Article Type Making Art Together Making Art Together Categories Collage Drawing Infants and Toddlers Painting Printmaking Theory and Resources

Setting a Space for Inspiration: Materials Play

Sara Ottomano

In planning for the Materials Play Program, we specifically design art experiences with our toddler guests, and their caregivers, in mind. In the past two quarterly sessions, I have been really interested in continuing our thoughts about setting a space for inspiration by re-imagining the back part of our Art Studio for whole body exploration. In other words, I wanted each art experience to be immersive, focusing on limited materials, and tailored to toddler interests. Below is a round-up of the past sessions, I hope it inspires you to re-imagine your spaces based upon your art-maker’s interests! 

One morning involved an appreciation of bubble wrap and its many qualities. Placed on a table next to stamp pads, we focused on the ability for it to be used as a stamp.

Taped on the window, we saw how the many different types of bubble wrap caught the light.

Despite bubble wrap having the potential to get loud when popped in large groups, guests had quiet moments gently popping individual bubbles against the glass window.

Taped to the floor, it provided an opportunity to jump and crawl across it, creating loud pops.

The next week, I was inspired to create a whole-body experience with tissue paper after seeing many toddler guests find great joy in tearing paper. I taped strips of tissue paper under two of our tables which created an inviting environment for guests to crawl under the tables and tear pieces off of the strips to use in a collage on contact paper.

After tearing the tissue papers, guests carefully placed their pieces onto the sticky material.

Two guests noticed that we had a display in the windows which was quite similar to their explorations, and were delighted to add their pieces to it.

The most recent Materials Play exploration focused on a favorite material in the Art Studio at the moment, watercolor pencils. Wanting to encourage collaboration and usage of the watercolor pencils on a large-scale, I transformed the back of the Art Studio into a waterscape, complete with a paper pond, waterfall, and rivers.

The paper was a re-use of the display wall background for the past two EAPs and I added new color diffusing paper onto one window to allow for the guests to add their own water marks down to the ground.

Guests delighted in adding their own aquatic creatures such as fish, and whales, but were equally excited to experiment with mixing colors with the special material.

I hope that this post inspires you to focus your art explorations on one material within your creative spaces!


Sara smiling in front of Art Studio display.

Sara Ottomano

Art Educator since 2016 at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Sara (she/her) is enthusiastic about helping others approach art through exploration and experimentation.