For many people crafting with kids is either something they love or something they loathe. It can be a great way to encourage children to freely express themselves, explore texture, sensation, and colour, and to 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’s something they can see for it at the end. However, and this is really important for kids who struggle with imperfection, the key is to focus on the fun of crafting itself. If necessary, talk about how skill improves with practice if, for example, their robot-monster-dog doesn’t look how they imagined!
In this article I’m going to break down crafting into 4 categories. This will give you ideas for how to get set up to approach crafting with kids!
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.
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!
- Paint is great for decoration.
- Clean rubbish such as 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.
- Variations: almost endless. Can fit any theme. Perhaps you can’t tell the difference between their junk model bear and car, but I promise you, they can!
- Imagination needed: lots! But that’s OK because they have shedloads! Kids who see objects as component shapes can really love junk modelling. They think ‘robot’ then grab a cereal box for the torso and toilet roll tubes for legs and so on.
- Adult input: operating scissors, because you may be cutting plastic and sturdy cardboard. You may need bigger scissors and to do more cutting or supervising scissor work than with other kid friendly crafts. You may also be called on as a structural engineer to make stuff stay stuck together! It can be challenging to get plastic bottles to stick to cereal boxes, for example. This can add a great opportunity for a bit of learning about why different adhesives 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. I used them in my bedroom until I went to uni for keeping treasures in. Or you may have a giant robot. Their creation may be something you keep for ages, or pull back to component parts for re-crafting within the week.
- Mess level: it usually looks like a bin exploded! It is worth having a plastic sheet or table cloth to catch glue. It is actually pretty easy to tidy up after, because they are big bits of junk.
Craft box crafting for kids
Stock up a craft box with craft materials and give kids free rein with the contents to see what they come up with
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!
- Check out Baker Ross and The Works for craft materials. Hunt for voucher codes because there are always some available for 10-15% or more off your order.
- Craft bundles don’t tend to be great value when you consider the cost of buying packs of the component items. However, it costs more in one go to buy a pack of felt and a pack of paper, etc. If you have a bunch of parent friends consider all chipping in and buying some of the “class packs”. I did this with craft paper; each family paid £5 and it lasted my kids about 2 years! Or over time stock up different materials; buy a pack of felt one month, papers and stickers another time. Eventually you will get more variation for less money than repeatedly buying craft bundles.
- Variations: lots! You tend to get more pictures or collages than models than you do with junk modelling. However, if you get felt and threads your kids may integrate sewing, gluing and painting in one multimedia craft 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 someone plucked a host of sparkly parrots after a few minutes of kids crafting! My tip is help with getting stuff out and only put a little bit of everything out at once! (Also keep glitter, if you have it, separate so you decide when it comes out!)
Found objects: craft with items kids have found
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.
What you need
- Glue and string. It’s often easier to tie than glue things together.
- Whatever you can find : natural objects such as beech masts, pine cones, twigs, dandelion seeds, daisies, leaves, sand, feathers, shells. Less natural objects such as, driftwood, sea-glass, bits of washed up plastic.
- Supervise kids collecting items and washing their hands afterwards. There are two approaches; either accept this isn’t a “clean” craft and hand-washing is essential; or you will need to vet which items come home with you, and decide to clean them if you wish! A half rotten crab carcass is a more multi-sensory experience than anyone needs!
- 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 there’s lots of supervision. If they are making murals by arranging stones, then less supervision for safety is needed!
- Mess: there can be lots, or it can be pretty tidy. It really depends how you do it. 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.
Craft kits for kids
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.
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, etc.,
- For marbling you’ll need a washing up bowl and somewhere to dry things, so make sure you have this 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, whereas others allow you some element of design choice. Craft kits can be great for kids who struggle with self expression or deciding what to do. However, they can be a real struggle for kids who hate to be told what to do. If your child doesn’t want to follow the instructions you may be better off with the craft kit! Sticking all the stickers on one bookmark works out as a very expensive kit for 1 bookmark!
- Adult input: This depends hugely on the kit. Some are great little self-contained craft activities that kids can do alone, however, others are more challenging. They can be great if your child has mentioned wanting to knit or sew. You can probably find a kit aimed just at the right skill level. However, you may need to help them grasp the skill, so 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, whereas kits with lots of beads can get messy; however, you can predict the amount of mess based on the kit!
Crafting with kids: tips for constructive communication
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!
Parents can fall into the trap of judging their kids crafting product or outcome. The joy of creating is in the process, and praising or criticising the product can have negative effects. If you need to pass comment, ask about the use of colours, comment on the focus it took. Recognise 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.
Your kids may want you to talk them through ways to make a flower out of lolly sticks. They may love you showing them how to make moving wheels using split pins. On the other hand they may want you to back off and leave them alone unless they ask for help. They might thinks its great if you make something at the same time. Alternatively, they may be happy for you have a cuppa and read whilst they create worlds out of cereal boxes, and pine cones. There are ways to craft for every budget, every level of mess, and on every theme. So give it a go!Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in