, and when I used to do it in the classroom, it’s is scaled down quite a bit because I know their experiences and interests. Also, I know that I can offer sensory/art experiences over time.


So, while their friends had several painting options at art group, Greysen & Moon had one option at home.  They, however, were more involved in the prepping process.


Moon mixed the finger paint by squeezing the bag! Greysen squeezed the food coloring and chose the colors, then helped me lay the paper out and tape it in place.


We used white finger paint on bubble wrap, so the focus would be on the texture and sensory experience of the art.  The white, however, was so hard to see that before long we added the yellow and blue paint that Moon had mixed just a short while earlier.


Now that I’ve got the hang of setting up art for a group at different places, I’m eager to try to set up art or sensory experiences for the girls at the park or garden. Have you ever painted at the park or away from home? What do you think would be the biggest challenge to making this happen?


Creating an Infant & Toddler Art Group

An art group! I first read about this fantastic idea on the Dilly Dali blog while I was researching music and movement groups/classes. I felt so inspired to get Greysen involved in something similar, I shared my excitement with a fellow mom who was just as eager. The result . . . a toddlers’ art group!


My  hope was to offer children opportunities to use art mediums in their own way without a specific outcome or product. Art, in the very early years, is very often a sensory experience. The National Training Institutes Zero to Three best describes children’s drawing experiences at this age.

This is the period when young children are just figuring out that their movements result in the lines and scribbles they see on the page.  These scribbles are usually the result of large movements from the shoulder, with the crayon or marker held in the child’s fist.  There is joy in creating art at all ages, but at this stage especially, many children relish the feedback they are getting from their senses:  the way the crayon feels, the smell of the paint, the squishy-ness of the clay.


My goal was for the children to have fun expressing themselves and let their ideas take charge! In other words, no demonstration drawing or 20 questions regarding their art. Questions such as, “What’s that? What did you make? What did you draw?” reflect an expectation of producing some type of final product and may not be at all in sync with the child’s art experience.

Finger Painting
A Sensory Experience

As is the status quo in Reggio Emilia and Reggio Emilia-inspired classrooms, the children painted alongside one another. Ownership over art work is fairly uncommon at this age. Children paint collaboratively, only later learning possessiveness over their painted space. So, the children painted on one large piece of paper, which was not saved. After all, it was all for the experience.


These art activities were planned primarily for one to three year-olds.  As such, I wanted to be sure that there was at least one art material safe enough to be used by the infants without adult intervention. I found a wonderful homemade finger painting recipe on the Imagination Tree blog.

What a way to nurture curiosity!






It’s also a good idea to have brushes or other painting tools available just in case a child or two are uncomfortable with the sensory experience. By having a brush handy, everyone can participate comfortably.