Anyone who has spent more than a half hour with a two year old can easily imagine the chaos that can arise once a toddler is given some paint or a glue stick. Known for interesting (and completely absurd) ideas of fun, toddlers are a handful even on the best of days. My son – in particular – has never been described as calm. He’s a little mover and shaker. He runs instead of walking. He jumps instead of climbing down. He’s my little energizer bunny. How, then, does one embark on a crafting adventure without ending up with a distinct need for a valium and a house that’s covered in finger paint?
The short answer? Prepare ahead of time and embrace the mess. Before beginning any craft, I have all the materials I need ready, I’ve stripped my son, I’ve laid a painting sheet on the floor and a bath is drawn and at the ready. I’m ready for a mess. Therefore, when one ensues, I’m not the least bit thrown off. If you can’t handle mess, crafting with your two year old will likely drive you over the brink of insanity. If you can roll with it, remember everything is washable and remain calm, you’ll do just fine.
Here are a few tricks of the trade that I’ve picked up:
- Only display the materials you will be working with at that moment. I quickly learned that if I’m making a multi-step project with Mateo, he will be unable to focus if he can see the cotton balls we are going to use later in the process. The tree will never get painted because he is simply incapable of redirecting his attention from the paper circles we are using for ornaments on the paint dries. When we are crafting, the only materials in his line of sight are the ones he is using at that exact moment.
- Ditch the clothes whenever paint is involved. This is mostly to save you from extra work. A naked toddler is easy to clean. Paint splattered clothes require a little more effort. Save yourself the aggravation and nix the clothes.
- Check your expectations at the door. Most of my crafting ideas are not mine. They’re things I’ve seen on Pinterest or am lovingly swiping from friends. Therefore, I have a vision in my head of what the end result should look like. Mateo could not care any less what Pinterest says his handprint tree should look like. I’ve had to remind myself to allow him to enjoy the process without dictating how it should be done. He’s making memories… not trying to the next Pinterest prodigy.
- Have Fun! Piggybacking off of the previous tip. Check your expectations and have fun! Enjoy the experience. Laugh at the mess. Tell stories. Ask questions. For the love of god, if he wants to paint your nose green, maybe let him. It will wash off. I promise. My nose is not green and it’s been painted more than once. Get a little silly. I promise you can go back to your snarky, cynical, adult self during nap time. Or, maybe that’s just me.
- Know when to abort the mission. Most of the time Mateo loves the crafting process. There are times when he just doesn’t have it in him. How can I tell? He starts trying to paint his tongue or racing around the living room announcing that he’s monkey. It’s usually pretty clear. Rather than try to force him into cooperation, I’ve learned to abandon ship and not look back. There’s always tomorrow.