today, when i read an article a childhood friend of mine wrote for babble about how hard it can be to craft with toddlers, i felt an obligation as a crafty person to reassure the ladies out there who feel like they are self-proclaimed non-crafters that it can be done! & it doesn't have to be hard, frustrating, or expensive.
now, i'm the first to admit that, especially with toddlers, it's true... toddler crafts can be messy, time consuming, & are more than likely to not end up looking anything like what you thought they would. it's not always easy. you have to let go a lot of your perfectionism, be ok with a lot of prep for a little bit of artwork, & most likely, be ready to clean up a big mess afterwards! but letting your little be free to find their own method & explore their own creativity is exactly the point. lots of big, expensive therapy centers & schools use creative arts as a way to relieve stress, encourage creative 'outside the box' thinking, & develop personality. you the mommy, who know him or her best, can be a conduit for all these things in your kiddo!
i do have to give a few disclaimers about myself, all of which you already know if you're a frequent reader here [if you're a first timer, welcome!]: i LOVE crafting & so in some ways it comes easily to me, but i still have to make time & patience for it just like anyone else. i also have a ridiculous stash of crafty supplies, much of which i inherited when my momma died, that might rival the prop closet on the martha stewart show set. but i promise, even if those same things aren't true about you, you can encourage creativity in your child & in yourself. you can do it inexpensively & not want to burn your house down rather than clean up when it's all said & done!
so, here are some of my favorite tried & true toddler/preschooler craft ideas, if the title is green, it links to a full post i did on the project:
homemade bathtub paint
i find the bathtub to be one of the best ways to calm my kiddos when they're cranky & a free activity that they enjoy more than some of the most expensive, elaborate things out there. when i saw a recipe on pinterest for homemade bathtub paint, i thought, why not try it? now, i'm definitely not a crunchy you must make everything yourself homemade momma, but i do get a little skeptical of what kind of chemicals my kiddos are spreading all over themselves & our bathing areas in the name of 'paint.' homemade bathtub paint is seriously just:
one tablespoon cornstarch
one tablespoon dish soap
several squirts of food coloring
i didn't have cornstarch on hand, but the walmart brand box is like a dollar, & you can use baby soap instead if you're worried about little eyes burning [although i worried about that & we've never had a problem]. a giant bag of crafty paintbrushes are just a few dollars pretty much anywhere, or you can call it fingerpaint! i was shocked at how much my 2 year old loved this when i started making it, which literally takes all of 3 minutes to mix up- we have done it so many times. & i was also shocked at how sparkly clean & yummy smelling it left our bath tub when i rinsed it away! win/win/win.
this is an idea i admit i straight up stole off pinterest- it doesn't take much creativity to do that! it was practically free, insanely easy & took about 3 minutes to make before she could start stamping away with them! all you need are some foam stickers & some totally free plastic juice bottle lids from your recycling. walmart & michaels have a huge selection of foam stickers, but we grab a bag as a special treat every time we have good attitudes at the dollar store, so we always have them on hand. a washable ink stamp pad ranges from about a dollar to much more expensive- you can choose what you want to spend on it based on how much you think you'll use it. my kid LOVED making these stamps & still uses hers all the time.
a set of several blank notecards & envelopes come in all shapes & sizes & costs about $5-$6 bucks at michael's/ac moore/walmart/hobby lobby. give your child a pre-folded one, & something as simple as washable markers & stickers becomes a finished project that no matter what it actually looks like will thrill the hearts of grandparents everywhere. just stick it in the coordinating, perfectly-fitting envelope it comes with & pop it in the mail! if you're like me & never seem to have any stamps, stick it in daddy's lunch to find at work, or his sock drawer for a secret surprise next time he grabs a clean pair!
i used this as an easy way to make loads of valentines for family & friends last year- i had my little make lots of beautiful scribblies in pre-selected marker colors & then i cut out the hearts for her & glued them onto the cards themselves. extra work, sure, but you could alternatively have your kiddo color right onto the card- it just depends on whether they're old enough to handle scissors & glue!
i think that with the advent of the pinterest age, we over think things. just like not every pb&j you make for your kids needs to be cut into some fanciful flower shape, not every "craft" they do needs to be more complicated than simple stickers or good old sidewalk chalk! we don't have the luxury of a back yard right now, but we have a giant bucket of chalk [also a frequent but guilt-free dollar store purchase] that my kids have used since their under-one-year age. they use it on our little back porch & color everything from the porch railings, patio furniture, grill cover & even the siding of our house- it all washes off later with the spray of a hose!
sometimes your kid will come up with something clever/crafty all on their own if you can keep some of their supplies reasonably accessible for them to get to themselves when the mood strikes [obviously, the glue, scissors, paint, etc. are way up high in our house! check out how i organize our supplies right here]. my daughter has been known to combine some random things for her own version of 'crafty.' for example, today she was sitting with these little super cheap punches [from walmart, i believe], punching some plain old notepad paper, & putting the little punched out shapes into her piggie bank [which she is obsessed with]. kept her busy for like 30 minutes!
here are some others that i haven't personally done, but fit all my easy & cheap crafting with kiddos criteria. some of them are definitely a bit messy, but never underestimate the joy of everything being washable- spread your kiddo out on the back porch or even on your kitchen floor! i bought a washable plastic tablecloth [the kind that's plastic on one side with a cute print & flannel-y on the other] on clearance at target & it's been designated as the crafting surface. we spread it out on the big dining table or kitchen floor & as long as the art is smaller than the table cloth, it does a great job of mess containment!
for more ideas, feel free to click on over to my pinterest 'for kiddos' board [i try not to pin anything i haven't actually tried myself our wouldn't actually try myself] & check out my other 'crafting with kiddos' posts here!