I am usually a Mom on the go, which is just one of the reasons I love Our Kids! But, for afterschool fun and the rare days I’d rather spend at home, I love crafting with my kids. I’m not the most creative person so I need a lot of help coming up with project ideas and I like to have a lot of ideas from which to choose. There are a few go-to sites I regularly turn to for inspiration that I know will save the day when the kids are home and getting antsy.
One thing I like about all of these sites is that most of the projects seem manageable for a non-artsy Mom like me and many projects can be done with things you already have on hand or can easily obtain. There are some exceptions, so if you see a project that looks particularly appealing you may want to plan ahead and get the supplies you need so that you have them on-hand when you find yourself when the creativity bug strikes or you are in desperate need of an activity.
When you do purchase supplies for a specific project you will likely find that you are able to use any left-overs for future projects. Seasonal projects often use items from nature and I like to go on “nature walks” with my kids on nice days and collect sticks, leaves, acorns, and pine cones we can use in crafts on days when it’s too hot, too cold, too rainy to go outside.
Before you dive into crafting there are few things to keep in mind.
First, expect a mess! Exploration is part of the process for kids. Yes, the paint brush is supposed to go on the paper but when my daughter was around fifteen months she loved the tickle of the paintbrush on her hands and nose. I figured that’s what baths are for and let her go for it taking the precaution of putting a smock on her or letting her paint in nothing but her diaper. Paint, glue, and glitter may also wind up on places other than the paper. Old newspapers and drop cloths can help make cleaning up easier. I also love crafting outside when the weather permits to avoid washing the table or floor when we’re done.
Second, don’t expect a masterpiece. For kids, crafting is about the process and not about the finished product. Let kids follow their interests and freely explore the materials you present. That snowman you set out to create might look more like a two-headed monster when you’re done, but your child will have had a lot of fun making the craft and the finished product will represent his personality and hard work. Along the way he will likely have learned about textures, strengthened his fine motor skills, and learned about colors.
Third, don’t feel wedded to following the exact instructions for projects you see. Use the great ideas you find as inspiration, but make changes as you see fit to adapt the craft to your child’s developmental level and interests. Instructions for a mummy can easily be changed into a robot or ballerina. A crafting idea for creating train tracks and tunnels was recently altered to become a sidewalk and underground sewer system by my son. Also, don’t feel like your set-up needs to match the gorgeous photos of colorful kids’ art spaces you will see on these blogs. Paint in an old egg carton is just as effective as paint set out in glass jars with the sun streaming behind them. Pulling everything together for crafts should be fun and stress-free for you and you shouldn’t feel pressure to set a perfect art table for kids who whose job it is to make a mess of it as soon as they’re able.
Fourth, regardless of the outcome show your child you are proud of his efforts. Even if the finished product isn’t a beauty you can still tell your child you are proud that he tried his best, used all the materials, made a pattern, etc. Some families dedicate a wall or refrigerator door as the house “museum” with rotating works by the artist(s) in residence.
Here are a few places of inspiration for crafting!
Play at Home Mom
Run by a number of mothers, some of whom have backgrounds as educators and therapists, this is usually the first site I check for ideas. I love that the site is organized by categories such as “cardboard boxes,” “fun with rocks,” and “food recipes.” This makes it easy to find a project that you can do with what you have on-hand or that appeals to your child’s interests. One of the more interesting categories on this site is “Adventures in the Dark.” Play at home Mom contains suggestions for infants through toddlers, but many of the projects will appeal to older kids as well.
As you probably guessed from the name, this site contains craft ideas from a preschool teacher that can also be done at home. Although it would be difficult to do a craft with your children and not have them learn something, the projects on this site all have explicit educational components. My favorite crafts on this site are ones inspired by children’s books, such as making Very Hungry Caterpillars out of tissue paper or cups and paint. The site also has craft ideas related to nearly every theme under the sun — even dental hygiene.
Run by a Canadian Mom who operates a daycare, this site is full of activities to keep little ones busy year-round. The Mom behind Happy Hooligans is able to test her projects out of all the kids she cares for during the day so she is able to offer perspective on how many different children react to crafting projects. The site also features many crafts appropriate for different seasons, such as creating indoor hopscotch and colored ice crystals in winter and creating an “ice age water bin” for water play in summer. Since Happy Hooligans develops crafts for a daycare that needs to keep costs down, nearly all of the crafts are very affordable. There are even entries for recycled crafts, thrifty crafts, and how to make homemade water colors.
A Little Learning for Two
This site details the crafts an Australian Mom of two toddlers creates with her children in a small space on a small budget. The thing I like most about this site are the many crafts that double as activities, such as making a paper-plate ring toss, creating ice eggs for bowling, and making dolls for dramatic play out of toilet paper rolls.
This fantastic site has projects listed by grade level for grades 1 through 6, as well as categories for themes including transportation and fairy tales. There are also entries for individual holidays, which makes this a great site to check for ideas when you are looking for a project for Easter, Halloween, or Valentine’s Day crafts or homemade gifts. One feature of Kids Artists I really like is the “working in a group” section which provides great ideas for projects siblings can work on together or for play date activities. Although geared towards grade school children many of the projects can be adapted for younger children by giving them a little extra help or by subsisting materials. For example, a group mural project suggests using tempura paint but crayons could easily be used by younger children for a similar effect.
Crafting Pantry List
There are some supplies I like to keep on-hand at all times. Many can be found at the dollar store. Another good site for buying supplies is www.discountschoolsupply.com.
- Water colors
- Washable Paint
- Paint Brushes
- Sidewalk chalk
- Glue and Glue Sticks
- Pipe cleaners
- Glitter Pens
- White Paper
- Construction Paper in all colors
- Tissue paper
- Paper plates
- Glow-sticks for activities in the dark
- Popsicle Sticks
- Paper Towels
- Child-safe scissors
- Smocks or old t-shirts
- Anything from nature you think you can use
- Egg cartons and plastic containers to hold paint and other supplies
- Anything recyclable, such as bottle-caps empty toilet paper and paper towel rolls, cardboard boxes, old clothing, take-out containers, etc.
Time to let your creativity out!