What’s on Frida’s shelves (22 months) 

I recently decided to refresh Frida’s art shelves and change the area a little bit. Previously, these shelves contained only art materials, but I thought it would be sensible to use them for Frida’s Montessori-inspired work, as I wanted to keep this work separate from her other toys. Frida is tall enough to reach her art materials now that I have put them on the top of the unit, and can clearly see what she is reaching for.

She has the following art materials freely available to her:

  • Paint
  • Felt-tip pens
  • Coloured pencils
  • Wax crayons
  • Paintbrushes
  • Paper (both plain and coloured / textured)
  • Stickers and sticker books

Liquid watercolour, glitter, glue, and other materials I keep stored away out of reach.

In addition to her art materials, on her work shelves Frida has:

Shadow matching cards.

These are a lovely, simple material for toddler matching work. You can read my blog post about these here. 

Geometric solids and kinetic sand (sand not pictured) 

These solids are a brilliant way of introducing 3D shapes to toddlers in a fun way. There’s no pressure for Frida to learn or memorise shape names (though I mention these to her), they just provide her with a tactile way of exploring 3D shapes as well as a fun tool for building with her kinetic sand.

I keep the kinetic sand in a big tupperware tub, which sits just behind the shapes on the shelf (fun fact: this is the same tupperware I brought Frida’s placenta home in!)

These are the geometric solids we use and this is the kinetic sand.

2D shape work

Frida is using this as a puzzle and as a matching game, as I made her some simple cards to go along with the puzzle. This is also a great way of expanding her vocabulary to include shape names.

We choose to use the proper words for the shapes such as quatrefoil and rhombus rather than clover and diamond.

Similar shape puzzle here.

Colour paddles

Frida still loves to use these, enjoying holding them up to her eyes and experiencing the change in colour.

Similar colour paddles here.

Knobbed cylinders 

These are still keeping Frida engaged but I think it’s time to add more to keep this challenging. You can read my blog post on these here. 

I didn’t buy these but this set looks similar.

Ink stamps 

These are still in rotation as Frida is still showing interest in them, but they’ve been on her shelves for months now! You can read my blog post on these here. 

This is the stamp set Frida uses.

I feel like this area works well for our needs at the moment, though I have had the same pieces of Frida’s art work up for months now so I need to find time to refresh these. As ever, I am constantly finding that I need to make tweaks and changes to our space to ensure it’s fit for purpose and fulfilling all of Frida’s needs. But isn’t that part of the fun of Montessori!

Making simple Valentine’s cards 

This year Frida made a few simple Valentine’s cards to send. It was a very lovely activity to do together. 

Last week we prepared some paper to use. Frida made a glittery collage (crayons, glitter glue, pink hole-punch litter) and painted some water colours to use as a base for the cards. Whilst painting she spilled some watercolour, so I used that as an opportunity to show her basic printing – pat paper down onto the spill then lift it off and see the colour! 

I then prepared some very basic cards made of folded white card, and cut out backgrounds and hearts from her decorated paper. 

Frida applied the glue to the back of the cut-out paper and helped to stick them on. 

Frida then decided who each card would be sent to (a few friends her age she sees regularly, her daddy, her cousin, and her grandparents) and she “wrote” a message inside each one. 

Whilst Frida napped I made simple envelopes, and then she proudly carried her cards carefully to the post-box at the end of our street to post them.

We missed last post (oops) so our cards will arrive at least a day late, but I’m hoping that it’s the thought that counts! 

Her finished cards below (minus one which we hand-delivered). 

Toddler art: silver materials on black card

Usually Frida used white card or paper as a background to her art (except of course her backboard). I thought it would make a nice change to present her with black card as it is such a striking material to use.

As this was the first time she had used it I stuck to offering just one contrasting colour, silver, in the form of glitter glue (PVA mixed with loose glitter) and a sharpie. 

Frida immediately loved this! We talked about how her work looked a bit like the night sky, but mostly I think she just found the contrast very pleasing. Despite having had a very busy day with no nap, she had lots of patience for doing this.

She worked on a few different pieces, all using the same materials, for a good chunk of time. She then did need a bath as she was pretty covered in glitter! 

I’ve been really disorganised, but I’m going to start putting together a folder with all of her art work in, properly dated and labelled. “Duplicates” (Frida will often produce several similar pieces in one sitting) can be used as a quick basis for a birthday card or thank you note. 

What are your favourite toddler art materials? 

Toddler art: stamping with ink 

Frida often does some sort of art activity in the mornings after breakfast, whilst I clear away the dishes and generally restore some order. 

This morning Frida decided to work with her ink stamping set. Ink stamping is a great art activity for toddlers – it strengthens the hand and arm muscles, requires coordination, and develops those all-important fine motor skills. 

Frida has a stamping set from Melissa and Doug which currently lives on her art shelves, available for her to access at any time. She also has free access to paper supplies. 

I have also seen these stamps presented in a tray, with just a few stamps offered along with paper and the ink, but so far keeping the set together is working well for Frida. She enjoys selecting which animal to use as much as she enjoys the stamping, I think! 

Frida has had these available to her for a good few months now but it’s only recently that she’s been able to reliably make clear stamps. 

I can imagine she will enjoy using letter stamps when she is older and learning how to write. 

These photos were taken early this morning, before we cleaned Frida’s art shelves and wiped down her blackboard, so please excuse the messy background. 

What art activities are your children working on at the moment? 

Impromptu colour learning 

I wanted to share a little story from a few days ago, when Frida was painting in the afternoon. We do a lot of painting and drawing at the moment, art is definitely one of Frida’s favourite activities. 

(You’ll have to excuse the quality of the photos accompanying this post – in London it gets properly dark around 4pm at the moment, and the light in our dining room is fairly dim). 

As Frida was painting, she put some paint on the table, and noticed with interest that although the paint was blue in the dish, and on the paper, it looked green on the table. You can see this moment in the video below – I happened to be filming her at the time (I try and take video footage when I remember as I know we will so love to look back on it). 

We then talked about what happens if you mix yellow and blue, and I think she really got it. 

Frida then wanted to use her squeezy paints (I have recommended these before and think they are brilliant for toddlers), and I was interested to see she chose yellow and blue with no prompting, and then mixed these together on the paper to make green. 

I am sharing this story with you, as I thought it was a nice example of natural, child-led learning. Instead of me sitting Frida down and saying “look, if I mix these two colours, it makes a different one” she was able to discover this herself through hands-on exploration. Surely this is a more powerful way of learning?

(And as an aside, maybe this is also an argument for why it’s ok to let children paint on the table / do things which we could sometimes disapprove of. Though our dining table is wipeable so maybe I’d feel differently if that wasn’t the case…)

The paint Frida was using here was just very diluted gouache – not ideal! – so I’ve finally bought a few proper watercolour paints (I decided to go for a starter set of Stockmar watercolours as I trust the brand’s quality), and I’m looking forward to exploring much more colour mixing with Frida from now on. 

Toddler craft: sparkly Christmas trees

With December fully in swing, I thought it was time to do some seasonal crafting with Frida. 

We have put our tree up (we have a tiny, fake tree this year, as I had read lots of things suggesting that was the safest thing with a kitten in the home. It turns out we can’t leave him alone with it anyway so we could have gotten a real one after all!) and Frida is very taken with it, so I thought it would be nice for her to decorate some of her own. 

We often do crafting early in the day, after we’ve had breakfast – in theory, this allows me to finish my cup of tea and clear away the breakfast things. It doesn’t always pan out that way (and sometimes it just means I have all the things to clear up once she’s finished) but that’s the hope! 

This was so simple to set up. I just offered Frida:

  • Christmas tree shapes, cut out of green card;
  • Stickers for “baubles”;
  • Glitter glue (I mixed some up myself with PVA and loose glitter – Frida chose silver, purple, light blue and dark blue – and used an old egg box to put it in); and
  • Paintbrushes. 

I loosely stuck the tree shapes down to a large sheet of paper so they would f move around whilst she was decorating them. When they were dry, I stuck them to a clean, smaller piece of thin card, and have put this up on our wall (see below), but you could stick them on cards or string them up too. 

Frida seemed to enjoy this craft – a good combination of sparkly stuff, stickers, and “mixing” of glue! She has not been in the best mood today – I think she’s getting ill – but this kept her attention and put a smile on her face. 

I’ve made a little Christmas corner in our sitting room with our tree and some books. It turns out Frida really likes Christmas trees! So she’s making me feel much more festive about the holiday season. 

I like displaying Frida’s art and crafts around our home, as I feel like it shows her that her work is precious and valuable and that we treasure it. I will probably frame today’s tree craft and get it out every December. 

I find this time of year fills me with ideas for simple crafts, so I’m looking forward to doing more over seasonal crafts with Frida over the next few weeks (I’ve already got some ideas for doing similar Chanukah based activities too). 

Toddler craft: Pasting  

Frida loves doing art and craft activities. She goes to her art shelves throughout the day, and really seems to have a need for mark making at the moment. 

I will admit that, although Frida has art materials readily available to her, I haven’t done much pasting or sticking with Frida. I thought I should probably rectify the situation immediately, which is how she found herself making a sticky artwork pre-9am this morning! 

Pasting is great for fine motor skills and so simple to set up. I gave Frida two small dishes, one with PVA and one with some glitter glue, as well as paper and paintbrushes and some torn tissue paper (which she helped to tear).  

When we made a candle lantern together we used similar materials (glue, torn tissue paper) and she immediately spotted the similarity and started talking about it.

There wasn’t much demonstration or prompting needed with this activity. Frida was mainly more intetested in “painting” with the glues and mixing them together, but a bit of paper did get stuck too. 

I think it could be so tempting to meddle, or suggest to her “why don’t you stick some more paper?”, but watching her working independently is such a wonderful reward for not interfering! 

Frida definitely needed a bath by the end, and she’s still looking a little bit glittery (it’s the season for it after all). 

She got a bit frustrated at the end as the tissue paper was getting really stuck to her fingers, so we had to go and wash everything off. But I think the activity was a success, and I’ll definitely be offering her similar opportunities for sticking and collage making with different types of paper and materials. 

What art and crafts do your little ones enjoy? I’d love more ideas!