There are a lot of ways to fall short of perfection. But maybe the worst way is to not embrace the messy perfection of watching kids create. Things can get out of hand, true, but the only way to get better at it and reach some level of enjoyment is to keep at it, be open to learning, changing course and accept that there’s lots of clean up (ok sometimes it takes more time to clean up than to do the actual project).
An article that helped me shift perspective is this one from the Boston Globe about slow parenting. My favorite part is about taking time to just watch your children doing whatever they are doing, be it eating a snack, doing homework, etc, and I will add making a craft.
Honestly, how many times do you look at your kids without watching them? Open up to the curiosity, take the time to observe them and just slow down and take it all in. It is pretty amazing. Your kids are amazing.
So with this in mind, here are my favorite tips for crafting with kids and having fun doing it.
Involve them in the process according to their abilities. I had something specific in mind when making these love hearts, simply that I wanted them to resemble hearts (and from this example you can see I’m not exactly a stickler). That meant I needed to do the actual sewing. But my kids were able to participate in choosing the fabrics, some basic assembly, stuffing, and generally having a whole range of tactile fun. It’s ok to set limits. Explain what they can do and why there are certain jobs that only a grown up should do.
Appeal to their interests and humor. The whole craft experience is more enjoyable when you can bask in the fruits of your labor. By encouraging my kids to make these spider Halloween decorations, they got to laugh at the silly spiders, feel like something scary is a little less scary, delight in creating something that *might* be scary and also experience the fun of installing a temporary exhibit of webs. There were some jokes made about my cleaning skills too. A temporary large scale project like this is super rewarding and also if you don’t love it you know you can take it down after the holiday or event is over. But chances are you’ll love it.
Use what’s around you. It’s fun to be resourceful and incorporate different materials. It also reduces the pressure to buy a ton of supplies. With just paint (here we used water colors) and a brush and our scavenging imaginations we created a really cool homage to autumn that was timely, relevant and easy to clean up.
Sometimes it’s more fun to get out of the house and create in a group (and then bring back those skills and ideas to make cool projects at home!). One of my favorite activities is to head over to the Musée national des beaux arts du Quebec (MNBAQ) where they have a wonderful program for families. Basically they provide a project, all the materials, the work space and a very helpful guide. The perfect setting for your family to work on creating something to bring home. The materials are high quality, everything you need is there and it is related to current exhibitions going on at the museum which is really important to help kids feel connected to the arts. We have gone to several but the ships were my favorite. The 1 hour class began with a short presentation on ships, what they look like, some details like that. Then the participants can collect the materials and head over to their tables to start creating. You can make a realistic ship or a more whimsical one like I did with my daughter. An extra bonus is it creates an experience. We still have the ships and when we look at them we remember what fun we had–and isn’t that what crafting together is all about?
Finally, I’ll just emphasize to look for the possibilities that are all around. There are so many lessons and fun creative things that can be woven into your everyday life and will contribute to crafty kids and fun times. Enjoy!