Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Arts and Crafts with Kids

I am not artistic or crafty. Like, at all.  Whenever I see drawing instructions in books they all look like this to me.

How to draw an owl - not really
Step 1:  Draw two circles.  Step 2: Draw the rest of the damn owl.
Crafts?  Ha!  Everything I attempt ends up looking like it would fit right in on the craft fails page of Pinterest. I mean, don't even get me started on the whole water blob fiasco of 2012.  The blog where I got the idea says this: "Can I just say that this "water blob" was amazing amounts of fun."  LIAR!

kids in homemade scube costumes
Home made scuba costumes.
Somehow, I wound up with kids who are super artistic and crafty. I blame my husband.  My oldest daughter says things like "Oh, I wish I had my sketchbook so I could draw the mist on the water."  I have no idea what those words even mean when they are strung together.

pipecleaner crafts
My daughter, making goggles and shrink rays out of pipe cleaners.  As you do.  

So, I am constantly on the lookout for crafts that my kids will like and that I can actually do.  I mean, these birdhouses are cute and all but I am telling you now, never in a million years would I be able to make a single one of them.  This is what bird house making looks like in our house.  I am a big believer in knowing your limits.

painting a bird house
How picky are the birds around your house that they need fabric covered bird houses?  
So, without further ado, here are some arts and crafts ideas that we have had fun and some success with over the last couple of years.

fancy kids jeans
Fashion show!  My oldest decided to accesorize with a stopwatch
 and my youngest with fancy nails.  
My kids got a little sewing kit for Christmas one year from a friend so we dug out some of their plain jeans and set to work.  Now, I am not a sewer, I have actually glued brownie type badges on in the past, so these jeans would not stand up to any kind of discerning eye, but my kids were tickled pink with their patches and flowers and ribbon and glue on jewels.  Getting to design some "fancy" jeans was a big hit of the Christmas break.  I "embroidered" some clouds on and my kids literally oohed and aahed which was a nice bonus.  So, fancify some jeans people and you will be a real live hero to your kids.

salt dough figurines
Salt dough snakes and flowers and what I am told is a panda.
My daughter found a book called "Rainy Day Crafts" at the library discard sale and after getting over her befuddlement, since "crafts are for everyday", she settled on two projects that she wanted to do.  The first was salt dough figurines.  They are cheap and easy to make in fact, you probably have everything in the house to do them.  They are so cheap and easy to make that you can just let the kids go to town.  If you have to make up another batch it won't be any skin off your nose.

paper mache bowl
The dawning of the ladybug.
The other project that appealed to my daughter was making a paper mache bowl.  This kind of thing isn't hard but it does have several steps so it takes a few days.  First you have to mould the bowl (we did ours around a blown up balloon) which then has to dry.  Then you have to do another layer and another, then paint it. We made ours look like a ladybug and we still have it. It houses part of one of their rock collections.

compressed air art
First attempt at a compressed air flower!

 Another fun thing to try with slightly older kids is to get a canvas and paint the background whatever colour they like.  Then blob on some paint in a different colour and use a can of compressed air to blow it around the canvas.  It comes out looking like flowers.  The kids do have to be big enough to be able to pull the trigger on the can which takes a bit more strength than you might think.  My 5 year old couldn't do it.  She was happy swishing the paint around though.

kids paint on canvas
Smooshing paint around.  
In general, I would say you can't go wrong with canvases.  Kids love painting on them for some reason and if you buy them in a pack of 10 with a coupon from Michael's you can get them for about $1 each which isn't too bad for a fun project.  They also usually get a kick out of trying different kinds of paints and tools, like palette knives and sponges.  

pop beads
Just a couple of the, oh, thousand or so beaded creations
made over the years.
If you want something less messy, I suggest these Pop Beads.  You snap them together rather than having to string them which makes them much easier for kids to do themselves.  They are also fairly big so they are harder to lose.  The bucket that we got for a birthday one year has thousands of beads in it so you never run out even if you have a few kids making things at once. When the kids are finished, just throw them back in the bucket for another day.
bottled sand art
Do these things even have a name?
My kids also love making those layered sand art bottle things.  I can't explain why exactly but they love them and when their friends come over they love them too.  We use leftover bottles, baby food jars, whatever we can find.  You can buy the sand in pretty big jars or you can buy a little kit that will have enough to make three or four little sand thingies.  If your kids are anything like mine you will want to invest in the big jars.  These are dead easy to make.  The only trick to them is that you need to put more sand in then you think you do.  When you think you are done, you aren't, you need to put some more in because it will settle and if it is too loose it will mix together rather than staying in neat layers.  
homemade stuffed animals
He looks a bit like a Barbapapa 
 My kids liked making stuffed animals out of old hats, ribbons, yarn, buttons and other bibs and bobs. It doesn't really matter what they look like, the fun is in designing them and actually making them. A better sewer than me (i.e. anyone) would be able to make stuffies that can withstand the kind of abuse that a really well loved stuffy takes but mine are, shall we say, for display purposes mainly, because they will fall apart if handled too much.  Still the kids seem to like them well enough.

The main thing about doing crafts is to not care how they turn out.  I think my complete incompetence in this realm is actually beneficial because I never go into any of these things with any expectations or coming out with some perfect Martha Stewart level craft, I just go into it hoping the kids have some fun, which they usually do.

Hey, they aren't all going to be masterpieces.  

toddler finger painting
Or maybe they will be.


  1. That last one looks like the most fun, but I think it would involve a hose to clean up :)

  2. Yeah, a hose is a pretty essential part of the craft tool kit for two year olds :)