Toddler Art (Toddler Lessons: Part Three)

256px-Claude_Monet,_Impression,_soleil_levant Part Three of my series in Toddler Lessons is Toddler Art.

Toddlers love art, and they have a surprisingly sophisticated grasp on a wide range of artistic styles and techniques. Here are ten, as demonstrated by toddler artists.

1. Abstract Art

(Art that is not representative of reality or recognisable images.)

Abstract art is the primary style of the toddler artist. That yellow squiggle represents ‘Mummy, a mermaid and my sandwich’, mostly because toddler artists feel compelled to give an answer when asked what their squiggle is a picture of. Toddlers actually take the concept of abstraction beyond the confines of art, and can often be seen applying it as a general approach to life, sometimes spending entire days at a time engaging in activities with no connection to reality.

2. Baroque

(An artistic style that used exaggerated motion and clear detail to create grandeur, drama and tension.)

Toddlers usually work in the Baroque style when creating art on walls and furniture, using exaggerated motion and clear, grandiose scribbles to effectively create drama and tension when the masterpiece is discovered by a parent.

3. Composition

(The placement or arrangement of visual elements in a work of art.)

Toddler artists can be identified by their unique take on composition. Toddlers like to arrange all visual elements in their artwork on top of each other in a tiny space, not quite on the corner of the paper, leaving the rest of the page blank.

4. Surrealism

(Works feature an element of surprise, unexpected juxtapositions and non sequiturs.)

Surrealism features very heavily in toddler artwork. Particularly when the artwork appears on the cat.

5. Colour Theory

(Guidance to colour mixing and the visual effects of a specific colour combination.)

In toddler art, colour theory is the belief that the visual effect of any piece of art can be substantially improved by the specific colour combination of liberally adding black over the top of everything else.

6. Portrait Painting

(Paintings intended to depict a human subject.)

Toddler portrait paintings are slightly different, being intended not so much to depict a human subject as to appear on a human subject.

7. Impressionism

(Focus on the impression created by the overall visual effects, instead of details.)

For toddlers, an impressionist work is a beautiful and intricate piece of art etched into the dining room table whilst the toddler was giving the impression of drawing on their paper.

8. Minimalism

(A style using pared-down design elements.)

Toddlers are minimalist geniuses, so much so that they can turn any piece of artwork into a minimalist masterpiece. A picture of a cat and some flowers, carefully drawn by Mummy for the toddler to colour in, for example, can be transformed into a minimalist study in blue, by the simple application of heavy and indiscriminate scribbling in blue crayon across the whole page. Such is a toddler’s commitment to minimalism that entire weeks can be spent agreeing to colour only in orange. The ultimate toddler exercise in minimalism is, of course, the careful colouring of a white sheet of paper in white crayon.

9. Expressionism

(Representation of the world from a subjective perspective, distorting it for emotional effect to evoke moods or ideas.)

Toddlers sometimes like to use expressionism to colour on baby siblings, representing the subjective perspective that it is highly amusing to colour on baby siblings, and evoking moods of annoyance (parents) and confusion (baby sibling), and the idea that all pens should be removed from the house.

10. Conceptual Art

(The idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work, over and above traditional aesthetic concerns. Conceptual art is said to question the nature of art.)

Like Tracey Emin’s work, much toddler art work leads firstly to confused whispering. ‘Is this art?’ ‘What is this meant to be?’ Followed by ultimately fruitless questioning of the artist, which leaves no one any the wiser. As conceptual art, toddler art is quite brilliant: the nature of art can consider itself questioned.


(Please Note: As always, no educational value should be inferred in the contents of this post. I don’t know a Monet from a Manet. Mind you, no one knows Monet from Manet, do they?)


You can see other posts in my Toddler Lessons series here.


  1. Rosemond says:

    OK, I learned a lot! It’s been forever since my art history and art classes in college and forgot a lot of these terms. Need to bookmark so I can review before we go museum-ing next time!

  2. Genius. And so true! I love art and exaggerated motion with my paint brush is where it’s at! …on the walls and on our cat! Your post was like an art lesson! Thank you #JustAnotherLinky #KCACOLS x

  3. Michelle says:

    I still have crayon marks on a few of my walls from when I painted my walls over the first set of crayons and markers that my youngest did when he was 3 years old but then after I painted the walls, he went right behind me after the walls dried and drew some more. Lol! I will eventually repaint those walls!

  4. Sue says:

    My 5 kids were always drawing, colouring and creating. Now that most of them are grown and having their own babies, I enjoy doing crafts with my grandkids! This is a wonderful resource. Thanks!!

  5. wendy says:

    Haha, I really feel like I’m learning a lot from this series. My boy is a pro at abstract, minimalist and composition art. Things that look like blobs of paint to me are in fact helicopters, trains and animals according to the artist!xx #anythinggoes

  6. Maria says:

    What a great series! Brings back memories of doing GSCE and A Level Art! My youngest likes to add black on top of everything too – what is with that?!

    Thank you so much for linking up to #KCACOLS I hope to see you back again on Saturday 27th when the linky opens again. x

  7. ShoeboxofM says:

    Love this. I feel educated and entertained! I think we’ve pretty much ticked off all those boxes although crayons are for babies. Real toddlers use lip gloss. 😉


  8. Kaye says:

    Haha, the joys of toddler art! I find crayon in the strangest of places, floors, windows, and pen on our quilt covers, I don’t even know how or where? >_< Thanks for linking up to #MarvMondays. Kaye xo

  9. Kimmie says:

    Ha ha. Brilliant. I think at some point all five of my kids mastered most of these. I wonder which category painting the walls with the contents of ones nappy falls into. My youngest boy and middle daughter were both masters of THAT! 😉

  10. Charlene says:

    Ha ha! This reminds me of the doc ‘My Kid Could Paint That’ where is the line between art and fart? My son is definitely a minimalist. Always coming home with one red splodge.

  11. The big one hardly ever produced ‘art’ when he was at playgroup. I longed for the day he would run out with a picture for Mummy. When he finally did it was a single yellow line on a piece of paper. He insisted it was put on the wall at home for all to see! Thanks for linking up to #FridayFrolics

  12. LOL! When my son was young his room was decorated with baroque art, all over! It was quite the piece of work! In fact, after cleaning it up and him creating right back over it I decided that it could stay until we moved! LOL It was the only room that we had to repaint before we moved. At least his artistic decorating talent was confined to one room!

  13. I absolutely love this, the funniest thing I’ve read all week!
    I am guilty of what many other art critics are guilty of: sitting and trying to read into the message that the foot-smeared paint splodges are trying to convey. Of course, the answer is nearly always willypoopootrump.

  14. Talya says:

    Thanks for cheering me up this dreary Monday morning with this. Yup, surrealism is most definitely the buzz word when it comes to toddler art! Thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub lovely x

  15. Very witty! My fave was Impressionism – having just had a situation where our tweenager (yes it doesn’t get any better with age) did some ‘artwork’ with a black marker pen which has stained our kitchen wood work surface a treat. Now everytime I make a cup of tea I’m reminded of my daughters original masterpiece. Such fun – probably not really! #fridayfrolics

  16. Absolutely feel pain. Parent in pyjamas had to ask toddler if she might consider another colour so pictures did not look quite so much like aftermath of mass murder #blackScribbles #redHandprints #surprisinglyEffective

  17. Min says:

    Haha, I have all this to come! Piglet is still at the taking all the crayons out of the pot and putting them back in again phase. Then again, I would say that probably fits quite well into “conceptual art.” #FridayFrolics

  18. I admire all of the artistic styles listed (although i prefer to view most of them outside my own home; it’s funnier that way, particularly when walls and furniture are involved!). My 8 year old does a very serious line in surrealism, which is always entertaining. #fridayfrolics

  19. Emma says:

    Youngest is very much like Picasso when it comes to drawing me. Unless I do really have 3 eyes down the side of my face, and legs for arms 😉 #FridayFrolics

  20. We are much into the minimalist effect here – unfortunately it is always black which could to some be depressing. Pie also loves to draw just one line on a page and turn it over…. doesn’t get much more minimalist than that! #fridayfrolics

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