It’s taken five years of parenting to find a way to make art and creativity accessible, self-initiated and both kid-friendly and parent-friendly in our home. We’ve had all our craft supplies out, a select few out, craft corners in bedrooms, in living rooms, we’ve had paints that always ended in messes and bouts where I didn’t encourage any form of making at all because it was too much effort for me to be both setting it up and cleaning up afterwards.
After all this time, we’ve found a rhythm that works and a way to set up a little art station that invites the kids over to it every day, all on their own. As as a mother and a pretty creative soul, this is really lovely for me to watch.
Our art corner:
A few details:
|| easy access shelving ||
|| baskets + jars for pretty + practical storage ||
|| Whole Family Rhythms – The home learning guide we follow ||
|| Perfectly sized table – Joel found this on the side of the road, cut it in half, applied a new ply tabletop, somehow put it back together and then we stained it a dark colour to hide paint and colouring marks ||
|| most-used + favourite arts + crafts only ||
|| tucked in a bright, central corner of our home ||
Tips on making an easy, self-initiated craft corner:
- Don’t have things out which will cause furniture damage or mess, causing stress to you. We use watercolour paints instead of acrylic paint. We have crayons out instead of texters or pens, etc.
- Know your child and display things you know they are currently into. Ella is really into practicing her letters and word writing right now so her go-to is simple crayon and paper writing as well as an alphabet stamp set we have out. Billy loves cutting paper with scissors and also crayon and paper drawing and he just learned to write his name so there is a lot of that, too. Watercolour paints are also a favourite and they drag a chair to the sink and grab their own water for it, painting pictures nearly every day. Maybe your child loves stickers? Or making collages? Always have a stack of paper available, plus the things they need to direct themselves there, like little glue sticks and jars full of bits and bobs, if even with little encouragement from you.
- Display your craft supplies and make them visually appealing and within reach for your little ones. When a space is inviting and inspiring, it’s only natural people will be drawn to it and want to linger there. When I found some old antique boxes and crates in an antique store a while back I knew I wanted to make some shelving out of them for a future kids’ craft area. Pretty and functional, which ticked the boxes for me.
- Craft alongside them! I love to watercolour next to them sometimes, and I also love how it feels to create with beeswax modelling and do craft activities which are enjoyable for me too like wreath making. It’s nice to get out of adult mode and just make things for the simple joy of how it feels to make something, plus you get some pretty things at the end to decorate your home. When you normalise making art and it becomes part of your weekly life, your kids will naturally see it that way, too.
- Put your art station in a main thoroughfare of your home. I found that when I made a craft corner for the kids in their bedroom, they never used it because they really just wanted to be close to or around Joel and me and what we were doing. They would never choose to stay in their rooms by themselves, because they didn’t want to miss out on us. Even somehow just seeing us – even if I was cooking or busy with something – was enough for them to then be satisfied with self-directed creating. They still wanted my occasional approval and praise (“Look mum, I wrote an upper case Y!), to which I could look over and give them the acknowledgement they were looking for while attending to my work, and this just never worked when they were tucked away in another room and never felt seen. Our craft corner is in the middle of our living space which means we’re walking past it all day, every day and I feel this has definitely added to the frequency with which they are making things.
- Display your child’s art throughout your home, like on fridges, in frames or pinned up on walls with cute little wooden pegs. This will show your child that what they are doing is meaningful, that you love it, and they will feel proud, which will encourage them to head right on back over to that little craft station and make more!
How we craft at home: (because it can get tiring continually coming up with things)
My daughter has always spoken fluent craft and honestly, I’ve gone through phases of it completely wiping me out and leaving me feeling frustrated and – often – inadequate, like I knew I should be nourishing this part of her but I just couldn’t be bothered, or I was just too tired, or simply too bored watching her with dull activities, or too Type A to deal with the mess. After five years, it’s now such an enjoyable part of our home-life, with a weekly rhythm in place that consists of:
- one baking activity together each week,
- one more elaborate craft activity a week (that I set up/put effort into – and that is usually new so it’s engaging for me, too),
- one nature walk each week with a particular focus and a basket full of things they bring home and use, plus
- in-between go-to’s (which are self-directed) like crayon drawing, watercolour painting, stamps, magnaTiles and games like snap and UNO, plus their imaginary games of school and shops, etc, that they play daily together without me prompting.
We follow the Whole Family Rhythms guide (which I can’t recommend enough) and for example, this week was a week focused on apples. We enjoyed making apple crumble, we tried a new craft – apple stamping – and we went on a nature walk focusing on collecting red things. I find these guides give a great focus to our week and invite lots of inspiration, taking the “thinking” out of engaging, fun and educational crafts and activities I can share with my children which are also engaging for me, too. They give me a basis, a focus, and I love Ella saying things like, “Next week is pumpkin week!” as if she is excited for the learning and creativity to come.
And because I could talk about this forever and think I was definitely an early-childhood teacher in a past life (!), I’ve made a list of 30 of some favourite craft and activity ideas to get little eyes off screens and using their hands and creativity, and which can be fun and engaging for parents and care-givers, too. (Home-made sugar scrub! Yes please!)
What I most enjoy about many of these is that they are fun for youngsters as well as older children to enjoy, they engage so many of the senses and they produce something useful or pretty which is satisfying for me being an adult! There is only so many egg carton Very Hungry Caterpillars I can make, you know? – and that number is one. I’ve linked as many activities as I can if you are needing tutorials or materials.
- Making bird feeders. We made these adorable little pine cone bird feeders about a month ago that the kids got such a kick out of watching the birds come, running to check continuously and screaming with happiness when they saw a bird chomping away on them. We dipped pine cones into honey (peanut butter would also work) and then into bird seed. I attached a string to the top and we tied them onto a tree in our backyard.
- Home made sugar scrub. Such an easy and fun thing to make with your kids and lovely to use in the bath or gift to friends or teachers. We made some about a year ago, recipe + instructions here.
- Lemonade/Hot chocolate stands. The kids get such a kick out of this and it makes for a fun afternoon, talking with neighbours and inviting friends who live nearby to stop around. Plus, the lemonade is really delicious. Recipe we used here.
- Homemade play dough. Many people buy play dough from the store but it’s so easy to make at home, the process of making it yourself also fun for little kids. This is a wonderful craft suited to different ages, and you can add cookie cutters or other kitchen utensils to mix up the play.
- Dried orange garland. We made this a while back – Ella loved slicing the oranges and dabbing the liquid up, our house smelled amazing as it dehydrated in the oven and we had a really pretty finished product which is still hanging in our kitchen window. Instructions here.
- Seasonal wreath making. Another lovely craft which is suitable for many age groups and looks so pretty hanging in your home. I loved making this with the kids recently.
- Pet Rocks. Collect some smooth round rocks and decorate them with craft supplies you have at home like yarn for hair, painted on faces and bits of fabric for clothing. We made a whole family a while back and even made a house for them to live in and Ella loved playing with them.
- Watercolour painting. This would have to rank as one of our our top go-to crafts right now. So soothing to do alongside a background of lovely music and age appropriate for little ones right through to me!
- Sprouting wheatgrass. This is something we’re going to do over the next week or so. We got our seeds from a local health food store. Wheatgrass has a really quick grow time which keeps kids engaged and if planted in a glass jar and popped on a window sill they can see the root structure grow and it can invite some fun learning. Plus you can chop it off and add it to your green smoothie in the morning!
- Make homemade cleaning and beauty products. Another thing I have tucked away for a rainy day or school holidays – We have glass roller bottles to make easy perfumes out of essential oils and carrier oils, plus a couple of spray bottles to make a Theives spray, or another anti-bacterial counter spray from lemon and peppermint essential oils, or you could make pillow sprays for kid’s bedtime out of lavender and sweet orange or a simple air refresher from favourite essential oils. Really looking forward to delving into this!
- Beeswax modelling. A lovely tactile craft we do all the time, rolling shapes and letters and great for children of all ages. Tutorial here.
- Dried leaf painting. You could also use sticks or rocks.
- Home-made flower soap. We made some home-made soap a while back and it was such a lovely thing to do, again ending in a beautiful finished product to use at home or gift grandparents or friends. You will need a soap mould, melt + pour glycerine soap, essential oils and some dried flowers. Instructions here.
- Games. This is probably hands-down the activity we most do together at home. UNO, Snap, Memory, and board games (current favourite is Outfoxed) are our go-to’s and the kids actually beat us more than we beat them!
- Fairy garden. A lovely thing to make with kids, we’ve made both an elaborate indoor fairy garden, and a very simple outdoor version recently, always inviting them into their wonderful world of imagination.
- Driveway chalk. Drawing maps, roads, towns, favourite things and getting kids outside.
- Nature journalling. A current favourite thing to do with the kids, we go on a walk collecting certain things and then draw and learn about them when we get back home. The fresh air and wonder of surroundings it evokes always feels lovely.
- Easy baking-with-kids recipes. I love getting the kids into the kitchen with me (not with all meals but the simpler ones!). Find some easy recipes like apple crumble, bliss balls, homemade ice blocks, etc and get them helping you mix and measure out amounts and roll and knead. They love it.
- Felt garlands. Another fun craft with an end result of something pretty for your home. All you need is some felt, some cookie cutters or stencil with shapes you like, some wool or string and a hot glue gun. Get your kids to choose the colours and the shapes and they can practice cutting and pattern arranging while you take care of the hot glue gun.
- Kid’s yoga. There are many kids yoga DVDs you can get, or simply find some on Youtube. Joel got the kids into short little kids yoga DVDs a couple of weeks back and they ask for it and practice along a couple of times a week.
- Nature walk with purpose. Set a different focus like collecting different coloured flowers, or only red things, etc. This just turns a get-out-for-fresh-air call into a purposeful activity encouraging kids to pay attention and take wonder in their surroundings.
- Start a small garden. We are currently growing strawberries, tomatoes, spinach, lettuce and a stack of herbs and Ella and Billy find so much delight in finding tiny strawberries growing plus the watering etc teaches them responsibility and how to care for things.
- Crayon drawing art. One of our go-to’s. Beeswax variations available.
- Noodle Necklaces. Remember these? Let the kids paint noodles and then string them onto long pieces of yarn. These would be a nice little treat to tuck inside a card for school friends or grandparents.
- Fruit & Vegetable Stamping. I always seem to forget how cool this is until we do it again! Cut various fruit and vegetables out (potatoes, celery, apples work well) and use them as stamps.
- Water Bottle “Cleaning” – Helping mum. This one is fun. Have a few cheap spray bottles for the kids to use to help you “clean”. I’ll give them a rag and a spray bottle full of water and I let them wash things. They tend to stick to windows, walls, and the floor. It’s a great way to have them join in with our chores, while still having what they consider to be a lot of fun.
- Nature Collage. Have the kids collect bits of nature from a walk and give them a large, study piece of paper with glue or tape. Have them make a creation using the things they found outdoors.
- Beeswax candles. Really simple, and even Billy can participate. We make these all the time – instructions here. Plus I love burning them throughout our home.
- Mud pies/outdoor kitchen. We have a few old pots and pan and spoons and muffin trays out near the kid’s fairy garden and I send them out often to mix in water to the dirt and make their creations.
- MagnaTiles. This is a fun go-to activity in our house and the kids play with them all the time. The initial outlay is expensive, but so educational and interesting and well-used that it was worth it for us. Can find them here.
Phew, that was a long post about crafts! I’d love to hear about your go-to’s or some fun crafts you’ve done together. What are your favourites? My list is always looking for new things!