Thursday, 12 November 2009


True or False: Crafting with kids is fun!

Anecdotal evidence suggests that parents like crafting with their kids. I know we're meant to. Some of the most popular blogs in the blogosphere are chock-a-block with incredible projects undertaken by Mum and progeny. I don't like those blogs. My friend Apryl and I were discussing this today, and I maintained that people who say crafting with kids is fun either don't have my kids or they're lying. A lot of us craft because it's relaxing. We craft because making something nice is rewarding. We craft as therapy. A lot of us are perfectionists. Many of us horde supplies. Taking all these factors into account, how is it possible to enjoy crafting with little ones? I've blogged about this before when I had about two readers *waves at parents*, but I thought I'd revisit the topic as I'd be interested in what other people have to say.

Last week I bought more than 10 quid's worth of crafting supplies to make birthday cards for Daddy: new paper, bumper four pack of glue, mixed bag o' shapes for sticking, mixed bag o' felt for sticking, stamps and ink, and new pens. These cards were going to be made of special. This is what actually happened: two and a half bottles of glue were squirted / dumped over the paper, shapes were ignored, pens were dipped in said glue and therefore ruined, stamps were stamped onto the carpet, I kept shouting 'It's not paint, it's glue! Take these shapes and put them in the glue!' and all three of us cried. This is Maia's card. That unhappy face at the right hand side is probably me. And before you say, 'But there's heaps of those shapes!', I did that to try to corral and mop up the glue.

So what about you... do you enjoy crafting with your kids? Obviously, I enjoying crafting by myself and I'd like them to enjoy it too. Which, let's face it, is never going to happen if I go all fascist on them. I know that other people such as the nursery workers and our childminder craft with them and to my knowledge no one has had aneurysm and died. So what do I need to do? Wait a couple of years? Do I need to do it one on one rather than all three of us? Do I need to stick to one clean thing like markers (I actually heart the markers despite Maia's penchant for defacing everything within reach) rather than mixed media which will only end in tears? Or do I just need a personality transplant?


  1. I can't craft with boy*jelly without the words "oh just give it to me I'LL do it" spewing out my mouth every 5 seconds.
    It's not natural if you ask me!
    (French and Saunders did a brilliant sketch once, and I've tried Youtubing it but can't find it.)

  2. it is awful.... because M is so busy with helping out at school playing Mr. Perfect Parent I have to help out at craft night.. I friggan hate craft night.. I normally skive off halfway through with a willing victim to listen to me read a book... normally I get a small clutch of children to listen to my awful voice reading Winnie the Witch 4 times.. still better than sticking and glueing.. *shudder* ... baking is better.. as H likes to put the paper cups in the muffin tins and if I give him a spoon of batter he runs off not to trouble me again for a little while.. *devious*

  3. Kathryn and I have come to an arrangement about crafting. I give her craft items and strict strict rules (no glue on the carpet. Do NOT empty the glitter everywhere. stick glue on the paper not your hair. You can guess how most of the rules go) and then, and this is the important bit I leave her alone. If I don't, I micromanage what she's doing to the extent she doesn't want to do it, and neither of us has fun. This way I can tidy up or wash up or just have a shower without her assistance.

    We have had some disasters, but mostly she's very good. Just don't ask about the amount of glue and glitter in her hair at any given time.

  4. Lol,

    I am so laughing at this post, Its one of my all time conversations I have with one my friends who has a child. She actually works with children now, but before then we used to both feel the same.......

    CRAFTING WITH YOUR Kids IS A NIGHTMARE!!!! I love my girls I honestly do, and as I am so into crafting and did as child with sewing and wool I feel rather duty bound occaisionally to give in and get the paints etc. We have tons of crap in our house for craft purposes. Buts its always the same, no it dosnt go there no not the paint use those pens there! on and on it goes.

    You are aware as a mum that you have to let find their creativity but I just dont want it all over my floor. That said I have found it slightly easier with my eldest she is nearly six now and can actually do stuff that looks like something. I agree with Mrs Jelly too with the French and Saunders sketch, I always reference that sketch when talking about this. Same there isnt a youtube of it. Its one of my all time favs.

    As for blogs showing off lovely childcrafty stuff, well I have had a few of those posts on there, but beleive me it wasnt all calm and fairyland behind the scenes!


  5. I, like you want to (and feel like I should) craft with the children. They absolutely love it. There has been plenty of tears because I won't let them get their craft box out.
    It is not so much the crafting that I have a problem with, it is the running after them (with their glue/marker etc. in hand towards our lovely white sofas) and the tidying up of the glitter and bits.

    We use a "craft area", which is a huge piece of cardboard where they sit and can stick stuff and make a mess on but they are not allowed to bring any craft stuff out of this area. It works quite well (for the 10 mins that they can sit still) but the only downfall is that whatever they paint/stick on the board usually end up on their clothes....

    Wish I had a craft room where they can be free to make a mess without my constant nagging and maybe this room should also have a wet-area so I can hose them down after each session !

  6. I craft with my Brownies from time to time, but they are a bit older (7-10). In saying that, we made Easter baskets and most of the stickers ended up on their faces! Origami proved to be a bit tricky too, because they're at the age where they want it to look 'right' and get stressed when it doesn't. I actually found toilet roll craft to be the best thing - you can get templates here Baker Ross is good too - because it's kits, there's a clear process to follow.

  7. LMAO. I could have written this. You know what is worse? When teachers find out that you are crafty so assume that you would A. Love to help at school with crafty things and B. You will be great at it.
    Ooh and parents of their friends think that it means they can buy crafty kits for birthday presents. Lucy got 10 pots of glitter for her birthday this year. That's more glitter than anyone needs in a lifetime!!

    I like the idea of crafting with my kids but the reality is generally a grumpy me standing behind them with fist in mouth so that I can't tell them not to do something for the millionth time.

    See how stressed just reading and thinking about this post has made me ;)

  8. I think the reason people find crafting with kids so problematic is that in the adult's mind there will be a specific product at the end of the crafting process, and it will have specific elements to it (a card with shapes and stamps on for example), but the kid just sees an opportunity to get their hands on some stuff and play with it.

    I do craft sessions for under 5's every week at the library where I work, and I find it really interesting to watch different parental techniques. The craft is usually quite prescriptive - we have limited time, around 10-15 children participating per session, and most of our crafters are aged 2, so things need to be simple. Normally it's a papercraft, and involves decoration and construction but with everything pre-cut. So we might do a paper plate face with some nose shapes, crayons to draw eyes and mouths, and ready cut strips of crepe paper hair.

    The parents fall into 2 camps, the 'come here I'll do it' camp, who are very much concerned that their child should make an exact replica of the sample I've made, or the 'oooh, you've put the nose on his chin, that's interesting' camp who just let their child get on with it, offer assistance if their child is struggling to do something, but don't intervene if the child refuses help.

    Guess which group has the most tantrums? :) Some children don't even bother engaging any more, and quite often just say 'Mummy you do it' before they even try.

    I agree with the rules bit though (smock always on when painting, share crayons etc.). And the good news is as they get older they are much more enthusiastic about the end product as opposed the the process. In fact they sometimes lose that basic creativity and have turned into their mothers and want to make exact replicas rather than add their own stamp.
    Sorry this is a long comment, I was planning a blog post on crafting with kids and you beat me to it! Meh.

  9. Please try not to throw things at me...

    Yes I love crafting with my two.

    Top Ender (5) loves anything that involves glue, pens and anything that can make a mess. She is really quite good, has a great eye and listens to instructions.

    Baby Boy (18 months) is just learning about crafting with me. We made paint foot prints last week, we colour and stick most days and tomorrow we are starting a Christmas vista.

    I think that it is only enjoyable if you remember that kids make a mess that can be cleared up in a few moments and then forgotten about, but they will remember that special project you worked on together forever.

  10. Oh I understand where you're coming from. I definitely enjoy crafting by myself much more, however, I've come to enjoy it with my daughter too. And yes, you've said it, I stick to just one media - either poster paint, or pens, or shapes and glue, or scissors. It works also with two (I spend most free days with my nephew - both are 2 1/2 year old). The two are different: Nephew will do shapes and glue forever, daughter loves paint and they spend considerably different amounts of time on these activities, depending on preference. And when they've had enough, I stop.

    Oh and we never manage to create an actualy planned project. Says I, while I'm preparing to craft a St Martin's lantern this afternoon. It's bound to end in tears...

  11. Well, so many other moms chimed in with such great advice that I'm not sure this is useful. But here's my two cents, if it's worth even that.

    I don't craft with Rylee yet. At 17 months she's just starting to be interested in crayons without eating them. Though I struggle not to micromanage her play, I do have to put my foot down on media consumption.

    Most of my crafting experience with kids comes from teaching Sunday School. I used to teach 4 and 5 year olds every Sunday, typically about 25-35 kids with 2-3 adults. Given those ratios we had to limit the media. We did do paint once and I was really surprised that parents didn't murder us.

    Anyway, at this age (and Maia's age) they all love stickers. And stickers come in so many varieties now. You can even get foam ones that are really cute. If you're going to do glue use glue sticks. We had good luck with those, although I wouldn't buy the colored ones. If the glue stick was purple they would just color with it.

    When we used anything other than crayons and stickers we had A Discussion about The Rules for that. When we got some nice, new markers we had a talk (complete with role playing!) about putting the caps back on so our lovely markers wouldn't dry out. One of my favorites memories is one of my little guys running up to me, panicked, with an uncapped marker shrieking "Miss Lynn, It's drying out!!"

    Messier things like playdough and glue always included an approved area (usually on a sheet) for using them. They were really good about that, too. Maia might be too young still for that rule, but you'll know best on that. The key there was to sit them down and have a discussion prior to introducing the paint or glue or whatever. Simple rules like "You have to stay on this sheet because we don't want to get the carpet messy. If we get the carpet messy we can't use paint again." Have them repeat it back. It does work.

  12. I did not enjoy crafting with my son at first. Similar frustrations - why must you eat the paint? no we can't put googly eyes on everything. no, we aren't finished, there's another 2 layers of papier mache to go on before you can play. etc etc

    But now for my own sanity, and his I've been trying to approach it all with a different attitude. I've tried to separate out in my head my crafting and crafting we do together. I even made a physical distinction so in our cupboard their are shelves for Mama's crafting (mainly too much fabric!!) and shelves for my son's crafting (mainly paints, glue and googly eyes). When I'm about to explode with frustration that we haven't made anything I try to think of crafting with my son as a long process, I mean a looooooooong process. Maybe me showing him some potato printing today isn't about his response today (stamp face and hands with paint, eat raw potato) but will be about his response in years to come when he might choose his own crafty projects (that don't involve googly eyes - can you tell they bug me?!)

    On a practical note I found a corner of the house that I don't mind getting trashed. We still try to follow sensible rules but the floor is wooden covered with a big plastic square and the walls are wipeable - up to a point. I also bought a few cheap washing up bowls for quick exits. So that when he suddenly decides he's had enough, or the 3 month old gets desperate for a feed I can just chuck everything in there out of reach and sort it out later.

    My last thing I have got into is creative cutting. He can do lots of unstructured making and then when he's in bed I do some creative cutting to make it into cards/postcards whatever we need! It might be cheating but he's always pleased with it and it satisfies the perfectionist in me!

    Gosh, I've gone on a bit, sorry. Just something I think a lot about too!

  13. slinks in quietly

    I love crafting with Chloe, but don't get me wrong it took a while before we both enjoyed it. Now Chloe has her stuff that we both use and I have my stuff that is padlocked away and must not be touched. The trick to less painful crafting is a kids glue roller bottle. Its a bottle you can fill with pva but it has a wee sponge roller on the top and you could actually break your thumbs trying to squeeze more than the faintest dribble of glue out onto the paper:)

    Mind you Chloe's become a bit anal about her crafting supplies lately and she was overheard a couple of weeks ago shouting at two of her friends at my mum's house because they were being too rough with her felt pens and were going to ruin the nice points:)

  14. Heres one...

  15. I meant to add, before I got interrupted by work, that on the rare occasions we do actual paint, I insist that Kathryn strips down to her pants (paint washes off skin, but not all of her clothes are so obliging) and that is a supervised activity. Also, we live in such a messy state that she really can't make it worse (three cheers for no housework?), we have laminated floors and no carpets. She uses pritt stick glue, which is so parent-friendly it barely sticks paper together, child paper scissors and she knows that if the felt tips go on anything other than paper they will go away for a few days. She's become a lot better at not drawing on herself, but will still do it when unsupervised sometimes and I don't think there is a single piece of furniture in the place that is not sporting at least one sticker. That includes all the beds, the toilet and (I don't want to know how) my sewing machine.

    I think what I'm trying to say is that we're untidy, Kathryn's decorative effects mask it somewhat, and the effort of trying to clear up all the stickers lasted for one sticker session. ELC paint pots with lids are my friends, as well.

    Maybe I'd better stop now. I've gone on much longer than I meant to.

  16. I only enjoy crafting with the kids when I relinquish all control and repeat the mantra 'I can clean it up after I can clean it after up I can clean it up after' in my head. Otherwise none of us enjoy it - at least when I stand back, I might be ready to crack but the kids have fun.

  17. What a fantastic bunch of comments, I'm glad that I'm not the only one who finds it stressful! I do find that when there is a specific task in mind (like a birthday card for Dad or painting the mug that I blogged about before) that's when it's unbearable to me. Higher expectations I suppose. That being said, their complete annihilation of 12 colours of playdoh today into a single brown entity also stressed me out...

    So, what I've learned:
    *strict rules on house-trashing
    *lower expectations
    *separate (hose-able?) area
    *don't micromanage
    *single media
    *no more coloured glue, ever

    Okay, maybe I added that last one...

  18. craft + children= torture.I don't think people who craft with children actually enjoy crafting themselves.Now my daughter is 25 we actually enjoy projects together, but I still like things MY way!

  19. My extremely crafty nanny friend crafts with her 2 year old nephew a lot, and all the kids she cares for. The rules you outlined are more or less what I was going to repeat from her, when I've picked her brains (including the drugs, HAH!).

    This post does make it sound a bit as if you may need to... adjust your outcome expectations? Severely limit the tools? for your own sanity, though! I think I'd be a screaming mess at the end of the process described, too!

    I am resolved that my child shall only have access to paint outside, whilst in old clothes, on warm days. Somewhere near a water hose. until then, he may have stickers and paper. Re-useable, barely sticky stickers! XD

  20. After my calm words last week I had to come back to this post. I've discovered my crafting limit - it's mixing colours of play-doh. First time it's happened and I was almost hyperventilating. So there we go, no matter how chilled I think I am, no matter how I think I have things set aside we all have a limit. And mine's is most definitely play-doh colour mixing.

  21. LOL, I could so have written this post myself!!! I love crafting and want to enjoy crafting/cooking/baking with the kids but I really do try to micromanage them and am far too anal about the mess even though we craft in the kitchen which has a tile floor - even the table is tiled!!! Problem is, I always have an idea in my head of how the crafts will turn out and it NEVER ends up looking like this.....