Art & Aesthetics Activities for 3 Year Olds

Explore the world of art with your child.
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With benefits such as improving critical thinking skills and increasing social-emotional development, an early arts education is essential for the young child. But it's easy to skip the art and aesthetic activities with your little one if you're unsure of what to do. Even if you're not a Picasso in your own right, you can still try a few creative activities with your 3-year-old without fear.

1 Painting

Three-year-olds enjoy exploring the world around them and making a mess while doing so. Cater to your preschoolers growing need to make her own discoveries and create a process-based painting. Instead of regulating what and how your child paints, set up a well-protected area and let her go with a rainbow of colors, different sizes of brushes, rollers, sponges and more. Cover her work space with newspapers, a vinyl table cloth or plastic sheeting before the art making begins. Don't worry if she isn't painting "something." Allow her to experiment with the colors and process.

2 Sculpting

Who doesn't love the warm squish of modeling clay? Give your 3-year-old a palm-sized ball of clay to sculpt into an abstract shape. The goal of this art activity is to explore the clay, creating three-dimensional shapes with different textures while building fine motor skills. Use craft sticks, cotton swabs, plastic spoons or a rolling pin to make the clay rough, smooth or bumpy. Keep the sculpture as is and let it air-dry or reuse the clay -- storing it in a plastic bag.

3 Drawing

Most children at age 3 are in the preschematic stage of drawing development. Unlike toddlers who just love to scribble, the 3-year-old might start to make more defined circular shapes. In the early preschool years, kids start drawing "people" that often look like big circle heads with line arms and legs and little or no body. Give your child a box of crayons, markers or colored pencils and a stack of blank paper. Avoid telling her what to draw. Instead, wait and see what magic she works up on her own.

4 Aesthetic Viewing Activities

Aesthetics aren't just for moody college art students who wear black and spend their days sketching in art galleries. Little kids can, and should, have some form of exposure to visual viewing activities. The best way to do this is a museum field trip, in which your 3-year-old can see the art work up close. If this isn't possible, use an art book or the Internet to find child-friendly works to talk about. Ask your child to tell you what he can find in the art or look for specific shapes and colors.

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.