Every time I pick our son up from daycare, he’s working on an arts and crafts project with his favorite teacher. He’s one of the last kiddos to get picked up, so they get nice one-on-one time to paint, color and glue and I’m always amazed at how well Oliver sits patiently working on his projects (at home, he’d generally be throwing everything on the floor and running circles around the table). His teacher gave me five key tips to manage the activity, mentioning that of course there will always be a mess, but there’s a lot you can do proactively to make craft time enjoyable for both you and your kids.
It turns out, she was right. Here’s craft time with kids goes down these days at our house:
As with many things toddler-related, I keep expectations for craft time pretty low and ask myself what the ultimate goal is. If you really think about it, the ultimate goal isn’t to have a perfect card to send to Nana or the straightest lines of glitter on your ladybug: it’s just to have fun, spend time together and chat a little about colors and shapes. Once you really lay out the intention of the activity for yourself, I find it eliminates a lot of the burden and stress right off the bat.
Always Offer Choices
Oh, how toddlers love choices. There’s nothing they love more than feeling in control of their world and, of course, big kids feel much the same way. Even if it’s a fake choice (i.e. you are prepared to make both edible play dough and homemade slime), offer it regardless and get some immediate buy-in: Your kiddo will automatically be more invested in the activity when they feel as though they got to select it.
Set up Beforehand
The mess is inevitable. No one in their right mind thinks they’ll come out the other side of an arts and crafts project mess-free. But I like to do my part to at least make myself feel organized at the very start. We love the POP Containers at home to store art supplies like crayons, pipe cleaners and straws, while buttons and glitter fit perfectly in the same glass baby blocks you used to store homemade baby food and tiny toddler snacks. They’re clear so everything is easy to see and I can tell when it’s time to refill our crafts, and the POP seal ensures we don’t have little googly eyes and buttons all over the floor before we even begin.
Don’t Rush Them
I find that any activity with our son takes at least twice as long from start to finish than I thought it would. And the truth is, no one enjoys themselves if the clock is obviously ticking, and you’re rushing through a project. Make a point to start crafts with kids when you don’t have somewhere to be directly afterwards. This allows your kids to switch gears and change directions if they want (i.e. if they start coloring but decide they want to paint instead).
Clean up Together
It’s great to involve kiddos even as young as toddlers in the crafts clean up process—they’ll always surprise you with how much they can chip in and help (and how much they often want to!). We use the Mini Clips to keep small bags of little eyeballs and glitter fastened and the All-Purpose Clips to corral loose papers and keep them all in one place. I love that the clips are magnetic, too, so we’ll often plunk new artwork right on the fridge to show Oliver’s Dad when he gets home, or his Aunt when she comes over to visit.
Planning a dinner or holiday party? Here’s how to make the kids table actually kid friendly (hint: it involves a paper tablecloth and crayons).