Crafting with kids, for many people is either something they love or something they loathe. It can be a great way to encourage them to freely express themselves, explore texture, explore sensation, explore colour, explore what it feels like when you sellotape yourself to the table. Most kids love making things, some may not like the feel of PVA glue, or whatever, but you can work around that with pritt stick or double sided tape (my cheat recommendation for impromptu craft sessions when you don’t want loads of mess!)
Kids get a lot out of making things themselves- there is something they can see for it at the end, but, and this is really important for kids who struggle with things not being perfect, is to encourage them to focus on the fun of doing things, and, if necessary, talk about how we get better at things with practice if their robot-monster-dog doesn’t look in reality how it did in their imagination!
In this article I am going to break down crafting into 4 categories to give you ideas for how to approach it to set yourself up for some excellent crafty experiences over the summer!
Watch Junk Rescue on cBeebies and see the amazing things that kids, and adult make out of “junk” and keep a big bag/box in your kitchen for any CLEAN rubbish that kids can then craft with.
- Cost – very low – mostly things that you would otherwise recycle or throw away
- What you need
- Glue, sellotape, double sided tape, scissors (consider adding split pins for older kids to make moving parts, lolly sticks can help too, or just eat lots of lollies, also paint can be great for decoration)
- Clean rubbish- plastic bottles, yoghurt pots, foil pie tins, cellophane, toilet roll tubes, bottle caps ANYTHING (consider old clothing with too many holes for charity shops to add different textures etc)
- Variations – almost endless – can be made to fit any theme- you may be unable to tell the difference between their junk model bear and their junk model car, but I promise you, they can!
- Imagination needed– lots! But that’s OK because they have shedloads! Kids who see things as component shapes can really love junk modelling, because they think robot and grab a cereal box for the torso and toilet roll tubes for legs and so on.
- Adult input – operating scissors – because there may be more trying to cut plastic and sturdy cardboard you may need to do more cutting or supervising scissor work than with other versions of crafting. You may also be called on as a structural engineer (making stuff stay stuck together) because it can be challenging to get plastic bottles to stick to cereal boxes. This can add a great opportunity to do a bit of science learning about why different glue/tape works better on some materials than others.
- Output – what do you get at the end – this depends on the age of the kids – aged 7 or 8 I made lots of little chests of drawers covered in pretty paper that I used in my bedroom until I went to uni for keeping treasures/jewellery in, oooor you may have a giant robot. The creation may be something you keep for ages, or pull it back to component parts and recycle after a week or so.
- Mess level – usually looks like a bin exploded, worth having a plastic sheet or table cloth to catch glue, but usually actually easy to tidy up after because they are big bits of junk.
Craft Box Crafting
Stock up a craft box with craft materials and give kids free rein with the contents to see what they come up with
- Cost – initial outlay to stock a craft box can vary based on what supplies you choose, but this can be a box you add to and build up over time, or can be something that you stock as a single expense, for a birthday gift. It is a great thing to ask relatives who like to do gifts of spending money to contribute to to help you have fun at home over the summer.
- What you need – What ever you want!
- Paper and/or card, glue, tape and scissors.
- Feathers, Lolly sticks, glitter, felt, foam, cellophane, stickers, foil, googly eyes, embroidery threads or wool There’s an endless list of possibilities!
- TIP – Check out Baker Ross and The Works and hunt for voucher codes because there are always some available for 10-15% off your order.
- TIP – “Craft bundles” don’t tend to be great value when you consider the cost it would be to buy packs of the component items, but it costs more to buy a pack of felt and a pack of paper etc. If you have a bunch of Mum friends consider all chipping in £x and buying some of the “class packs” or just the packs of felts and papers and stickers to get more variation for less money at a better price than craft bundles. I did this with craft paper and each family paid £5 and it lasted my kids about 2 years!
- Variations – lots! You tend to get more pictures/collages than models than with junk modelling, but if you get felt and threads they may end up sewing and gluing and painting in one creative frenzy!
- Imagination needed– Lots, but some kids find it easier to set off making the “lion/tree/alien” they want to make if they see something they think is the right colour rather than by the shape as with junk modelling.
- Adult input – often projects are less ambitious and don’t involve joining larger items so kids may be able to do more of this themselves (depending on the ages and abilities of your children)
- Output– tends towards smaller pictures- but you can suggest making photo frames, bookmarks and so on to create usable gifts and items they can keep using.
- Mess – I think this may actually be the messiest crafting- especially if you add GLITTER into the equation, it can look like a fox got in and slaughtered a host of glittery parrots after Jacob has spent a few minutes crafting! My tip would be to help with getting stuff out and only put out some of everything at once!
Get out an about and collect interesting items – this can be great for woodlands walks, park trips, and beach days and you can make projects that commemorate the days out.
- Cost– most free
- What you need– glue string (often easier to tie than glue things together)
- Whatever you can find – beech masts, pine cones, twigs, dandelion seeds, daisies, leaves, sand, feathers, shells, driftwood, sea-glass, bits of washed up plastic.
- Supervise kids collecting items and washing hands afterwards, and either accept this isn’t a “clean” craft and hand-washing is essential, or you need to vet which items come home with you, and decide to clean them if you wish!
- Variations – can be great for sculptures, mobiles, murals (large pictures made on the floor outdoors, and collected up again to be used another day. Can do flower pressing, bark/leaf rubbing, decorating pine cones or scratching drawings onto bark. This tends to be a really sensory kind of crafting and making.
- Imagination– they can use found objects to make representative crafts like fairies and animals, or they can make mobiles and pictures that simply use the textures and prettiness of the found things in combination.
- Adult input – supervising cleanliness and avoiding lethal stick fighting sessions! If you get really into this and use small saws to cut sticks to length then lots of supervision, if they are making murals out of stones, then less supervision for safety is needed!
- Mess– can be lots- this can be a great outdoor craft session!
- There is as much enjoyment in the collecting as in the crafting for this kind of thing.
- If you are not an outdoor person check out the range of natural craft materials from Baker Ross.
These are the least versatile crafts, but have the highest chance of creating a predictable end result. You may need different kits for all your kids ages as different kids have different skill levels.
- Cost– this has the highest cost per session- a craft kit may do one child a couple of sessions or a couple of kids one session. It currently costs £14 for 8 ceramic pens and 4 mugs with a sale on on Baker Ross, a marbling kit is around £7, or get 12 scratch art bookmarks for £3.75
- What you need – a good kit contains everything you need but check, it may assume you have glue, scissors, for marbling you will need a washing up bowl so make sure you have this stuff handy too!
- Variations -relatively low – you should get whatever the outcome on the box is with leeway for skill level
- Imagination needed – can be quite low, some kits are as formal as stick this sticker in this place, some allow you some element of design choices in what you are making. This is great with kids who struggle with free expression or deciding what to do, but it can be a real struggle for kids who hate to be told what to do because if they don’t want to follow the instructions you may be better off with the craft box! Sticking all the stickers on one bookmark make a very expensive kit for 1 bookmark that doesn’t actually look like a rocket!
- Adult input – this depends hugely on the kit – some are great little self contained activities that are simple for kids to do alone, but some are more challenging. They can be great if your child has mentioned wanting to knit or sew and you can find a kit aimed at the right skill level, but you may need to help them grasp the skill…which you may need to learn too!
- Output – this is the best way to get a consistent output – if you start with 8 pens and 4 mugs you are likely to get 4 more colourful mugs at the end!
- Mess– can be very neat or pretty messy- knitting kits are relatively mess free, kits with lots of beads can get messy, but you can predict the amount of mess based on the kit!
You can combine all of these kind of crafting if you choose to, or do them as different activities. Collecting together some “junk supplies” like toilet roll tubes is a great idea. Pinterest can give lots of ideas, not all are achievable, but it is nice to dream!
Crafting can be about product (outcome) or process. Praise the concentration, the effort that has gone into a creation, ask them to talk about what they like about it and what it does. Avoid mentioning that it looks like a milk bottle with hair! Skills take practising and kids who have a clear picture of what they want to create in their head can find it takes a lot of focus to create it out of the materials available. They may want you to help talk through ways to make a flower out of lolly sticks, they may love you showing them how to make moving wheels using split pins, or they may want you to back off and leave them to it unless they ask you. They may love it if you make something at the same time, or they may be totally happy to let you have a cup of tea and read whilst they create worlds out of cereal boxes, pine cones and glitter. There are ways to craft for every budget, every level of mess and on any theme you might want to try. So give it a go!