I don’t know about you, but we love crafting in our house. The only problem is that with three kids under 5, finding time to plan and execute elaborate craft projects is usually beyond me. Luckily, we have found some simple ways to craft with usually just the items we have on hand. Here are some of our favorites:
1. Painting Coffee Filters
About a year ago, we bought our Keurig shortly after my husband bought a huge economy pack of coffee filters, and those filters have just been sitting in the cupboard gathering dust. And then I found the idea of painting them, and my girls love it. For Valentine’s Day, we painted them red and pink and then cut them into hearts and put them on our windows. We did the same with green and shamrocks for Saint Patrick’s Day. We can see them as we drive down the street, and they light up our whole dining room.
2. Painting the Windows
This was something we did in my family as kids. Every Halloween, we would all take turns painting a giant pumpkin on our front door. I started up this tradition with my kids a couple of years ago, and they love it. We also do it at Christmas — they each get a tree on the window to paint and decorate. We just make sure to use washable paint and protect the wood finishes.
These days, beading is all the rage with the kindergarten set. This one did require a trip to the craft store, but for $5, I bought one pound of beads. I took the idea from my daughter’s preschool teacher to thread the beads on pipe stem cleaners (chenille stems) rather than string. It’s easier for little hands and it requires no scissors.
4. Creating with Play Dough
This one is pretty unoriginal, but it creates hours of fun nonetheless. We receive a lot of play dough as gifts, so often we will use this, but if we run out of the store bought kind, we make our own. Pinterest is full of home made play dough recipes, and the best part is that if we use Kool Aid to make them, our whole house smells good and I don’t have to worry about my kids consuming all that sugar.
5. Decorating Cookies
I admit that I’m not the best baker, and I’m even worse at decorating. But with kids, I don’t have to worry about any of that! All I need is a good cookie recipe, and some frosting, and my girls go at it decorating the cookies with frosting and bumbles. And then they eat them, so I don’t have to worry about finding a place to display it.
6. Creating Photographic Masterpieces
I like photographing things, but as much as I love sharing with my girls, I’m not about to hand over $1000 worth of camera equipment to a toddler and kindergartner. But the great thing is, these days I don’t have to. Either I’ll let them use my cell phone, or they’ll use the photo feature on their Leap Pad. It’s fun creating scenes to photograph, and with today’s software, even kids’ programs allow them to edit and enhance their photos. I don’t like my girls spending too much time with technology, but when they are using it to create art, I feel it enhances creativity rather than stifles it.
7. Playing with Melty Beads
Again with this one, it will require a trip to the craft store, but also again, I can get a lot of beads for a really low price. For those who don’t remember melty beads from childhood, they are little plastic beads that kids put on a base to create shapes and objects. Then an adult puts some wax paper over it and irons the beads together. The product can then be used as a decoration and hung up in a bedroom, against a window, or with an added magnet, it can be used to create a fridge decoration. And I just found out that they sell larger melty beads for even younger kids. My two year old loves filling up the base with the beads. I don’t even melt those ones together — she just enjoys the process.
8. Creating Yarn Art
This is a fun and easy project although it is a bit messy. For this, I blow up a ballon, and fill a bowl with glue. My kids then drag yarn through the glue and wrap it around the ballon. Then we simply wait for the yarn to completely dry, pop the ballon, and we have some yarn art. When I don’t feel like going through the whole balloon process, they just put the yarn/glue pieces onto paper and create shapes that way.
We have a lot of stickers. A lot. A LOT. I’m not sure where they all came from, but we seem to have all sorts — regular stickers, smelly stickers, poofy stickers, foam stickers. The great thing about stickers is that they are all you need, along with a sheet of paper, to keep young ones occupied for hours. If I find myself needing some time to accomplish some tasks and I don’t have a lot of time to prepare anything, I simply set out some stickers, paper, and crayons, and let the girls have at it. And the best part is that there is very little clean up.
10. Creating Nature Collages
My girls love going outside and collecting nature, whether it be pine cones, leaves, branches, rocks, you name it. We make this process into an art project by giving them paper or poster board and some glue or Modge Podge. Sometimes they like creating shapes on their papers and other times they just like making abstract decorations.
In this day of Pinterest, there is no limit to the number of craft projects you can create with little ones. Some of them are quite elaborate. We have fun completing some of those elaborate projects, but I think it’s also important to just give kids some paint or crayons or markers and let them make their mark. Creativity doesn’t require genius or a ton of planning. Often it just requires a desire and the freedom of a little one’s imagination.
About Amanda Knapp
Amanda Knapp is a stay at home mom to her three little girls. She writes about life and parenting on her blog, Indisposable Mama.