Keep it simple. A good starting point for many young toddlers is a Sticker Collage. Give your child a piece of paper and a bunch of self-adhesive stickers. He won't have to worry about applying glue, which is hard for some children. You can also offer him clear contact paper. Tape a piece of clear contact paper to a table, sticky side up. Invite your child to lay flat objects such as leaves, small cutout shapes of paper or gift wrap, or shreds of fabric on the sticky surface. Place another piece of clear contact paper on top, sticky side down, so the objects are sandwiched between. Hang the collage in a window and let the sun shine through.
Collect interesting stuff. Turn the act of collecting materials into an adventure. The only requirement is that everything you collect be clean, nontoxic, free of sharp edges, and nothing your child could choke on. Get into the habit of looking for interesting items when you're on walks; it's a wonderful way to open your child's eyes to the world around him. Leaves, twigs, seeds, nuts, pebbles, shells, and rounded colored beach glass are all good materials. Indoor possibilities include corks, bottle tops, Styrofoam pellets, scraps of fabric, small cardboard boxes, toilet paper tubes, and egg cartons. Paper is another source of inspiration: Try cut-up gift wrap, greeting cards, magazines, and seed catalog photos. Sort everything by size, color, or material (your child will enjoy helping!) and store in labeled containers.
Present the materials nicely. Organize the materials attractively so they invite your child's participation. Arrange a few materials in different egg carton lids. By preselecting some items, you'll avoid making your child feel overwhelmed. The sectioned side of the carton could be used to highlight small, individual items, such as a leaf, a shell, and an interesting piece of fabric or paper. Give your child time to handle and explore the objects and materials, and talk with him about their shape, texture, color, and size. See if your child would like to create a themed piece, such as an all-white collage, a circle collage, a bumpy collage, a mini collage, or a collage made entirely of wood or natural materials.
Provide a firm, flat base. Give your child a piece of heavy paper, a paper plate, or a piece of cardboard. You can use a glue stick for adhering paper, but white glue is best for attaching heavier, three-dimensional objects. Pour a small amount of white glue into a plastic container and hand your child a glue brush. If this is your child's first experience with glue, show him how to put the glue on the material and then press the glued side against the base. Keep a pair of small scissors handy in case your child wants to cut something down to size. Describe what he is doing as he works so he fully understands the process. Encourage creativity, and be sure the collage remains his project, not yours.
As children find new ways to use found objects, they increase their sense of resourcefulness. By cutting, assembling, and sticking small objects to a surface, they gain competency in eye-hand coordination and fine muscle control. Creating a collage can spark your child's imagination and even build a stronger sense of self as he represents his thoughts and ideas in a unique way.