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Self-access art

Tops Day Nurseries have given us an insight into their provision of self-access art across their settings. Take a look at their creative approaches of providing children with opportunities to foster independence and decision making.

Posted on Monday 02nd September 2019

Self-access art and creative resources

At Tops Day Nurseries we are passionate about child led environments. It is important for us to enable children to have free and independent access to a wide range of art and craft supplies. The materials and equipment we use are carefully selected for their potential to enhance children’s learning, development and imagination. By using easy access art stations to display our craft materials we are enabling children to foster independence and decision making.

Here is an example of an art station set up in one of our nurseries to enable self-selection of resources:


Art area of a nursery

Tops Day Nurseries Wareham art station

Self-access paint opportunities

Painting can be a difficult activity to provide children with independent access to. One solution is to allow children the choice of colours and amounts, throughout the day, in covered containers. For example, you can provide practical self-access opportunities to painting with the TTS Wall Mounted Paint Dispensers and Refills:

Self Access Paint Dispenser

TTS Wall Mounted Paint Dispenser 5pk

Paint refills

TTS Wall Paint Dispenser Refill Bottles White

Open-ended art

At Tops Day Nurseries, we avoid using pre-drawn templates or stickers during craft. We feel this limits children’s creativity and leads children to think that there is only a single correct way to use them. Our goal as professionals is to provide an environment where children have free access to a wide range of open ended craft materials, which encourages divergent thinking as opposed to convergent thinking.

The self-selection ranges at TTS enable you to present a wide range of tools, equipment and materials in a way that is organised and promotes independence. If children’s craft areas are disorganised and cluttered, this will limit their ability to find and select resources to use independently. Children will then become less engaged in craft activities and in turn this limits their creative development.

Mini Metal Art Trolley


Wooden Creative Art Caddy


Tops Day Nursery Gillingham art station

Art opportunities outdoors

At Tops Day Nurseries we promote self-selection art areas both inside and out. The freedom of space which the outdoors offers sparks children’s imaginations as they are not given limits to their creative process.

The Outdoor Mobile Art Storage Trolley is a fantastic way of promoting self-selection art outside, whilst developing large gross motor skills. Children can make gigantic movements using the pivotal motion in their shoulders. They can experiment with creating large marks with brushes, mops, giant crayons, sponges and all sorts of creative tools.

Creative mark making storage trolley

Creating self-selection art areas enables children to independently develop a wide range of skills:-


Creative development 

Art is naturally linked to children’s creativity, which is a very important area of development. Creativity helps children learn to think outside the box, put ideas together, solve problems and make decisions.

Sensory development

By having self-access to art, children are exposed to activities that employ all of the senses – sight, sound, touch, smell and taste.

Brain development

When engaging in art activities, children’s neurological connections are re-enforced as they repeat certain movements, experience new feelings and materials.

Fine motor skills

Through drawing, peeling, mixing, cutting, squeezing, kneading and tearing – children are constantly strengthening their fine motor skills. These activities require dexterity and co-ordination.

Social skills

Children will often gather around a self-access art area. This provides opportunities for conversation and building new relationships amongst the children.


The more opportunity that children have free access to art, the more likely they will be to try new ideas and combinations.


This blog was written by Amy Alderson, Operations Director, Tops Day Nurseries.