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Problem Solving & Creating A Toddler Outdoor Art Area

Otto at 15 months using texture brushes at How we Montessori

I recently found a solution to two problems I was facing. I want to share as it might help or encourge you to see your spaces differently!

My problem was that I had a toddler who likes messy art and when it's raining we had no outdoor space to play in. Our house is so small the only place Otto can use his art easel without covering the place with paint is outside. We love spending time outside but when it's raining we have no covered veranda, patio or deck to use. 

I was almost thinking about setting up a small art area in our (unused) garage. But it's too far from the house for me to easily supervise and it's kind of dusty and smells strange. Then I noticed for the first time, the potential of the children's bike storage area. Just outside our kitchen door there is a little storage area where the boys keep their bikes, it is covered (the roof is a clear perspex), it has three sides, is sheltered from the wind and rain but it's still really open and has lots of fresh air and light.

The boys aren't using their bikes a lot now it's winter so I put the bikes in the garage (still easily accessible). I put up a few hooks, a shelf, a new sand/water table and a large blackboard and now Otto has a fun, outdoor and covered art area. I can sit on my kitchen steps and easily supervise Otto's play. 

Otto at 15 months using texture brushes at How we Montessori

Otto is 15 months old so I try to keep this area really simple. But here he is in his element, this really is a yes space.

Paint texture wands at How we Montessori toddler art materials

I only have out two art materials out at a time, it's currently paint and crayons. He also loves the dot markers. I know many Montessori books say to start the toddler on one colour paint and then work to two, but we use four colours with Otto. One brush or textured wand per pot of paint. It doesn't matter if he messes up the colours, exploration is what it is all about. 

Paint texture wands at How we Montessori toddler art materials

I've never had an allocated sand/water table for my children before. But Otto enjoys playing with water much more than my other two, it was inevitable that once I found the space we would have a permanent water table. I empty the water every night and I fill it throughout the day with warm water. The only problem I have is that he sometimes tries to drink the water, so we are working on that. We rotate the materials/tools in the sand and water trays. 

Otto's art area at how we Montessori)

The large blackboard is a favourite too. It encourages lots of new arm and hand movements. The lovely thing about the sand/water table is that we can put the lid on it and use it for other activities like drawing, or even playing a board game or doing a puzzle. 

I like to rotate big toys as well as small toys so there may be a time when we rotate the easel out and put in something different. In warmer weather I could see us putting some outdoor cushions here are making a little reading area. It also makes a fantastic storage area for things like outdoor blocks, or gardening materials.

"Try to create an outside area where the child can not only do outside activities such as playing in a sandbox, but activities he would be doing inside, such as washing his heands or the dishes, looking at books, doing a puzzle. It is ideal, but not always possible to create a free-flow inside-outside for the child. An alternative is a protected porch or other safe outside space, no matter how small, which he can be in at will. Of course this must be open only when the adult can be available to see what this young child is doing." The Joyful Child, Birth to Three Years - 2010-2011, Michael Olaf.

If you are looking for toddler art area ideas you can see our (indoor) art area in our previous home here for Otis at 14 months and his shortened easel here. You can also see our most used art materials for babies here

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