Crafting with the Kids

I love doing projects with my kids. They are eight and six, which are great ages to do crafting! Sometimes we’ll go out on walks and find things to use in our projects, but we do have quite the craft cabinet here at our house. When you have little kids, you never know when a rainy day or boredom is going to strike, and it’s best to be prepared. I think so, anyway, and so far I haven’t been wrong. Just as my husband! When you’re crafting with children, there are a few things to know, a few things that are good to have, and a few things that you’ll need to accept. I’ll let you know what they are here in this post, and if you have any other tips leave them in the comments so we can all benefit!   From my years crafting with kids, I’ve learned: you have to choose something that is not just on the child’s skill level (although that is important, as it will keep boredom and frustration down) but you need to take your child’s interests into consideration as well. Take your child down an art supply aisle or a craft store and let them pick something they’re excited about – maybe it will be model cars, puzzles, paint by numbers, or a sewing project.   My friends often ask me what’s good to have on hand. Lots of big box stores and craft shops have little kids and projects in their discount bins or for very little cost. I recommend having a few on hand at all times, especially school breaks or during the winter. Construction and plain white paper are also must haves, along with glue and scissors (remember to get kid friendly safety scissors for the little ones!). Pipe cleaners, pom poms, and wiggly eyes are also great. Markers, crayons, and different kinds of paint are also must haves for your craft kit – if your kids are “enthusiastic” artists, get the water-based kind and save yourself some cleanup. Stickers are great to have on hand, too! If this all sounds expensive, I won’t lie: it can be. I have found that stocking up during back-to-school sales helps. My kids and I also like going outside and finding materials to use for crafts – for example: rocks, shells, leaves, or sticks. Another great place to find materials is your own recycling bin! Milk cartons, paper towel rolls, boxes, and aluminum foil can be used for a variety of things. Use your imagination!   Finally, there’s some things that you have to expect: the first is that crafts can be messy! Save those annoying circulars that come in the mail and use them to cover any surfaces you don’t want getting messy. Not even washable items will come off of everything all the time so smocks and old clothing are great to keep on hand. Second: things might not come out like you envision in your head or see on Pinterest. Your job is to facilitate (by using the hot glue gun, cutting materials for smaller kids, mixing paints, setup and cleanup, etc depending on your child’s age and ability) – if your child wants to put the snowman’s arm in the center of its face, let your kid do it. It’s their project, not yours (if you want a perfect one, make it yourself, alongside your kid). You’ll appreciate all those crazy crafts as they get older. And another tip: glitter gets everywhere. Try using glitter glue or glittery stickers instead. Better yet, don’t let glitter into your house at all (as an aside, when projects with glitter come home from kindergarten, I laminate it to keep the glitter where it belongs). One last thing: have fun!

Celebrating a Victory

I live in a family neighborhood; and given that I, too, have kids, I am all about children—my own or my friends’. As a diehard crafter, I focus a lot of my work on things they can use or display. If possible, I love to have them join in the fun of doing it yourself to produce something attractive and useful. When others get involved, you quickly expand your range and repertoire. It keeps me motivated and on the hunt for materials with which to fashion and fabricate all kinds of odds and ends. One of the more unusual is a shadowbox that I made for a friend’s son, whose basketball team recently won their league championship. His mother wanted to commemorate the event with a special gift and turned to me as the resource for the DIY project. She didn’t want an ordinary box of no consequence, but a nicely finished piece that would contain some basketball memorabilia including a basketball hoop like this - She gave me the exact measurements and showed me where it would ultimately go. Since it was to be the focal point of one empty wall in her son’s room, I decided to go all out on quality. If I had to take hours and hours, so be it. I was ready, willing, and able. I decided that wood would be sturdier than foam board, and while a bit rustic, it offered the look I wanted for a child. It would resemble the old shadowboxes I used to see displaying artwork and personal treasures at the town museum. Making a wood box is more of a woodworker’s job than a craftsperson, but I have a saw, a bench screw and a vise, so it was within my reach. I got help from a friend to make the grooves for the glass front so it could slide open. I thought about, but rejected, the idea of pull-open doors. With a bit of careful labor, the shadowbox was ready to stain and mount. My friend gathered some items and mementos from her son’s room so we could place them strategically and fit them all in by using some small platforms made from wood scraps. The stain had a nice medium gloss finish that matched the shutters and headboard of his room. It was truly a décor enhancement. The boy could change out the contents of the box anytime, but at least he would have some inkling of how the final item should look. I truly hope it is the kind of project that he will treasure all his life and perhaps keep beyond into adulthood. Who doesn’t remember those exciting basketball days of one’s youth? A shadowbox can make memories live forever. Doing something like this is the inspirational side of crafting and goes well beyond decorations for a party. I crossed the bridge from craft to art with the shadowbox. It will remain a one-of-a-kind project when I look back at my work.

Great Crafts, Great Friend, Great Time!

Not all my friends or family members share my love of crafts, but when someone shows interest, I go all out to expose them to the wonderful world of handmade projects. A crafting show is a great way to share one’s passion and show off the extent of creativity possible with a few simple materials and tools. There can be a fine line between personal crafts and professional-grade art, but I don’t care to make the distinction. Nor does the craft show. Some of the wares were simply amazing in terms of scale and workmanship. My friend tagged along but become more and more drawn to the process as we surveyed the booths and made our way down the long aisles. There was only one downer about the entire experience. My friend, who can’t kick the habit, insisted on smoking in the car. She said she would have a nicotine fit if she had to wait two hours to get home. I agreed, but regretted it later when I smelled the car interior later that night. Yikes! The upholstery and carpeting simply reeked. It was a day of great crafts, great friends, and a great time; but the consequence was deadly. What was I to do? I didn’t want to wait until the next day to take the car to the carwash and pay $15 or more. I think airing out the vehicle was a smart move, but there was a lingering odor some hours after. It was getting late and the corner store was closed so I couldn’t pick up a bottle of Febreze spray. I didn’t have any scented candles either. I had to get creative. As a crafter, I was used to thinking on the spot. I would make an air freshener from things in the kitchen. I finally found something to help after reading It reminded me that I had a bottle of lemon-scented essential oil which would be perfect for this job. Ages ago, I bought some at a craft fair to perk up my workroom after it started to smell like mold. (We had a lot of rain this year!). I mixed the tiniest bit of the oil with some alcohol to dilute it. I pulled a eucalyptus leaf off the tree behind the house and tossed it in a plastic spray bottle that I use with water when I am ironing. I didn’t think a few chemicals would hurt it, or the fabric on the seats of my car. I gave the mixture a name—lemon delight, hoping the title would motivate it to perform to its optimum level. Cigarette smoke is tough as you can smell it for days on clothing, furniture, or hair. This had to work long enough for me to drive the car in the morning without gagging for air. It worked fine, and after I told a friend, she went into all kinds of ecstasy about it and started to search the Internet for recipes. You can use any ground up plants instead of eucalyptus leaves, or vodka instead of alcohol. Vanilla extract is a nice scent or peppermint. Whatever you have on hand. I opened up a whole new world for her.