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First Art : Art Experiences for Toddlers and Twos, a book review PLUS toddler art resources

First Art : Art Experiences for Toddlers and Twos, a book review

First Art : Art Experiences for Toddlers and Twos by MaryAnn F. Kohl (2002 edition) is 145 pages long and there are six chapters including Primarily Paint; Hands on Dough; Making Marks; Sticky Business; Great Impressions; and Fun Stuff for Toddlers and Twos. Each art activity includes a list of materials, adult preparation, process of the child, variations, and black and white drawings; and many include tips to "smooth out the bumps".

The 7-page introduction gives a brief synopsis of the skills, interests, and development of toddlers and twos that will help you understand your tot. The book emphasizes process and not product, that toddlers and twos "explore art as a learning experience or an experiment, discovering what is stimulating and interesting. They are more interested in doing rather than making a finished product."

The seven-page introduction also includes a definition of the helpful icons used for each activity, including one for easy adult preparation and planning, one for slightly involved, and one for most involved. There are also icons for quiet or active, clean up, art clothes, group, outdoors, and caution. There's a Getting Ready section for workplace preparation, handy cleanups, and art clothes, as well as general tips including safety. Lastly, there is a list of materials for where to begin in the early art process with toddlers and twos.

In the beginning of each chapter you will find helpful information pertaining to the development of toddlers and twos and how it relates to the activities in that chapter and your child's interaction with them. In the Primarily Paint chapter you will find some finger paint recipes and 24 homemade paint recipes. In chapter two, Hands on Dough, you will find eight or nine dough recipes. Chapter three is my favorite chapter, Making Marks. Toddlers and twos love to make marks (scribbling). There are whole chapters in art development books on scribbling! Making marks (scribbling) means using various tools to "mark" with: crayons, chalk, shaving cream, and large paint brushes being favorites of toddlers and twos. On page 69 (of chapter three, Making Marks) you will see a long list of scribbling tools, scribbling materials, and scribbling areas.

Chapter four, Sticky Business, begins with a list of over 100 collage materials by alphabetical order. On page 99 there is a section called "Early Scissors Experiences for Toddlers and Twos: The Three Stages" and it walks you through the three stages of "scissoring". Throughout the chapter there are activities that "put together" items using various materials like yarn, foil, tape, glue, paste, stickers, and contact paper.

Chapter five, Great Impressions, focuses on printing. Printing is a great way for toddlers and twos to make "marks" using a variety of tools found around the house. And it's less challenging than trying to write with a pencil or marker or crayon using a pincer grasp (which develops later after age three). The printing chapter starts out with a list of over 100 items to use for making marks, including parts of the body like feet.

There is a materials index in the back of the book, an icon index (to look up activities by icon, like quiet or easy preparation), and an alphabetical index of activities.

I gave First Art five out of five stars on I wish I had this book when my son was young! But even if you have older children, there are great recipes for paint and dough, and lists of materials to gather up and to have on hand, as well as tools and tips!

This review was on the 2002 (older) edition. To order or to learn more about this book here on go here.

More Montessori toddler art resources:

I went in search of  Montessori-inspired art projects, activities and resources for toddlers, here is what I found!

Websites and blogs:

1. My Home Made Montessori blog: Textured Sensory Fossil Art
2. Mamalooma blog: Kid Art Play dough
3. To the Lesson blog: Paper Tearing
4. Natural Kids blog: Festive Feast for the Birds


Pineapple Paintbrush blog: Online Preschool Art Class

*Lively, short YouTube toddler clip "using fruits, vegetables, crackers, or other materials you can find at home, dipped in finger paints, your toddler will have a lot of fun making different kind of prints." Maybe if food wasn't getting so expensive lately, but still, very cute video!

My two idea sparklers for homemade toddler arts and crafts:
  • *Plain yogurt and food coloring for finger painting on a place mat.
  • Glue stick, soup can labels, brown paper bags or old gift bags.
Practical Life:

Can your toddler clean up his materials?! Watch this YouTube video "20 month-old putting away play dough, Montessori home" from SewLiberated (one of my favorite Montessori blogs BTW). It can happen, just be patient!

For non-Montessori crafts, visit this mom and son YouTube channel, SimpleKidsCrafts, I like that they use recycled materials! (Recommended for older kids... hundreds of crafts!)

Please Note:

A "Montessori" art project is one that is 1) available in the environment for the child to repeat, 2) usually on  a tray with all the pieces necessary for the child to complete the art activity from beginning to end. 3) The child also cleans up the activity and 4) puts it away when finished!

*Personal comment on using edible materials for art: I never used edible art materials because of my son's cognitive delays (I wanted him to eat food and not play with it); and we did not use them in our classroom--instead we used found objects and recycled materials... Some teachers prefer not to use food art with toddlers as it might be confusing... I think it is up to you entirely! (Maybe painting with veggies will get your tot to eat them, just not with paint on them!)

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You may also be interested in my recommended Montessori and homeschool books for parents and teachers on

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