2-year-olds can’t “draw” in the traditional sense, but they’re very interested in using tools to make marks, lines and colors, so art supplies can make great gifts.
The key word to remember when buying any art supply for a 2-year-old is washable. It’s pretty much inevitable that they’ll draw on the carpet, furniture or walls at some point when their parents look away for more than 60 seconds, and you don’t want to be responsible for the damage.
An easel or desk will get years of use from an artistically inclined kid starting around age 2, so I’d suggest investing in one if you have the space and budget. For smaller budgets, scroll down to the later half of the post and combine a few the art supplies and accessories listed for a fun gift that will also get years of use.
The Best Easels and Drawing Desks for 2-Year-Olds
Most kids’ easels these days come with at least one dry-erase surface; dry-erase surfaces are great because they let kids draw without smocks, messes or wasting paper. Most 2-year-olds won’t care about saving their work, so paper isn’t really necessary anyway, and the “butcher rolls” of paper that are really nice for older kids will likely be more interesting for a 2-year-old to pull on than to draw on.
A note about dry erase markers for 2-year-olds: Look for the ones marked washable, like these. They technically won’t “dry” erase, but they’ll easily wipe off with a wet cloth or paper towel and are safer to get out of clothes, furniture and carpet. My 2-year-old had just as much fun wiping his off his easel as he did marking it up.
If you’re looking for a plastic easel, Step 2 makes several that are very popular. Shown above is the easel for two, which features a whiteboard that is also magnetized for extra fun. (If your 2-year-old is still interested in putting things in his or her mouth, save the magnets for when they’re older and out of that phase.) They also make a highly rated “Flip and Doodle Desk” (shown right) and another $50 Easel-Desk combo.
If you’re looking for a wooden easel, you can choose from among lots of options from companies that specialize in wood toys. Most of the recommended ages on those easels are 3 and up, probably because there are a few small-ish parts, and perhaps because of the easel height. If those things don’t phase you or you’re buying for an older 2-year-old, check out these easels from Hape ($69) and Melissa and Doug ($53, shown right, the most popular kids’ easel on Amazon).
I got lucky and found a beautiful wooden Land of Nod easel on Craigslist that looks great in the living room. My 2-year-old artist could only reach the bottom of the easel at first, but didn’t seem to mind. By age 3 he could reach most of it, so I think it was a good investment.
If you want to save some space, you might be interested in tabletop / desktop easels, which fit on any desk to let kids paint at eye level. I found several models on Amazon but most were suggested for age 3 and up due to small parts, so use discretion.
Fingerpaint for 2-Year-Olds
Fingerpaint is a classic: Fun for kids, but very messy very quickly in the hands of any energetic 2-year-old with a naturally short attention span. However, I got some good ideas from the reviews of these well-loved Crayola washable fingerpaints: one woman squeezed the paint into a ziploc bag and put the bag on the tray of her tot’s high chair for her to explore. Others mentioned letting toddlers play with fingerpaints in the bathtub – on their bodies and on the tub walls. If you’re going to buy fingerpaint for a 2-year-old, you might want to also throw in a cute little artist’s smock like this one, and perhaps some jumbo sized paper. For kids who don’t like to get their hands dirty (they’re out there) you can also try these paintbrushes that are shaped just for easy gripping by toddlers.
Other Art Supplies for 2-year-olds
2-year-olds may not be able to draw tangible shapes yet, but they can stamp them. That makes these washable dot markers, shown right, a big hit.
It’s also hard to go wrong with a good set of sidewalk chalk, especially if you’re looking for a gift for a warm-weather occasion. Try a set like this one that comes with chalk holders to make it easier for toddlers to use them longer and without scraping their little fingers.
Finally, younger 2-year-olds may appreciate these egg-shaped crayons, which were shaped perfectly for toddlers.
Art Activity Sets for 2-Year-Olds
There are plenty of art project suggestions for young toddlers online and on Pinterest, but if you don’t want to get sucked down those rabbit holes, you can check out some pre-packaged art projects. The one shown left is just $10 and has 50 pages of activities, including plenty of stickers. Or, you can try this Tots Art Start kit, also from ALEX Toys, that guides you and your tot through specific projects. $17.