Art done with markers
Stickers are great for developing fine motor skills and kids love using them. We do watch closely to make sure they don't eat the stickers. The smaller the stickers the more difficult they are to use, so start with larger stickers and as kids master them, move on to more difficult stickers.
Sticker art on top, sponge painting on tree
Finger painting is also a lot of fun for everyone. While it is non-toxic paint, we still discourage the eating of it. After a few times of reinforcing this it isn't that difficult. One tip, is not to let the kids do art where they eat. Having a separate area makes it more clear what they can and can't eat. We usually do finger painting at a table or just on the floor.
We also do brush painting, usually on the easel. While holding the brush and controlling it develop the same muscles as using markers, the different feel and texture are important. Kids can mix paint and seeing the colors mix and large globs of paint roll down the paper teaches them many important lessons. Working on the easel also provides a vertical surface for doing art. When painting on a vertical surface different muscles are being used than when painting on a horizontal surface. The vertical works more of the wrist and finger, while the horizontal works more of the hand and finger muscles. All of these muscles will later be used for writing, so developing all of them is important.
Paintings (finger and brush), stickers, markers
Once children are older you can ask them what their art looks like. You can get great feedback and see their thought processes. At this age, it's just a ton of abstract art. When this starts to drive you nuts, and if you are like me it eventually will, there are a couple of options. The first option is to let the kids paint on paper and then draw and cut the image on top of them. This allows the kids to paint wherever they want and you still get the well painted picture.
Finger painting in middle, brush painting around outside
The second option is to print a worksheet or image and have the kids paint it. My kids were actually fairly decent at painting the correct part so this worked for us. Granted my kids were more interested in painting the lines rather than inside the lines, but whatever works.
brush painting and markers, Brown Bear art
I do think it is important that the majority of the art is more about the process than the product. I would guess only around 5% of the art we do is on a worksheet. The kids are much more proud of their art than the pictures. So keep in mind what you are doing for you and what you are doing for them. As children get older it is even more important to focus on the process of doing art and enjoying the different options, rather than focusing on what it looks like when finished.
Stickers, painting, tissue paper animals, gluing projects