Toddler game: Master smear-maker

Toddler game: Master smear-maker

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A fun activity for your toddler

Have you ever caught your toddler in the act of smearing food on her highchair tray or table? Of course you have! The textures and colors of food are interesting to toddlers (though this doesn't necessarily mean they'll want to eat it!). Just think of the real art your child can create with that smearing technique. Now that their fine motor skills have become further developed, some 20-month-olds are able to draw horizontal and vertical lines – or even a circle.

Good for age: 20 months (but older and younger kids might enjoy it, too!)

Skills developed: fine motor skills, imagination, color recognition

What you'll need: finger paints, wax paper, and plain white paper

Note: Finger paints can be found in the craft section of your local toy store. Or for a simple, homemade version, combine 3 tablespoons of sugar, 3/4 cup of cornstarch, and 2 cups of water. Then divide the mixture into separate containers and add a few drops of food coloring to each container.

Tape a large sheet of wax paper to the table or your child's highchair tray to protect the surface. Over the wax paper, tape a sheet of regular white paper.

Start out with just one color of paint. Pour a small amount directly onto the paper and show your toddler how to dip her fingers into it and smear it around. When she gets the hang of it, add a couple of color choices by pouring small amounts of the other colors onto the paper and naming the colors for her. Then sit back and let her go to town.

Your child may want to paint several masterpieces or stop after just one. Either way, display her work on the window or refrigerator so that you can admire it together. Tell her a couple of specific things that you like (for example, "You have dots here and streaks here – that's a nice variety," or "I like how the green goes all the way along the bottom"). This will show her that you value the unique qualities in her work.

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