EDITOR’S NOTE: City Dads Group is working with longtime partner Dove Men+Care to create “how to” videos for the grooming products company’s “Dads Care” campaign. We will be featuring the videos and scripts our members appear in. This one features Brent Almond of our Baltimore Dads Group, with a little help from his son talking about how to get your children into arts and crafts projects.
During quarantine — or anytime, really — it can be easy to plop the kids in front of a screen and call it a day. Coming up with non-screen activities can be stressful.
Crafts are a tried-and-true way for kids to flex their creativity and stimulate their brains. It can also be a great bonding time with your kids. And let’s be honest, it’s also a nice distraction while you try to get some work done.
While I’ve been a graphic designer and illustrator for over 20 years, I sometimes feel like I’m still getting the hang of being a dad. But I know from experience that coming up with ideas for crafts and pulling all the supplies together can be overwhelming. So I’ve put together five tips to hopefully make it easier for you to get your kids crafting.
1. Things are about to get messy
It goes without saying that combining kids and crafts is a recipe for mess! That’s why it’s good to lay down some newspaper, cardboard or an old bed sheet on any surface you don’t want to get stained. The same goes for clothing — wear something you’re okay getting covered in dirt, glue, paint … or, of course, glitter!
If you can work outside, even better! Just keep in mind that a gust of wind, stray leaf or wayward bug can quickly ruin a prized craft creation.
2. Use what you already have
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t have any “real” crafting supplies. If going to the craft store isn’t an option, take a trip through your house and you’ll likely find all the supplies you need. Some of the best stuff can be found in the kitchen, garage, playroom and backyard.
You and your kids can go hunting together to make it fun, and don’t worry if something seems unusable at first — it may spark an idea to create something amazing! Our trek around the house and yard produced an amazing bounty: straws, vegetable containers, twist ties, duct tape, plastic Easter eggs, loose board game pieces, buttons, pine cones, twigs and shoelaces.
And if you don’t have some of the basics like scissors, glue or markers, you can always grab some on your next run to the supermarket or pharmacy.
3. Be a man/woman/non-binary person with a crafty plan
Give the craft time a purpose or some direction. Even a basic plan will make it more fun for the kids and help ensure you get your kitchen table back in time for dinner.
Remember that it doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. It can be as simple as a thank you sign for the pizza delivery guy, decorating old clothes to make dress-up costumes, or a Father’s Day card for your favorite dad.
If you’re totally at a loss, there’s always the internet — search “kids crafts” or “crafts for 10-year-olds.” That will give you more than enough options.
A few other ideas to get you started: color a sign for a virtual birthday party; create a board game using action figures as game pieces; learn origami; make party decorations for an upcoming holiday; build a wind chime from a coat hanger and mismatched metal utensils. Or set up your craft time like one of those cooking shows — give the kids four or five materials, a time limit, and then see what they come up with on their own.
4. Every kid creates differently
When it comes to creativity, every kid is unique. Some kids need more specific directions, some like to create as they go, and some kids don’t like crafts at all. Consider what interests your kids and let that be a guide for how you go about this.
For example, if you have a kid that says they don’t like arts and crafts but they’re really into games — have them create their own board game or a deck of cards. Or if your child loves to read or write, have them make a bookmark or decorate a journal cover. Take cues from your child’s personality and interests, and you’re sure to have a successful craft session.
5. Let your kids do their own thing
As an artist, this is the hardest one for me — but you’ve got to let your kids make their own creations.
Sometimes it’s fun to do arts and crafts with your kids, but sometimes they want to go it alone. In either situation it’s key to let them express themselves however they want and get as messy as they want. Keep a closer eye on younger kids with scissors and glue, but otherwise let them go for it.
When it comes down to it, arts and crafts are really about the process, not the product. The finished crafts are often a souvenir of the experience!
I hope these tips have been helpful. The main thing is to not sweat the details — kids will be creative with whatever you give them, and will always surprise you with what they come up with!