Craft, Creative Ideas and Projects For Kids

Ideas, tutorials and DIY projects to inspire children. Banish boredom and get your kids creating and making.
Weekend and holiday projects for kids and the young at heart.
Kids love handcraft, making and creating and if given the chance will choose real activities over TV and computer games!
For even more creative ideas and activities head over to Action Pack

Jean Van’t Hul lives the mountains of North Carolina and is passionate about children’s art and creativity. She shares her passion and projects on her blog (The Artful Parent) and she has an upcoming book about children’s art coming out soon. I asked Jean a few questions about her Autumn Crafts E-book and discussing her philosophy on children’s creativity.

1. This e-book is aimed at pre-school age – can you tell us a little more about how you engage children becoming creative and keep their attention?

The book is perfect for families with pre-school age children, yes, but also for those with both older and younger children. My three-year-old and seven-year-old daughters enjoyed the activities equally, and I think many of the activities would be engaging for up to pre-teens. Heck, I love most of them myself, and I’m 35!

You can give your children the gift of creativity with encouragement, a few art materials, and the freedom to experiment. It doesn’t take much.

1. Ready access to art materials and tools
2. Encouragement in art and in life
3. An environment where experimentation is encouraged and “mistakes” are okay

If these three ingredients are in place, children are free to be creative in art and that creativity transfers over to play and everyday life as well.

2. You have a new book coming out with Roost – congratulations – are you able to tell us a little about this book – what we can expect and how it came to be?

I would love to! The Artful Parent: Simple Ways to Fill Your Family’s Life with Art and Creativity is a guidebook for parents and teachers who want to encourage their children’s creativity through art. It is filled with our all-time favorite art activities as well as information to inspire and guide parents as they make art a priority in their family life.

The Artful Parent:
• Helps parents set up an art space for their children
• Talks about the arts and crafts supplies they really need (and how to stock their art cupboards without breaking the bank)
• Shares how to talk with their kids constructively about their art (you know, rather than just saying, “that’s nice, dear”)
• And provides more than enough fun art activities to keep families happily creating year round

3. What are you favourite materials and products to use when creating with children? Can you talk a little about setting up a creative space for children?

My favorite materials? The list is so long! I’d say the basics are important and all you really need. There is so much children can do with paints, paper, a few drawing tools, scissors, tape, and some sort of dough such as playdough.

But favorites? Let’s see. We really love colored masking tape in our home. And printed washi tape. The kids use them for all kinds of collage creations, 3-D art, mixed media projects, you name it. I also use both for gift wrap. [Jean's favourite art supplies list.]

Other favorites:

  • Liquid watercolors
  • Glitter paint
  • Glitter glue
  • Glitter (sense a theme here?)
  • Shaving cream (not my favorite, but it’s my kids’ top fave so I have to include it)
  • Model Magic
  • Oil pastels
  • Watercolor crayons

4. Can you talk also about how you have nurtured a creative home and your philosophy when creating with children?

I believe in process-oriented art for children, especially younger children. This means that the process of the art making is more important than the end product. That the art is ultimately open-ended and child-directed. This is pretty much the opposite of what I experienced as a child in grade school where my classmates and I would carefully follow instructions to recreate a teacher-made model of a bunny or snowman or something — cutting out on the dotted line and pasting the eyes on the “x”. Instead, I believe children’s art should be more exploratory in nature — about exploring the materials, different techniques, their growing skill set, and their ideas and feelings.

Having a beautiful end product that you can hang on the wall is great! But it shouldn’t be the whole focus of children’s art. The freedom to explore (and make mistakes) is important to creativity. The books by MaryAnn Kohl (First Art, Scribble Art, Preschool Art, etc) and the books by Susan Striker (Young at Art, Please Touch) both had a big influence on me and my philosophy on children’s art and creativity.

As for a creative home environment, I have made our home as much for our children as for my husband and me. Kid stuff isn’t relegated to one room. We have kid-sized furniture throughout the house, my daughters’ toys and books are in most rooms, and there are spaces for creating throughout the house as well.

Tools and spaces for creative explorations are readily available — I think this is pretty important. The accessibility is age dependent — for example, I kept scissors and choking hazards out of reach when my 3 year old was younger. Now, I continue to keep the permanent markers and some other supplies out of reach to ensure that they are used when I’m ready to supervise. But many of our supplies are accessible for them to use when the desire strikes.

  • There is a child’s table in the main living space where the kids draw or create with playdough.
  • We have a basket of paper and some crayon rocks next to the dining table.
  • We turned a yard sale find into a large chalkboard with a fresh coat of paint a couple years ago.
  • Maia has a desk in her bedroom and she does a fair bit of drawing, cutting, and taping there.

And, as my Artful Parent readers know, we are lucky to have an art studio in our home as well. It started out as a large laundry room, but we’ve turned it into a dedicated art space with art tables, a wall of shelves for art supply storage, and an art drying wall. It’s been wonderful to have, especially for messy art projects, but in the end I think the majority of our family art making happens at our dining table. [More about making space for kids.]

 FREE excerpt 

from Jean’s Autumn Crafts E-book :: Leaf Printed Napkins Project - PDF Download.

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For more kids craft, creative ideas and activities go to the Action Pack website

Emily Neuburger is an artist, teacher, freelance children’s craft designer, and author of the blog, Red Bird Crafts. Throughout her teaching career, she’s been especially interested in how art informs writing and vice versa, and how both nurture people’s capacity to imagine. Her curriculum is a nice balanced blend of skill-based learning, inspirational and intrinsic investigation, and creative encouragement; she teaches classes to both children and adults in her home studio/classroom as well as in libraries and schools. Many of her projects for children have been published across the web on popular sites such as Poppytalk, Apartment Therapy, Crafty Crow, Craftzine, and in both Family Fun and Parenting print magazines. She recently wrote Show Me a Story Published by Storey.

Emily is here to discuss a little about her book Show Me a Story: 40 Craft Projects and Activities to Spark Children’s Storytelling today.

I’m so honored to have the chance to share a bit about my new book, Kathreen! Thank you for welcoming me to Whipup today.

Show Me a Story is an educational craft book, which nurtures children’s natural inclination to tell stories. It is curriculum rich with projects and activities that encourage children to experiment with their imaginations and to feel inspired by their own, brilliant creations. With its simple materials, wide variety of techniques, and teacher tips, it is an inspiring companion for anyone who does creative work with children, and it is perfect for ages 5 and up  (with modifications for the under 5 set).

The book is divided into four distinct sections:  Story Starters for encouraging children to be empowered storytellers from the beginning; Story Evolution for enriching and facilitating children’s existing relationship with stories; Story Activities which focuses on the process of developing a story, not just the product; and Story Play for inspiring and supporting children as they express their stories through drama and fantasy play.

Besides being fun, the activities in my book are developmentally nourishing; they give children the chance to generate their own paths to imaginary lands.  There are endless opportunities for them to discover characters and setting in a physical way using their own minds and hands.  During a time when video game play is so prevalent, this kind of thinking and doing is so crucial for children.

As a former English and creative writing teacher, I’m especially fond of using word play as a way to encourage storytelling exploration. In the project Word Tags, I suggest that children become word collectors, so that they can use their bounty to write vibrant poems and to tell interesting stories.  This is a sample list of some of the words my children and I have collected:

loop, lavender, persnickety, gray, Poseidon, hidden, clamor, tussle, tangerine, wizard, creek, slope, clasp, woodchuck, stalagmite, smashup, bookish, wilt, flub, avalanche, nubbin, grip, woolly, blush, mud, dream, marigold, brine, aloft, junket, outfox, bedrock, fly, zero, twirl, crackerjack, sassafrass, tang, rooted, weepy, milkweed, roses, howl, goof, maudlin, sway, wee, sidewise, gnome, tuft, robot, maze, bark, flock, bias, solemn, wind, dusk, loon, drift, radical, match, flushed, circus, blip, fawn, jaw, pastoral, minced,  marina, Jupiter, snark, mossy, clog, spin, teeter, bundle, summit, peruse

And, then we like to group them together to create vibrant, original ideas:
  • dusk grip
  • rooted dream
  • weepy tangerine
  • marigold drift
  • hidden roses
  • sidewise fly
  • wee tuft
  • mossy avalanche
  • circus summit
As a current creative arts and writing educator, I’ve witnessed many children engage in making the projects in my book, and so, today, I’d like to show you a glimpse of some of their intentional, inspired creations.  A portion of these come from my classes, some from visitors, and some from visits to schools, libraries and museums.  Each piece is the manifestation of a unique and powerful creative voice.

xox emily

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For more kids craft, creative ideas and activities go to the Action Pack website

Over the years we have linked to and created a whole bunch of wonderful resources for crafting with kids. I have put together this resource page to make it easier for you to navigate this site to find all of these great projects. You’ll want to peruse the kids craft category too of course.

For the grownups

Adults and kids to do together

Roundups

Projects for kids {7+}

Projects for kids {3+}

 

{image above is from the Mad Scientist issue of Action Pack Magazine for kids}

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For more kids craft, creative ideas and activities go to the Action Pack website

Nicole Blum and Debra Immergut are the authors of the new book Improv Sewing. They also blog together at Improv DiaryNicole is a freelance crafter and stylist, clothing designer, blogger and obsessed sewist. She lives in Western Massachusetts where she also works at her family’s hard cider business together with her husband and two children. Debra is a writer, magazine editor, and content packager who loves sewing and crafting, even when her creations turns out just a little bit awkwardly. She grew up in the Washington, DC, area and now lives in Western Massachusetts with her husband and son. 

Creativity, improvisation, and why it is so darn good to let go and make some stuff

Once, many years ago, I was in the company of a bunch of farmers who were drawing angry vegetables for the side of their farm truck for fun (uh, why else?). They were young farmers from the UC Santa Cruz Farm and Garden program, not your typical farmer, but still. Egging everyone on was our friend Harrell Fletcher, who has since become a sort of major person in the art world, and he is pretty much the embodiment of creativity (yes, look him up, his work is very worth looking at).

I was in my mid-20s, and I sat on the edge of the group and watched. I still can’t believe my shyness and how I simply missed out on ALL of the fun that day. I didn’t really think I had enough talent to draw an angry vegetable. I could throttle that young woman’s perfect neck for being so silly. I might be a bit of a late bloomer, but I have arrived and there is no stopping creativity once you let go of judgment, comparisons, and self-imposed limitations. I couldn’t be more serious.

First of all, I can draw just fine. So can you. Second, I am of the mind that I can learn to do most anything, if I want (maybe not brain surgery, but I conveniently don’t really want to anyway) and this mindset has been an amazing emancipator. I have gone from staring at a store bought tissue pattern with squinty eyes and a furrowed brow to designing my own clothes in a matter of very few years. I have tweaked mistakes and imperfections into design elements (they are easily persuaded) and then cultivated those ideas into intentionally laid down lines and squiggles, Xs and seed stitches. Layers and appliques have been my cover-ups and the basis for my decorative elements. It has been so satisfying to play around and figure things out, and, it is crazy fun.

Of course, I didn’t just go from timid non-drawing gal to sewing book author in a flash. I was a school teacher and then made the natural (and fortuitous) shift to working as a craft developer for a family and kid magazine for a bunch of years. I think that my commitment to instilling the love of art and creativity in my students and my own children has convinced me to express my ideas without all of the self-judgment. Everyone says that kids are the best teachers, and it really is true. I saw them creating with abandon and it moved me. I had to let go of a lot to be a good role model and that was important to all of us. And, it has served me in so many ways.

First, I get to earn my living making things, which couldn’t be more amazing. Also, I got to meet my co-author Debra who is an editor I have worked on many magazine projects with. She is an excellent writer (funny and thoughtful) and has a
fantastic ability to make directions clear and easy to understand. We were a great team and this book was really her idea.

I guess I am trying to tell you something here. Most likely you already are creative and make things if you look at this amazing WhipUp blog, but if you think that you can’t make your own clothes, or if you think that you can’t put your mark on something so that it is unique and a good expression of you, then I am here to ask you to rethink that. You can make whatever you want and I hope our book is a companion to you in the process of discovery. Improvise if you need to. Let go of your inhibition because it is way more fun that way. Way more fun.

Project

Line Art Lunchbox Napkin (Excerpted from Improv Sewing (c) by Nicole Blum and Debra Immergut,  Photo (c) by Alexandra Grablewski, used with permission from Storey Publishing.)

If you’re new to drawing with your sewing machine, hone your skills with this low-stakes, ultracheap project (you don’t even have to buy fabric if you have an old white bedsheet to cut up). This reusable napkin will make its owner proud in two ways: he or she gets to show off artwork and reduce lunchtime trash at the same time.

What you’ll need :: 10″ square of Birdseye cotton, glassware toweling, or other absorbent woven cotton fabric + 1 to 3 spools of contrasting thread

How to :: 

1. Create the drawing :: Tape the fabric taut to the table. With a vanishing ink pen or chalk, draw a simple design, either centered or in one corner, leaving at least a 3/4″ margin on all sides for the hem.

2. Draw with thread :: Before you start drawing, read the techniques intro, page 134, and practice on a scrap of the project fabric. Set your presser foot pressure to 2; this allows you to manipulate your fabric easily but still follow the drawn lines. Using a straight stitch with the stitch length set at 1, stitch along the drawn guidelines.

3. Hem the napkin :: Press the edges of the napkin 1/4″ to the wrong side, and then 1/4″ again to make a 1/2″ double-fold hem. Using contrasting thread and a narrow zigzag (our stitch width was 3 and stitch length 2.5), topstitch the hem in place, leaving the needle down and turning the fabric at the corners.

4. Stitching tip :: It will make it easier for the sewist if the drawing isn’t itty-bitty, so guide the artist accordingly. For a younger child, frame the target area with tape to help him or her understand where and how big to draw the artwork.

 

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For more kids craft, creative ideas and activities go to the Action Pack website

Heather Swain is a former third-grade teacher, mother of two, writing instructor, magazine fact-checker, freelance magazine writer, and an award-winning author. Her articles and personal essays about parenting have appeared in American Baby Magazine, Time Out New York Kids, and on Salon.com. Her fiction books include Me, My Elf and I (Puffin/Speak, 2009) and two adult novels (published by Downtown Press/Pocket Books) Eliot’s Banana and Luscious Lemon. She lives, works, and plays in a crooked house in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and their two children.

I wrote Play These Games as a follow-up to my first craft book Make These Toys because I believe that all kids are natural-born game players. Ask them to pick up their socks, and they’ll whine and cry and act like you demanded them to move boulders. But turn it into a game (who can do it the fastest), and you’ll see socks in drawers in no time.

Playing games is the perfect antidote for boredom. We all do it. Whether it’s logging on to computer Solitaire instead of working or folding a paper football during a droning lecture or mounting a family board game on a rainy Saturday, games are part of our lives and probably have been since the first cave kid threw a rock and her brother tried to throw one farther. Not all games need to be competitive, though. The cooperative kind can be just as fun (not to mention edifying).

Though you’ll find aisles and aisles of games at toy stores—from card games and board games to computer games on handheld gadgets, computers, and home entertainment systems—you can get all the benefits of a good game with everyday objects hanging around your house. If you involve kids in making the games or set them loose and let them try it themselves, they’ll be more invested in playing and just might have more fun.

A good game is one that is easy to learn but hard to master. In Play these games you’ll find some games that are competitive, others that are cooperative. There are games for large groups, duos, and a few that can be played alone. Some of these games are reinterpretations of old favorites (such as Friends and Family Go Fish or a felt version of Tic-Tac-Toe), while others are mini versions of arcade super stars (like Shuffle Button, Micro Golf, and the pinball machine). Some I might have even made up (like Hoop Jousting and the Progressive Photo Scavenger Hunt), but that’s not to say someone else hasn’t made up something similar somewhere along the line.

What I find most wonderful about making and playing games at home with my kids are the hidden benefits.

1. Brain Development :: When you look closely at games you’ll start to see that most of them involve solving a problem—whether it’s how to get that tiny ball into a hole 30 feet away or guessing a book title from your sister’s crazy arm flapping—your brain is engaged in some heavy-duty thinking. And with active games, your body is working as well. Great educators have realized that games are an excellent way to engage children in learning, but don’t tell the kids. Just present them with games and let them figure that out on their own.

2. Socialization :: Any game that involves more than one person involves socializing, whether it’s cooperating during a scavenger hunt or competing to see who can get the most balls in a basket. Playing games with kids teaches team work, the consequences of cheating, and how to be good sports whether they win or lose. It’s not hard to see how those skills make it into the daily lives of kids in the classroom, on play dates, and later in life in the workplace. But like all things we hope to teach our children, learning to cooperate or to compete without being a jerk takes practice. Humans aren’t naturally good at losing, so there will be tears, yelling, and cheating, and maybe somebody will even knock over the board, but that’s okay. The point is, playing games within the family allows kids a safe place to practice getting along, following rules, and learning how to be graceful in defeat. So when your kids deserve a technical foul for the fits they’re pitching over a game, call it quits for then, but definitely come back to more games later. If you do that enough you’ll start to see more mature players coming to the table.

3. Saving Money :: Ask most kids to name a game and they’ll talk about something on a screen. I have no problem with video games. In fact I like them. But like most things that kids love, I figure some boundaries are in order, such as making sure computer games are age appropriate — and setting time limits. However, video games and the systems we play them on are expensive! Making games out of paper cups and Ping Pong balls is cheap . . . and I’ll be the first to admit that I like saving a buck. Even more, I like engaging my kids in new and different experiences. So maybe we’ll play computer games one day, but the next, we’ll make a homemade pinball machine out of a box we found on the street corner.

4. Fun! Fun! Fun! :: And finally, let’s not forget the biggest, most important reason for playing games with kids: It’s a rocking good time! I think of my own childhood playing neighbourhood games of Cops and Robbers or Freeze Tag in our backyard with the fireflies or cozy winter nights around board games with my parents or bonding with my grandmother when she taught us to play Hearts. Gaming defines an important part of childhood and the memories of those times will last. So, turn off the TV, unplug the Wii, and start gathering supplies because it’s time to play!

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For more kids craft, creative ideas and activities go to the Action Pack website