Three-year old side kicks are the best. I’m currently onto my fifth. Usually by this age their older siblings are at school at least a few days a week, so that they enjoy the experience of being the ‘big kid’ for a bit. They also often find their creativity around this age which is just beautiful to experience.
For the past six months or so, I’ve tried to make a habit of going upstairs into the studio whenever Jason has his day time nap. For a long time, Marcus has resisted this, wanting to play downstairs or wanting to watch something while I sew. Finally this year, though, he’s discovered all kinds of creative activities and ideas, and bugs me to go upstairs all day – and hasn’t asked to watch anything in three weeks!
Some days he asks for a needle and thread and stitches and stitches a scrap of fabric until it becomes a little ball. (He’s made at least 15 so far). Last week, thought he decided to make a hat, and I couldn’t resist sharing here, along with the little message to never under-estimate your little ones and their creative ideas! I tried to put a damper on this idea a couple of times but he persisted, and I love it!
First he cut out several pieces. With complete confidence in his own ability, I might add! He then popped them all next to my sewing machine for me to stitch together when I was next sewing. When it became clear that he wasn’t going to forget about them, I asked him to explain to me how the hat was supposed to work. He knew exactly which piece was supposed to fit where so I stitched them together as instructed, without cutting anything, and I think it’s the most adorable hat ever!
It's school holidays here at the moment. Aaron and Hannah have gone to stay with friends for a night, so I've only had the four youngest boys with me all afternoon (and most of tomorrow). Unfortunately they are all sick (high temps, rosy cheeks, persistent coughing) which means that, although the weather has been beautifully clear, I can't send them outside, or take them for a walk or to a playground.
Thankfully I remembered this masking tape that I'd hidden away in my cupboard for a day just like this. This is the most expensive roll of masking tape I have ever bought, but the boys were so impressed with it! We've built roads from the playroom into the mud room and the lounge, so that we have our town in the mudroom and Albany (where Grandma and Grandad live) in the lounge.
And then we salvaged some timber off cuts from Dad's workshop and went to work with sharpies. I spent a few minutes drawing some buildings, and then left the boys to draw their own.
This was a good solid afternoon of play, and I know that we can eke it out for a few more days yet, especially if we set up wooden train tracks along side and over the roads tomorrow. The biggest challenge, as always, will be for me to ignore the 'mess'!
Oh, and if you can't spend $20 on a roll of masking tape, I'm sure that ordinary masking tape with hand-drawn lines will also work a treat.
Here are some other links to inside day masking tape play:
– a table top city
– a maze
– and if you really feel like a creative challenge, check out this masking tape town.
If you are a long-term reader of this blog, maybe you have noticed that I don't share quite so many kids craft activities here as what I used to. I actually don't do quite as much with the children any more. Partly because the younger children now spend more time playing outside, and partly because home life is a little busier than what it used to be. I would often spend time on craft projects with Aaron and Hannah. Now I act more as a craft-facilitator most of the time. And Aaron and Hannah are old enough to help the younger boys with creative activities when required.
This past week though, we've tackled some craft here again. This began as a means to counter the daily 'I want to watch Peppa' monologue after bringing the older kids to school. Turns out that crafting with or next to Mum is a pretty good distraction!
I'm fairly certain that most children like being involved in creative endeavours of some kind, so here are some things I've learnt along the way that make it work:
Some children are full of their own ideas of what they'd like to do or make, but often I find that my kids like some help with coming up with ideas, or settling on a good one. Sometimes 'I'm bored' really means 'please help me think of something. I keep a Pinterest board of things to do with the kids (or things for them to do by themselves). I also have a good selection of kids craft books. (Usborne has produced some great ones – we've enjoyed this one). Every so often I pull a few out where the kids can see them, and inevitably someone picks one up and decides to make something. Sometimes the best way to inspire a child is to sit down with them and either work alongside them (e.g. both drawing) or with them on the same project. We've so often found that when the very young children are restless, it only takes 5-10 minutes of sitting down and building something with duplo together to get them going for a good few hours of play.
Sometimes it's daunting for a child to tackle a whole project on their own. Collaborating can be so much fun. Sometimes collaborating involves sharing the work load. This is especially the case for more challenging projects. Often when the kids are working on a sewing project, I complete the parts that are beyond their skill level. Even more fun, though, is collaborating on ideas. Create a finished product based on your child's drawing, or start a drawing yourself and let your child finish it off. It's good to know when to step in and when to back off as a parent. It's great for the kids to extend themselves in their creative projects, but not fun anymore when they become completely frustrated. You will know better than anyone where that point is for your child, but do take note of point 4 in relation to this.
Here's a collaboration where I printed one of Caleb's drawings and he turned it into a softie.
And there are three collaborations at the end of this post.
If you want to encourage your children to try their hand at various creative activities, then be sure to have supplies or equipment accessible. We have a 'craft station' in our playroom. It contains paper, card, stencils, stamps, markers, colourful feathers and more. Of course, you don't have to have the same things. It's more about the kids knowing what's available for them to use, and having it where they can get to it. Oh, and throw out dodgy scissors and el-cheapo colour pencils. I love Crayola colour pencils as they give such a good strong colour (some of the cheaper ones don't deserve to be called colour pencils). I always get some in the back-to-school sales at the beginning of the year.
I also have a box of scrap fabric and yarn that the kids may help themselves to. And in the pantry we keep a crate of assorted cardboard rolls and empty boxes. And a favourite birthday gift for most of my children is more craft/making supplies.
Oh, and if you can, invest in a hot glue gun (again, not the cheapest one). It took me many years of crafting to work this out, but this glue really is the best way to get things stuck quickly and well.
This is so important in this Pinterest-age! When your young children are working on a creative project, DO NOT insist that they do exactly this and make it look exactly like that (yes, children need to be able to follow instructions and procedures, but this is less important when it comes to art and craft). Your child doesn't need to produce a Pinterest-perfect project, and will quickly become frustrated if that is his aim. Resist the urge to step in and 'help' just for the sake of keeping it tidy and 'on-task'. Your child will not experience the same sense of achievement and may find himself sitting by and watching you complete the project. There are ways to loosely control the outcome of a project without taking over. For example, sometimes I give the children a limited palette of paint colours to work with. I never give them black paint if I can help it! In this screenprinting project, the circle within which the children had to work had a big impact on the overall look of the finished t-shirts, without restricting their creativity.
Some children feel more comfortable sticking closely to instructions. It's really worth trying to encourage them to make a project their own by making changes along the way. We have one child who wants it to turn out exactly like the book, including all the colours. It's incredibly frustrating for him when he can't make it work out right. He will enjoy the creative process more when he is able to use the ideas in the book as a starting point for his own creations.
Along the same lines, if you or your child set out on a new project and you don't have all the 'correct' supplies, I encourage you to improvise. This will be such a valuable learning experience for your child. My children know that unless the stars area aligned just right (just kidding, I don't go for astrology) Mum won't be pulling out the messy paints, so they improvise by using coloured paper (collage) or pencils or crayons, rather than let it prevent them from getting creative.
Especially for younger children, the creative project does not need to be complicated or time-consuming. If you want to tackle a more substantial project, prepare yourself and your child to complete it over a number of days, so that you are not doing a rush job at the end because you are both too tired.
Also, simplify by not having too many art and craft supplies out at once. One way I keep things simple when the kids are painting is to not give them water for rinsing their brushes in. Instead they wipe their brushes dry on a scrap of paper. Yay to no cups of water tipping over the table! (Here are a few more tips on using acrylic paints with kids).
Toilet rolls make for super-simple craft projects for little ones. Check out our bunnies here.
And these straw rockets are fun and simple, too.
And if you want to go beyond a single project, why not consider an 'artist's retreat' with your kids. Here's how ours worked (and here's what motivated it) – still my all-time favourite 'creating with kids' project!
What are your tips for getting creative with your kids?
So I blink and suddenly he has mastered the scissors!
He has the stubbornness and determination of two-year olds all over the world, and I suspect that we are in for some particularly challenging months as he tests all the boundaries that, up to now, he hadn't noticed.
For today, I'm just thankful that he stayed awake in the car while we were out so that he's sleeping now!
P.s. Those are retired fabric scissors and perfectly legal to use on paper. Something that everyone in this house knows to be sure about, whether they are two years old or not!
So simple, so sweet, but so good!