5 Ways to Use Dot Dabbers with Toddlers
Dot Dabbers found themselves on the art table a lot when my kids were infants and toddlers. Dabbers are one of the first art materials I used with our kids when they were infants and are still one of their favorites more than two years later. One particular afternoon I set out paper and dabbers. This is an activity with which they are familiar, but my daughter was nonetheless excited to see it on the table. She sat down and happily dabbed away for a bit. Then she started using her finger to squish the ink onto the paper. I have to admit, I almost stopped her. This was making quite the puddles of watercolor on her paper and there were drops running down her hands and arms.
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If you aren't familiar with Dabbers or Dot Markers or Bingo Dabbers they are a perfect art material for infants and toddlers. I love them because they are;
*Easy to grip
*Easy to use, which is important for young kids with limited motor skills
*Make brilliantly colored marks
Dabbers sat on our art shelf from the time our kids were introduced to them around 15 months and still sit there today. They continue to be one of our most used, most loved art materials. Most afternoons I set out an art invitation at the table. Some of these are loved and some of them are ignored, but in between these invitations our art shelf is open and available for exploration.
But doesn't this mean you have marker and crayon marks all over your walls?
I assure you I do not.
We started small with our art shelf. Around the time our twins turns 15 months, I put a few simple materials on a low shelf in the dining room. I truthfully don't remember exactly what I put out first but if I had to guess I would say plain white paper, crayons, and dabbers.
Of course the first week or so this was big news for my toddlers. During this week I spent a lot of time patiently reminding them of my one rule : Art materials stay in the art area. In other words, NO! You cannot run off to the playroom or bedroom with your marker. If they wanted to use the markers or crayons or dabbers they could at most times during the day, but they needed to use them at the table. When one of them came over to get an art material I would simply say, "Bring your dabber to the table" and offer them a piece of paper. When they were done (usually about 5 seconds later) and popped down from the table, I would ask them to put it back on the shelf. If they ran away, I wouldn't stop them, but I would take the marker or dabber saying "Art materials stay in the art area" and put it back on the shelf.
It took about a week for the novelty wore off and the rule had sunk in. I probably reminded them of the rule 1000 times a day during that week and repeated it several times in the weeks to come, but here's the thing - that persistant work was worth it. Gradually, as they respected the rule and I needed to remind them less, I was also able to add more materials to the art shelf.
Today my twins are 4 1/2. They have an art shelf with paper, stamps, scissors, crayons, colored pencils, markers, watercolor paints, tape, and of course those dabbers. They have full access to this area during the day and I can't remember the last time I needed to remind them about the rule.
Why does this matter?
Two really big reasons come to mind.
1. It makes life easier. Sure it was hard work to teach them the rule and to respect the materials in the first place, but that hard work lasted for a tiny amount of time in the big picture. Now they can get what they want, when they need it. They are confident, capable, and empowered.
2. And this is the biggie for me, the creativity that comes from free access to art materials from a young age is astonishing.
Remember that little girl who was smearing dabber ink all over her paper? She was making a mess and I am truthfully not a comfortable with mess, but fortunately, I managed to hold my tongue. Soon after she starting smearing the ink with her fingers she went over to our art shelf and found a paint brush. She brought it back to the table and started using the paintbrush to spread the colors on her paper. The results (pictured above) were beautiful and she was incredibly pleased with herself and proud to show her brother and her dad her picture.
I love her idea, so the simple instructions are shared below, however even more than the actual idea I love that after a couple years of exposure to various materials she was already so confident in her expression. She is learning how to integrate materials together on her own and use the tools she has learned to create what she wants. Somehow I doubt she could have come up with the same idea if her creative experiences had been limited to select times each week when materials were carefully pulled out from a high cabinet one at a time.
Cover the table and lay out art smocks if you are concerned about marks or stains. Dabbers are washable, but they are like washable paints and markers in that there is no 100% guarentee.
Set each space with a piece of paper.
Have dabbers available. You can order them online here.
30+ Collage Ideas for 1-5 Year Olds : READ POST
Ultimate Guide to Painting with Kids + Dealing with Mess : READ POST
Find all of the Bambini Art Project Posts HERE
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