Crafty Time / Inspiration
by Misti Bushmire
Have you ever wanted to do crafts with your kids, to help them learn to explore their creativity? Have you ever wondered where on Earth to start?! Some people grew up in a home where making things was as common as breathing and some did not. The great news is that it is never too late to start!
Why would you want to do crafts with kids?
What is the point? Well, there are lots of great reasons to do crafts. Creativity is foundational to human beings, it is deeply satisfying. There are studies showing that our stress hormones drop drastically when we are engaged in creative activities. Who among us wouldn’t benefit from that?!
Let’s start by defining what I mean by “doing crafts” for the purposes of this post. I am not referring to buying a kit with stickers and foam and assembling the item. There is definitely a time and place for those kits and they can be a real lifesaver at certain times but that’s not what I am referring to at the moment. What I mean is using various materials and creating something new with them. Exploring those materials and learning about them. How do they work together, how do they respond, what works and why?
Creativity is a way of thinking, a way of problem solving. Crafts with children can start them on the path to creative thinking. Exploring the limits of our minds and imagination stretches and grows our minds. You never know when you will use the information that you discover or when this little bit will springboard you in another direction all together. Creativity is generally not a straight road with a map but a wandering along the paths and taking many side trips!
Crafting and creativity is something that I am passionate about, as I’m sure you will see in this post. It has so much positive impact on our lives that it is totally worth any effort that you put into it. It broadens your mind and your world in a way that few other things possibly can, on whatever level you are able to participate. A very small child can make something so simple and be just as proud of it as the greatest artist that has ever lived. Don’t be intimidated if you are a newbie and always remember if you are an experienced crafter, creativity is about the process and the experience not necessarily the product.
Tips For Crafting With Kiddos
But where to start? Let’s begin with some thoughts and tips and then in the next post I will detail a list of where to start building the ultimate craft kit!
1) Just start!
My number one, very best, tip is this: just start. Decide that you want to dive in and get started and just do it. But that brings us to number 2…
2) Have a plan.
When you start crafting with those kids start with a project in mind. Choose a project for that session, make sure you have the materials that you need – and this is key: do it yourself ahead of time. Know your children, if they have a short attention span or very low tolerance for frustration then make the craft yourself ahead of time when they are in bed or away from home so you know the steps and can avoid any pitfalls.
I can’t tell you how many times I have found a project that I wanted to do and when I actually sat down to do it I found that there were directions missing, steps left out, the author assumed I would know how to do something, or I had to substitute supplies and make adjustments accordingly. The time to work this out is not while the kids are sitting there staring at you and getting restless! Most kid’s crafts are pretty simple and this step usually won’t take you long but will make the whole experience successful for everyone. Plus, think of the stress hormones going down while you are making something…!
3) Guide the process.
When you start crafting with kids you should guide the process. Just like you wouldn’t expect a child to run a 5K before they even learned to walk you can’t expect them to create a masterpiece on their own before they learn the basics of crafting. They need time to learn to use the different materials and tools before they can take off and fly. These beginning stages are giving them roots so that they can do just that. Start with choosing projects and guiding the process and as they learn more and more start letting them choose projects and figure things out. Remember them learning to walk? They held your fingers and gradually you let go as they got steadier and steadier on those little feet. Same principal.
4) Leave room for them.
Have your plan but also leave room for their creativity to kick in. You may have planned a project making puppets of fairytale characters for example and the kids decide to add in superheroes and then want to act out a whole story that they think up. Let them run with it! Sit back and enjoy watching where they take it. Bask in their enjoyment of the moment.
5) Know when to stop.
Some kids have a very long attention span and can get really wrapped up in a project, like for hours, and take it far beyond what you expected. Some have a short attention span and when they are done, they are done. Most kids fall in the middle somewhere.
Know your child and think about what time of day is best, whether you can sandwich this in between other things or do you need to make sure that they have open time to get involved? It can be very frustrating to stop when you are wrapped up in a creative haze so plan short projects when you have small bits of time and longer ones when the time is available. Can you schedule several short sessions over the course of a few days and break the project up? There are natural “break points” in some projects like waiting for paint and glue to dry that you can take advantage of.
6) No comparisons allowed!
Put aside your inner critic and whatever comments you may have heard in the past about your ability. Never compare YOUR project with the picture; just like with fashion photos these have been primped, staged, and done over and over. Also, the person presenting the project couldn’t make the next one look exactly like the first anyway, all handmade items are unique. Look for the differences and enjoy each one being unique. Also keep in mind that your kiddo’s are watching… If they watch you compare, they’re going to do the same thing. Let’s use this as a teachable moment!
7) Where to find inspiration.
Giving your children the gift of crafts and creativity is priceless, it will benefit them their whole lives. It will also benefit you and your relationship with them. So much of parenting is not “fun”, and I bet you know what I mean! “Time for bed”, homework, chores, “no you can’t hit your sister”, “please feed the dog”, bath time; the list never ends. While those things are not necessarily miserable they are usually not “fun” either. Crafts are just fun time with the kids, a time to explore and enjoy what happens. Go where the path leads you! Where has the path taken you and your kids? We would love to hear about it!