My kids are usually willing to indulge their mother’s artsy tendencies by trying out a new craft. Sometimes I’ve got a subject (like seamanship or rocketry) that would benefit from a hands-on project to really come to life. Other times I’ll find my supply cabinet overflowing with an interesting-looking material, such as old CDs or those clear plastic egg cartons, and decide to find a clever way to recycle them. Often there’s some object I’d like to recreate – blown glass or a permanent sand castle – but have no idea how to go about it. That’s when I turn to the Internet. But you don’t need a reason to get creative, especially when it’s cold and uninviting outside. Just poke through the recycling box, sit down with the kids and try some of the projects you’ll find on websites like these:
Creative Kids at Home is a whole library of free craft instructions, with categories for older and younger children, summer or holiday crafts and more. Making Friends features camp crafts, scout crafts, sports crafts and even “sixties crafts” (think bell bottoms and tie dye). Although there are somewhat annoying links to products they sell, they have a nice variety of crafts, including reader ideas like a recycled-CD Disco Ball, which are user rated. Another popular site for crafts, Kids Domain, is also a bit commercial for me – you have to click past ads to get to the directions – but pretty complete.
Many “art lesson plans” for teachers involve crafts that can be done at home as well; as a bonus, you often get background info and suggestions for storybooks or reference material to tie-in to the theme being presented. Despite the name, Kinder Art has projects for kids from preschool to high school, ranging from bean mosaics to folk art weathervanes. Some user-submitted instructions don’t come with photos, but in general they’re easy to follow. The Incredible Art Department, which I’ve mentioned before, is another good source of projects of all types (you’ll have to sift through to find crafts like the tissue paper vase).
TV is, surprisingly, another source of craft directions online. The DIYNetwork website includes a whole list of crafts for kids and adults (some of the adult crafts are easily modified for kids). I particularly liked the goodie-filled party-favor poppers and the soft-sculpture dino made by wrapping an old colorful T-shirt around a wire frame. But beware: some so-called “kid crafts” (most of those found on the HGTV network website, for instance) would make nice gifts for children but are too complicated for them to make themselves. You won’t have that problem with two public television programs that are aimed at young Do It Yourselfers: Hands On Crafts for Kids contains nine seasons’ worth of crafts instructions on its website, with themes like habitats of the world, world history and US customs and symbols. And the hit PBS show ZOOM encourages young viewers to “Get artsy, get crafty!” with its own page of “ZOOMdo.”
If you’ve got art supplies lying around and aren’t sure what to do with them, try checking out the manufacturer’s website. Sculpey, STYROFOAM and Crayola (which requires free registration) all offer tips for using their products, as well as craft suggestions and instructions. The Dick Blick art material catalog website also has a section with tips for using materials, and lesson plans you can browse for craft ideas.
Need more inspiration? The portal All Crafts has links to other crafting sites, with a separate section on kids’ crafts. And About.com has a Family Crafts page with articles on craft techniques and materials like mosaics and paper mache, as well as links to directions for individual crafts. Keep in mind that searching for crafts is a lot like searching for recipes: you may have to comb through several versions, picking and choosing what appeals to you, to end up with the final product you’ve got in mind. Adding the search terms “kids” or “students” and “directions” or “materials” can help narrow down your results. To get you started, here’s a real quickie – non-melting snowflakes, an idea I adapted from several sources online. It’s easy to be crafty, when encouragement is as close as your computer screen. Have fun!
6 toothpicks (for little snowflakes) or bamboo skewers (for big flakes)
1 large marshmallow
18 mini marshmallows (little) or 18 or more foam packing “peanuts” (big)
1. Place 3 mini-marshmallows on each toothpick OR thread as many foam peanuts as you desire, in any direction, onto each skewer (making sure they match up so your snowflake will be symmetrical).
2. Insert the toothpicks or skewers evenly into the large marshmallow and you’re done. Use a suction-cup hanger to display it in a window, or make a bunch for a winter mobile.