Destructive Artsy Things To Do With Toddlers

by Alissa Marquess on May 1, 2012

When people sign up for my newsletter they receive a welcome email that asks what their biggest difficulty is in being creative with their kids. One thing that comes up frequently in people’s replies is, “What do I do with my toddler?”

{good question!}                                                 

Parents want creative, but simple things to do with toddlers, both to have something to do while they try to make a craft with older kids, and to have a fun way to connect with these funny busy little beings. I have decided that while my littlest is in toddler hood I will regularly be making posts about the simple toddler activities we do.

Things- to-Do with Toddlers

Right now I am SMACK in the middle of toddlerhood with my youngest.  At one and a half she is busy, curious and DESTRUCTIVE.  Seriously, I think she is two times as destructive as her brothers were at this age (I bet she realizes that I am often distracted with an older kid.)  I mean, we used to have 12 matching mugs- we have one of those left.  I actually picked up four bowls at the dollar store last week because she’s been so successful at destroying bowls that we were eating out of empty yogurt containers.

So, my first things-to-do with toddlers post is all about destruction:

My one year old wants to explore her world and right now that means taking it apart.  I’ve started to use this to my advantage when we’re doing art projects.

Destructive Artsy Things to Do with Toddlers:

  • Pull apart an old art project.
  • Rip Paper.
  • Dip paper shreds in water.
  • Pour water over sidewalk chalk art.
  • Crumple paper- throw it at something!
  • Make a mark and show your toddler how to scribble over it.
  • Let your toddler color their high chair tray.  Delight them by showing how a washcloth wipes it away.
  • Show your toddler how to wipe away marks on a dry erase board.
  • Rip more paper.

Recently I’d made a sample picture for my four year old- showed him how he could glue rice onto the page and add stickers, nothing fancy.  This sample picture proved to be the perfect destruction activity for my toddler.

I handed her the picture and showed her how she could pick the rice off the page-
OOH, this she had to try.


Things to do with toddlers- glue Gluing is fun. UN-gluing is more fun.

I set out a bowl in case she wanted to put the bits in it- YES, that was a good idea.  Soon enough she discovered she could rip off the stickers too.  Her destruction kept her busy and happy, and satisfied her curiosity while I was able to continue doing art with her older brother.

Rip and tear!

She also recently enjoyed gluing folded pieces of paper down (that part was OK…)

The real fun came when she discovered how nice it was to rip these glues on pieces back off the paper.  This of course, inspired a whole bunch of paper ripping and she thoroughly destroyed the art project we’d made moments before.

Ripping paper is one of the most simple and satisfying activities for my toddler.  You can extend this activity by giving a bowl of water to dunk the paper pieces in, or giving an old wipes container or kleenex box for them to push the pieces into.

Things to do with toddlers- ripping paper We made a collage. She made a pile of ripped up paper.

Is your toddler in a paper ripping phase? Have you found things to do with your toddler that involve destruction in a fun way, that lets them explore and allows you to relax? Let me know!

Linked up to Tuesday Tots at Rainy Day Mum.

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Rachel May 1, 2012 at 10:28 am

Great post! My little one is into ripping paper, I didn’t think to make it into a fun (and good) activity.

I’d love it if you’d like to share at my Teaching Time for Toddlers link up!


Deborah @ Teach Preschool May 1, 2012 at 10:39 am

We often get to see cutesy crafts and projects which are great. But we rarely get to share ideas on destruction which all my boys love. Great ideas! Thanks for the reminder:)


Sarah E. White May 1, 2012 at 11:35 am

Just in the past couple of days my girl (2.5) has been asking to do art, and when she’s finished she’ll wad it up and throw it on the ground. Creation and destruction in one! (And she loves putting on foam stickers and ripping them off, too.)


Cerys @ Rainy Day Mum May 1, 2012 at 1:09 pm

T is very intro removing all the stickers – J at 32 months prefers to stick them which leads to conflict so we’re having to buy double the amount of stickers and give T some to stick and peel off and J others to create with.


Rachel May 1, 2012 at 1:32 pm

Fab post!


Billy May 1, 2012 at 2:42 pm

Thanks for this post! I am at lost as to what to do with my toddler, so I’d love to hear your ideas. Will try ripping paper :-) [she doesn't have an older sibling so destroying their work is not an option, lol]


Tina May 7, 2012 at 6:04 pm

I am a teacher in a multi-age (6 wks to 3 yrs) class and so often hang up art with what appears to be nothing on it. This is why! Children love to put it together and take it apart! So easy to do, so hard to remember.


The Iowa Farmer's Wife May 8, 2012 at 12:45 pm

These are fabulous ideas!!! My son is only 7 mos old, but I can already tell his name is going to be Destructo! :) These are great ideas, especially for when he starts wanting to destroy his sister’s art work! I’ll have to create some for him to demolish without her freaking out! :) Thanks for sharing!


Alissa Marquess May 8, 2012 at 10:23 pm

Glad the ideas are helpful for you- good luck with your destructo ;)


Rachel M May 10, 2012 at 11:50 am

Just wanted to say I’m excited about this series! My little is 19 months and I’m on the lookout for activities, although she’s pretty good at making up her own too (:


Nika May 15, 2012 at 7:46 am

love this – so many of my friends hate messes but my two have been destructo kids for years and love it. Magazines destined for the recycling are a great resource for art and ripping! Newspaper and used tissue paper from gifts is great for scrunching up. A paper bag is great container for them to put their scrunched balls into. I would suggest my two to fill it up with their scrunched balls and then they got to carry it around and unpack it too, or just tip it upside down and watch everything fall out!

Wonderful post.


heather at wordplayhouse® May 15, 2012 at 1:23 pm

The beauty of your projects is that they keep the children happily content at their work and the projects are free as well!


Lucy June 24, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Just the post I needed to read! I am finding it difficult to entertain my 2 yr old . I am doing all sorts of wonderful creative activities with him but getting frustrated when he rips it all up, it seems such a shame and a waste. Thank you for your post and reminding me that kids DO LEARN from destruction. Now I am going to do a craft with him just so he can tear it apart! Love the thought of doing a collage with torn up paper! (I am smacking my forehead as I write this – a little embarrassed that I hadn’t thought of it earlier!) Thanks again!


Teresa September 15, 2012 at 10:19 pm

Right on the mark! My oldest daughter has lots of doctor’s appt.’s and I am always looking for things for my 2 year old to do while waiting. Recently purchased one of the “memory” games, but saved it until we were at the dr’s office to give to her. She happily punched out all the cards while we waited! You can reuse by putting all the cards back in their “frames” for them to punch out again! Another destruction activity is “peeling” all the labels off of crayons. Definitely need to remember to get the wipes box or tissue box for her to put all the torn paper into when she is done. Sounds terrible to let her pull all the labels off, but crayons are sooo cheap, and she stays quiet the entire time.


Annarella October 2, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Thanks, this was a great blog post with sme good points and ideas. . I know it is not about the finished product, but it is so hard to let go and let my toddler “waste” and “ruin” things like that. :-)


Tiffany April 19, 2013 at 1:59 pm

My one year old loves to destroy…but she also loves to try to eat those little tiny pieces of paper, any tips on helping to curb her “appetite” :)?


Alissa Marquess April 19, 2013 at 8:10 pm

Oh boy…probably just time to tell you the truth ;)


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