When we see interesting pottery, hand-carved wooden bowls and intricate weavings in galleries, museums, and shops, we often feel a sense of awe for the craftsmanship and beauty of the object. But when we think about “crafting” with our children we may worry that we are not creative enough or that the end result won’t be “perfect.”
Similar to other educational experiences, it is the process not the product that matters. When children are engaged and focused on making crafts, they learn to take initiative, make choices, and develop cognitive and physical skills, while also increasing confidence, competence, independence, and a personal sense of aesthetics. With a small amount of planning, your family can enjoy the experience of making craft projects together that emphasize the creative process and result in a fun family creation.
There are numerous resources and suggestions for family craft activities in magazines, books, and online. Use what you find as the basis for your family craft and then let your child’s (and your) imagination and creativity soar. Try to resist the urge to copy the actual craft or focus on the end product - the goal is to respect your child’s process and encourage exploration no matter what the result looks like.
Key to a successful experience is to plan an activity that is appropriate for your child’s stage of development. Below are a few suggestions for different age groups to get you started.
Three years and older
Four years and older
- Painting: Often the crafts most appreciated are those with the most open-ended opportunities. Purchase some washable paint and white paper and let each family member paint as many pictures as he would like.
- Picture Frames: Frames may be purchased at a craft store or made by gluing four wooden craft sticks together. Provide glue, glue brushes (if desired), and recycled objects, such as random puzzle pieces, large buttons (too big to swallow), pieces of paper or fabric, or anything around the house that is not a choking hazard to decorate the frame.
- Decorated Boxes: Wooden or cardboard boxes may be purchased at a craft store or found around the house - you can even use shoe or check book boxes. Children can paint the boxes and then paste on photographs or pictures from magazines.
- Pinecone Bird Feeders: Family members can cover pinecones with peanut butter (or if allergic to peanuts, suet, which can be purchased from a butcher). Use brushes to spread the peanut butter or suet all over the pine cone, and then roll it and sprinkle the inside with bird seed. Or recycle your orange peels to make this adorable bird feeder. Hang it outside and watch what happens.
Six years and older
- Greeting Cards: Your family may enjoy making their own cards to send to extended family and friends for special occasions. Card stock paper and envelopes can be purchased at craft stores, or use computer paper and no envelopes. Provide scrap paper to make collages and/or crayons and markers to decorate and write a greeting.
- Bill or Paper Holders: Each family member finds a special rock; paints it and then uses glue to attach a clothes pin. A second option is to glue wood scraps together, paint the sculpture and add two clothespins to the top. Or, simply paint the rocks and use that as a paper weight. See what happened when we challenged our teachers and families to a rock decorating contest.
- Family Mural or Gift Wrap: Provide large paper from an office supply store and create a family mural where everyone gets to draw, color or paint on the same large surface. Hang it in your family room or use for wrapping gifts.
- Planters: Family members decorate clay pots with paint, pictures, or tissue paper. Cut pieces of tissue paper into small squares. Mix starch and water. Everyone uses starch to paint over the tissue paper and adhere it to the pot. To give the pot a smooth surface, the children then go over the tissue paper with “Mod Podge” (may be purchased at a craft store). Then use a paint brush to paint over the pots with two coats of Mod Podge, to give the pot a smooth surface.
- Jewelry: Children can make necklaces or bracelets by stringing beads purchased at a craft store. The younger your child, the bigger the beads and thicker the string should be. Your family can also make beads using clay or modeling dough. Decorative pins can be created gluing found objects (such as loose puzzle pieces or legos), to a pin back, and painting over the creation.
- Pillows: Older children can make pillows using a sewing machine or sewing by hand. Children often love using a sewing machine and it is a wonderful activity but must be carefully monitored. If you are using solid colored fabric, the children can decorate their pillows with fabric paint or pens.
Creating crafts as a family can bring you together, sharing ideas, discussing, and planning the craft, followed by working side-by-side with common goals. Crafts are also wonderful gifts from the heart for relatives, friends and neighbors. And the process of the family working and creating together is a gift for everyone involved.