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Crafting with Kids: Big Fun or Big Mess?

Updated: Mar 16, 2020

Mom’s in the digital age are being bombarded by blogs, posts and “shares” of cute arts and craft projects. Some of these items make you want to scream and some of them make you wish you were just a little bit better at that sort of thing.


Thanks to sites like Pinterest there are way too many moms out there who are wary of trying to do an art project with their kids. Nailed it or failed it can cause a lot more stress than it’s worth, but if you go into a project just to have fun then you should do just fine. It’s important to remember that you are enough and that you are doing a great job at this whole parenting thing. Now that you have been given a confidence boost here’s what you’ll need to know to get your creative motor running again. Besides if you have a good sense of humor about it a failure can make for an even more memorable project.


Rules of the Road

When crafting with children there are a large number of things that can go wrong. It’s best to be prepared for all outcomes. Here are some helpful tips to make creating with kids a fun experience.


Dress for the mess—If you are working with materials that are messy and have the potential to stain clothing then it’s best to wear old clothes that can be tossed out afterward. A paint smock or similar cover-up will only work well with older children. Just remember all those dinners that the bib didn’t work out so well and you’ll know what to expect.


Location location location—some messes are tame enough for the kitchen table. On the other hand, it’s so much easier and could even be more fun to work in the great outdoors. The unfinished room in the basement is also a great space for mess-making. If those options don’t really work for you the use of drop cloths, newspaper or other quick clean up methods might be a great way to go.


Ready set go—If you are crafting with a child you must understand that sometimes they don’t have a very long attention span. Having all of your materials on hand ready to use before you begin a project is a great strategy to keep things moving along. Preparations beforehand can also help avert potential disasters like you having to leave the room to get supplies and having a child unattended with messy materials.


How old are they—It’s important to work with kids on their level. Make sure that the project you choose is appropriate for the child's age and skill level. Ask any preschool teacher and they will tell you that not every three years old is great with scissors. Some children are better at dextrous activities, like cutting, than others.


Confidence is key—The most important strategy when creating art or crafts with children is to work confidently. Try to avoid saying things are difficult or that you don’t think it looks good. Have a good sense of humor when things don’t turn out like the pictures on Pinterest. Most important of all have a good time. Doing a project with children should be more about bonding and enjoying time together than the outcome of the project.


Children setting around a table doing art projects
Doing a project with children should be more about bonding and enjoying time together than the outcome of the project

For the Mess Lovers

There are a lot of fun art projects you can do with your little ones and the messy ones can be a lot of fun. Here are a couple of quick ideas of messy projects to do with kids of all ages.


Watercolors and other paints—what kid doesn’t love to paint? For younger artists, let them express themselves freely with a blank sheet of paper or canvas. For the older, more experienced child a prepared canvas, paint by numbers or just a printed image would be fun to paint. Explore the artistic stylings of artists like Jackson Pollock, try splatter painting or use marbles dipped in paint and rolled around on paper inside a box. Be sure to dress for the mess and use kid-safe products.


Scissor skills—your little one would love nothing better than to use a pair of scissors and turn a piece, or several pieces, of paper into confetti. Try letting your child cut as much as they like and add to the fun by introducing glue. Using the newly cut paper shapes you can now design and glue down a fun picture. Creating eye-catching geometric designs or trying to create images of your favorite critters.


Clay or dough—Children love to create and sculpt using playdough and clay. It’s even more fun if you can make it yourself and bake your creations so they will last forever. These kinds of creations are great gifts for grandparents. Here is a simple recipe you can try out: https://www.food.com/recipe/salt-dough-113757. Remember, for some children half of the fun can come from helping you measure, pour and mix the ingredients.


A child sculpting with clay
Children love to create and sculpt using playdough and clay

What Mess?

Projects and crafts do not have to be messy. There is no law that says that your kids have to be a part of every single step. It’s ok to say no sometimes. Here are a few fun ideas that are practically mess-free.


Paint with water—using an old or relatively inexpensive paintbrush you simply let your child paint with plain water on either colored paper or the sidewalk outside. The best part of this project is that there is no chance of staining clothing.


Edible art—art that you can eat is always a lot of fun and it’s a great way for kids to explore new foods. Creating sculptures from food or edible paints can make for fairly easy clean up (particularly if your creation gets eaten). A gingerbread house is an especially lovely, edible sculpture that can be tasty too. You could try using cookie cutters to cut shapes out of carrots, apples and cheese slices and create a fun picture out of food. An edible art project could also turn into a fun lunch date with your little one.


Mess-free painting—a great way for your little Picasso to paint with bright colorful paints is to use a plastic bag. Using a sturdy plastic zipper bag, fill it with a few blobs of paint and seal it tight. Tape the paint-filled bag onto a window, floor space or countertop and your child can drag their fingers through the paint without a big mess.


A child creating with carrot sticks and dried fruit
Creating sculptures from food or edible paints can make for fairly easy clean up

Art is supposed to be fun and nourish your child’s creative brain. There is no right or wrong way to create. Let your child express themselves freely. Don’t forget to have a good time.


Two children playing pirate dress up with face paint, eye patches, and newspaper hats
Art is supposed to be fun and nourish your child’s creative brain


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