I started to write this post a little while back as part of a series sharing tips on how we get topics done for school and then discovered that crafts required a bit of background… For instance just what exactly are our favorite crafting materials? Well, I wrote about our crafty materials yesterday as a prelude to this post…
And then the questions started popping up: When, Where and How do we craft? I had never really given it a thought before, crafting and creating is so part of what our kids do. I guess you found my weak spot… crafting just happens!!! How do we go about crafting? Well I can honestly say that it is a rare day in our house, let alone Africa, when we sit down to a pre-planned and pre-prepared craft session. And certainly never ever pre-cut/pre-prepared materials!!! Mostly my kids craft themselves, with whatever inspires them – a book they have read, something they have seen, a collectable goody that they have rediscovered… a game they have played together, anything inspires them really. If we do all do a craft together, usually something we would like to share with our readers, then I hate to say it but it isn’t too well prepared either… Mostly crafting and creating around here is spontaneous.
The thing about crafting for kids is that it is an activity where they can be totally free to express themselves… it is not just an exercise of stretching their imaginations. So much of a child’s life is constrained by schedules and adult opinions but in the world of crafting – they can be given the freedom to just create. They also attain the freedom to use their discernment – do they really want to dollop glue on everything, if they do – so be it… it is part of the process. Do they really want to use every single sequin or do they want to save some for another project… there are lots of decisions to make. Also the purpose of their project is significant, do they want to make something to gift to someone, to decorate their environment, because they need it for a game they are playing. There is so much more going on when your children are creating and crafting that they just can’t learn and discover in their everyday walk from breakfast to lunch and dinner and back to bed.
I guess the purpose of this post was to demonstrate that children can and do create, despite our best efforts to avoid the mess. And saying “yes” and giving them the freedom to go ahead and follow their inspiration is teaching them a whole lot more than how to use a glue-stick or how to hold a paintbrush. After much thought and deliberation over how we actually craft I thought I would give you se7en + 1 crafty tips to help you get crafting and keep crafting with your kids:
- Crafty Materials:
- Crafty Inspiration:
- Crafty Time:
- Crafty Space:
- Crafty Mess:
- Crafty Challenges:
- Crafty Freedom:
- Crafty Maintenance:
Our craft materials are out there… well mostly in drawers but the markers, the scissors, the scrap paper box, the recycling are all available to the kids whenever they like. To avoid the possibility of chaos my kids know that if they are big enough to create something then they are big enough to clean up as well. My kids learn to pack away the materials before they even use them. My youngest can and does run and plonk any number of paper things into the recycling – that’s his job. And no-one likes messy materials but it is so easy for them to get that way. At the end of the day during clean-up time, along with any toys that are out, our craft supplies are tidied away: The markers get straightened, the crayons get straightened, the paper box gets tidied and so on.
I don’t for one minute suggest most of the crafts my kids do, really craftiness is pretty much kid-driven around here. It looks like they do them spontaneously, but usually it is related to something we have read about in school or something they have a seen in a book that they would like to try. Sometimes it is the materials – a particular box lends itself to a particular craft and so on. I always make sure that we get one or two craft books from the library… That doesn’t mean they do the crafts in them – it just means that they get inspired by them. An author that always inspires is Jane Bull, seriously!!! But your library should have shelves of crafty inspiration.
Anything that requires imagination, requires time… for our children it is their work to create, hard work… and it takes hours. So crafts, especially crafts that are self-inspired, need a large time slot in their schedules and if they are too busy with other activities then it is hard for them to be creative. It is one thing to imagine building a submarine and quite another to make one out of a juice bottle!!! I have found that while a particular craft might not take a long time to actually do – it does take quite a bit of time for ideas to flow and it takes time to change ideas into reality!!! Kids need heaps of free time to play and get their creative juices flowing. Kids need heaps of time to turn their ideas into a crafty reality too.
Almost all our crafting happens at the kitchen table. Everyone knows that that is the place to mess… and because our house is “zoned” into certain activities in certain and specific areas I am unlikely to ever come across a marker in the lounge or paints in a bedroom. My kids like to work in the kitchen. They are near to me, working alongside me, but I can be busy doing essential mom stuff while they do essential kid crafting stuff. Because it is the kitchen and we practically live in it I really don’t feel precious about it!!! Really there is no spill or slop that can’t be mopped up. And yes our table has streaks of marker and drips and drops of glue on it forever… I call it character and I have a feeling our table has earned it’s badges at this stage!!!
Sometimes you just have to be the “Yes Mom.” Crafting needn’t be messy, but lets be honest the messiest projects are often the most fun!!! Seriously, when it comes to mess, I am the biggest procrastinator… it can take me ages to dive in and do something. When my kids decide that it has been ages since they did a huge paper mache project, for example, I can always think of something else to do. But when it comes to messy projects it is often best to just start – take the leap and then once you are into it is is such fun, and the mess stops mattering quite so much!!! Clean up together when you are done – it really is okay!!!
Crafting doesn’t have to be complicated – the simplest crafts are often the most fun. Sometimes my kids simply get into a rut of not crafting, especially with a particular type of craft material… Often we get busy with other stuff – reading, going to the beach and so on… then I go out of my way to draw them back into crafting and set them challenge: For example a string challenge or a plastic lid challenge and their favorite challenge the outdoor challenge. I give them a material, or they have to hunt for a material and make something with it and return it to me in a time slot – say thirty minutes. I have had amazing results from them and it can set them off on a creative binge of note!!!
This is one tip I got from my husband years ago and it has so worked for us… When we had less than a handful of kids, he used to take a couple of them to the library for craft time and he would read a book while the kids crafted… our kids came home with a heap of um… “artwork” and certainly nothing recognizable!!! These crafts were really simple traditional crafts, but for the most part the moms were doing the crafts and going home with yet another butterfly to stick on the fridge. It is a good lesson and when I find myself wanting to join in with their project then I very often do my own version and play along with them. They all know that if they are creating something then I am there to admire their work but certainly not to “help!” Honestly they don’t want my help and I am all for little cries of “Me do it!!!”
And the se7en + 1th tip
The remaining question is: What does one do with the remaining gallery? The art/craft collection of one child can be immense. Can you imagine the chaos with eight!!! The thing with crafts is that they are very often three-dimensional and jut plain tricky to find a space for… Useful crafts, wearable crafts and so on we keep for a time, most of their creative endeavors I photograph – and we have an unusually large photographic collection!!! All my kids know that the recycling truck comes on Friday and that any craftiness that isn’t brand spanking freshly made goes out in the recycling. Also I get rid of our complete recycling collection every week and start again fresh with an empty recycle bin.
I used to save certain things – in case we needed them for a craft – egg boxes, yogurt cups and so on… until I realized the stress of finding a place for all these “potential projects” was killing me. Seriously, I always felt that I should be doing something with these crafty materials and I could never find space enough to keep them… If we do a project that requires specific materials I think nothing of raiding a couple of friends recycling boxes – or adapting the project to fit the materials we have. We limit our crafty display to one or two spots in our home – when they are full then something has to give if you are going to create again, even the most ambitious collector will eventually run out of space and have to sift through their personal collection. Trust me on a Friday morning when the recycle truck comes – he leaves us with an empty bin ready for a new week of creativity.