With thanks to the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association
Deep in the recesses of your memory, you can still feel it. The way your hand slipped across that special smooth paper when you finger painted. The oozy sensation of play dough squishing between your fingers. The satisfying feeling of bringing a handmade construction-paper greeting card to life with large amounts of glue and glitter, even if it did take forever to dry.
Whether our medium was paint, clay, paper plus glue, or — shall we say — eclectic, most of us remember the fun and creative hours spent elbow deep in craft projects as children.
When winter weather keeps kids cooped up indoors, it’s a great time for moms and dads to spread newspaper across the kitchen table and round up some paint, glue, glitter, scissors, paper of various sorts, clay, and more.
Crafts are more than just fun. Kids are learning how to use their hands, how to express themselves, and how to figure things out when they do craft projects. Young children are also building pre-literacy skills because art helps them grasp the idea that symbols can stand for something. Craft projects get them using the tools of literacy such as paper and writing implements.
Here are some tips for finding your child’s inner Picasso or Michelangelo through activities at home:
• Safety first. Make sure all supplies and tools you offer kids are safe and age appropriate.
• Messy is okay. It’s up to you how much mess (and subsequent cleanup) you can tolerate, but try to get comfortable with the reality that creativity can be messy. Limiting art projects to a designated space with clear boundaries is a good idea. Choose a spot with easily washable floors, walls, and furniture. Involve your child in the clean-up process.
• Be creative about materials. Depending on what’s safe for your child’s developmental level, use both typical purchased materials and items you have around the house. Some ideas include finger paints, shaving cream, tempera paint, clay, play dough, fabric scraps, yarn and string, different types of paper (construction, newsprint, gift wrap, wallpaper), old magazines, scrap wood, cardboard, crayons, felt pens, stencils, and much more.
• Don’t expect or judge outcomes. Avoid asking what the new creation is, even if you don’t have a clue what you are looking at. Let your child tell you what he or she is trying to accomplish, if anything, with the project. Try to suspend your adult sensibilities, and see the end result through the child’s eyes.
Above all, let the child’s imagination drive arts and crafts fun at home. When it comes to creativity, there is no such thing as a right way or a wrong way. If kids want to use materials in unusual or unorthodox ways, as long as their ideas are safe, why not let their creativity soar? It’s all about having fun.