Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.
Arts and crafts develop your child’s coordination, concentration, and creative-thinking, artistic, organizational, and manipulative skills. Most kids enjoy arts and crafts, and fortunately they’re a big part of the early school years. If you want to supplement your child’s arts-and-crafts education, this chapter provides experiences in drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpting, modeling, and more.
An old phone book is useful for coloring, painting, and gluing. Just open the book and place your child’s paper on the first page. For the next project, turn the page and—voilà!—another clean surface. You’ll never have to hunt for scrap paper to protect your table and you’ll spend a lot less time cleaning it, too. Save your child’s outstanding creations in a three-ring binder with plastic page protectors. Label each artwork with the date or your child’s age. Photograph three-dimensional and extralarge creations.
Encourage your child to experiment and express himself. Make sure he understands that there’s no right or wrong way to create arts and crafts.
Drawing is probably the first art form your child experienced. During his toddler and preschool years, it was both a creative exercise and one that helped develop his small muscles and hand-eye coordination. As he enters middle childhood, he’ll develop the ability to create more realistic-looking drawings, although he may get frustrated when his efforts don’t yield his desired results. He may enjoy drawing lessons—presented in either an art class or a book. A series we’ve enjoyed is the Draw Write Now series by Marie Hablitzel and Kim Stitzer.
The following ideas will help you encourage your child’s drawing efforts:
• Give your child a variety of drawing tools: crayons, pens, pencils, colored pencils, chalk, markers, and charcoal.
• Give your child a variety of papers: plain paper, construction paper, newsprint, tracing paper, shiny paper, fine sandpaper, cardboard, and matte board.
• Cut paper into shapes, such as circles, triangles, and stars.
• Give your child three-dimensional surfaces, such as boxes and rocks, to draw on.
• Give your child a small notebook or sketchbook.
• Let your child draw while you read a book to him.
• Encourage your child to draw pictures in various shades of the same color.
• Have your child draw with wet chalk on dry paper or with dry chalk on wet paper.
An animated cartoon is made up of a series of drawings that are shown quickly, one after the other, so that the figures appear to move. Your child can bring his own drawings to life by making a flipbook.
Small notebook or pad of paper
Colored pencils or markers
Have your child choose a simple action to show with his flip-book—perhaps a face changing from sad to happy, a person walking, or an apple falling from a tree. On the last page of the flipbook, have him draw the first picture in the action sequence (for example, the sad face). On the next-to-last page, he should draw the same picture but with a slight change (for example, the frown lifting a bit). He should draw each subsequent picture so it’s slightly different from the one before it until the action sequence is complete. Show your child how to flip the pages from back to front to see his homemade animated cartoon.
Construction paper or matte board
Crayons, colored pencils, or markers
Cut a sheet of plain paper two inches shorter and two inches narrower than your construction paper or matte board. Have your child draw a long, twisting line all over the plain paper. The line should cross itself many times. Your child can color in the spaces with solid colors and/or patterns, then glue the finished drawing on the construction paper or matte board and display it on a wall.
Crayons, colored pencils, or markers
• Challenge your child to draw a simple picture or write his name with his non-dominant hand.
• Challenge your child to write a message or his name backward and hold it up to a mirror to see how he did.
• Have your child close his eyes and try to draw a simple picture or write his name or a message.
Near and Far
Use several layers of paper to make a landscape appear more three-dimensional and realistic.
One sheet of plain paper
Two sheets of tracing paper
Markers or crayons
Tape or glue
If necessary, cut the plain paper and/or tracing paper to the same size. Have your child draw the background of a landscape on the plain paper. The objects in the background should look small and far away.
Lay a sheet of tracing paper over the plain paper and attach it at the top with a bit of tape or glue. Have your child add more details to the landscape by drawing on the sheet of tracing paper. These objects should be bigger than those in the background so they appear nearer.
Now attach another sheet of tracing paper on top of the first. On the top sheet of tracing paper, have your child draw the foreground of the landscape. The objects in the foreground should be the largest so that they appear the closest.
This drawing technique, called pointillism, creates an optical illusion. A picture made with many little dots looks like one solid image when viewed from a distance.
Have your child draw a picture with dotted lines very lightly in pencil. He can use any of the following methods to fill in the picture:
• Fill in the picture with colored dots using colored pencils or fine-tip markers.
• Dip the pointed end of a sharpened pencil in paint, then press it lightly on the paper to make dots. Use a different pencil for each color of paint. To make larger dots, use the eraser end of the pencil.
• Fill in the picture with colored dot stickers.
When your child’s picture is complete, stand back and look at it. The dots will blend together to form blocks of solid color. If you look at the picture with your eyes out of focus, the colors will seem to move.
Popsicle Stick Puzzle
Several Popsicle sticks
Markers or acrylic paints
Lay several Popsicle sticks side by side on a flat surface to form a square. Lay two pieces of tape across all the sticks to join them. Turn them over so the tape is on the underside. Draw or paint a picture on the Popsicle stick square. When the picture is complete, remove the tape. Have your child mix up the pieces and put them in the right order again. If you like, have two or more kids make puzzles then trade and try to put each other’s puzzles together.
Crayons, paper removed
Collect textured objects like leaves, string, doilies, paper clips, keys, fabric, tiles, coins, cardboard shapes, and bricks. Place a sheet of paper over an object, then have your child rub the side of a crayon on the paper. Shift the paper and change colors for an interesting effect.
Fun with Chalk
When I was a girl, chalk was just for chalkboards and sidewalks. Today chalk is affordable and widely available in a variety of colors and sizes. Encourage your child to use chalk in the creative ways described below.
Water, liquid starch, or buttermilk
• Have your child draw with chalk on a sheet of paper. Spray the drawing with hair spray to set the chalk.
• Use a sponge or paintbrush to paint a sheet of paper with water, liquid starch, or buttermilk. Let your child draw on the wet paper with colored chalk.
• Have your child make a chalk rubbing by placing a sheet of paper on a textured surface and rubbing chalk over the paper.
• Let your child draw on a window with wet chalk.
• Soak chalk in a mixture of one cup of water and one-third cup of sugar for ten minutes. Let your child draw on paper with the wet chalk, then smudge the drawing with a cotton ball.
• Have your child draw on a damp sponge with chalk. Press the sponge on paper to print the design.
PAINTING AND PRINTMAKING
Kids of all ages love to paint. Toddlers and preschoolers are best suited to large sheets of paper and pots of liquid tempera, but older children will enjoy more refined materials and techniques. Provide acrylic paints as well as tempera paints. Provide high-quality brushes in a variety of sizes. Encourage your child to paint on paper, fabric, matte board, and ceramic tile as well as on three-dimensional objects like rocks, terra cotta pots, wood blocks, cardboard boxes, and Popsicle sticks.
The following activities will create a variety of painted objects your child will be proud to display. Many also make great gifts for friends and family.
The following painting activities are suitable for children of all ages.
• Have your child clip a length of string to a clothespin then dip the string in the paint and drag it around the paper.
• Let your child drop marbles into various colors of paint and roll them across a sheet of paper.
• Drop thinned paint onto a sheet of paper. Have your child use a drinking straw to blow the paint around.
• Let your child dip an old toothbrush into paint and spatter it over the paper.
• Blow up balloons of various sizes and tie the ends. Have your child hold onto the tied end of each balloon, dip the balloon in paint, and press it onto the paper.
Two 2-foot-long wooden dowels
Yarn or heavy thread
Tempera or acrylic paint
2-foot length of string
Cut the fabric into a rectangle 11/2 by 2 feet. Iron the fabric, then lay it right side down and place a dowel parallel to and 11/2 inches from a short edge. Fold the edge of the fabric over the dowel. Use a darning needle and yarn or heavy thread to sew down the edge and form a casing for the dowel. Make a similar casing on the other short edge of the fabric. Set aside the dowels.
Have your child paint a design or picture on the fabric, making sure a short edge is at the top. When the paint is dry, insert the dowels into the casings. Tie one end of the string to each end of the top dowel so your child can hang his artwork.
Popsicle Stick Sign
Craft glue or glue gun
3-by-8-inch piece of cardboard
24 Popsicle sticks
Clear acrylic spray
Tape and string or wire (optional)
Magnetic strip (optional)
Help your child spread glue over the cardboard and arrange the Popsicle sticks side by side across the length of the cardboard. Press the sticks down firmly, then let the glue dry.
Have your child paint the Popsicle sticks to create whatever kind of sign he wants. He may want a sign that he can hang on his bedroom door (for example, “Joshua’s Room”) or he may want to display a motto or phrase he likes (for example, “I love hockey!”). Let the paint dry, then spray the sign with clear acrylic spray.
If you like, tape string or wire to the back of the sign so that it can be hung on a door or wall. If it will be hung on a metal surface like a refrigerator, glue a magnetic strip onto the back of the sign.
Odds and ends of plain ceramic tile are great fun to paint. You can hang painted tiles on a wall or use them for coasters or trivets.
Paintbrushes, sponges, and/or small stickers
Plain ceramic tile
Clear acrylic spray
Glue gun (optional)
Marbles or wooden beads (optional)
Let your child paint on a plain piece of tile. He can paint a design, scene, or message; use sponges to make a colorful design; or stick stickers on the tile, paint over them, and remove the stickers when the paint is dry.
When your child’s masterpiece is finished, spray the tile with clear acrylic spray. If your child has made a trivet, you might also use a glue gun to glue marbles or wooden beads to the underside of the tile (one in each corner).
These colorful pots can be used for more than just plants! Fill them with candies and give them as gifts or use them to hold earrings, spare change, or candles.
Terra cotta pot
Clear acrylic spray
Have your child paint a terra cotta pot using one of the following techniques:
• Paint the outside of the pot one color; paint the rim and inside a different color.
• Paint the pot one color inside and out. When the paint is dry, use sponges to dab on two or three other colors.
• Paint the pot one color inside and out. When the paint is dry, stick small stickers on the outside of the pot. Paint the outside of the pot again with a different color. Remove the stickers when the second coat of paint is dry.
When the paint is completely dry, spray your pot with clear acrylic spray.
Paintbrushes and acrylic paints and/or permanent markers
Clear acrylic spray
Collect a variety of smooth rocks.
Have your child pencil a design on each rock before painting it, if he likes. He can also paint the rock freehand. It’s best to paint the entire rock in a solid color first, then add details in contrasting colors using paint and/or markers.
Sometimes the shapes of rocks suggest how they might be painted. Small, round, or flat rocks make great bugs, and larger rocks make good birds, mice, or imaginary creatures. Some rocks are even shaped like hearts, fish, or cars. Encourage your child to use his imagination as he looks at the rocks and decides how to paint them.
Spray the painted rocks with clear acrylic spray to give them a shiny finish. Arrange them on a shelf, perch them in a potted plant, or use them for paperweights on a desk or table.
Powdered tempera paint in several colors
Large, shallow containers
Cardboard or matte board
Charcoal or marker
Color the sand by mixing it with powdered tempera paint. Leave some sand uncolored. Place each color of sand in a separate container.
Have your child paint the entire surface of one side of the cardboard or matte board with glue, then completely cover the glue with uncolored sand. Help him tilt the board and tap it lightly over the container to shake off any excess sand. Let the glue dry.
Have your child sketch a simple design on the sand-covered board using a piece of charcoal or a marker, then use a fine brush to paint a small part of the design with glue. Help him hold the board over a sand container, sprinkle the desired color of sand onto the glue, and shake off any excess sand. Continue in this way until your child has painted his entire design with colored sand.
Paring knife and potato
Liquid tempera paint
Scissors, thin foam, glue, cardboard tube, and shallow pan
String or yarn and block of wood
Griddle, aluminum foil, and crayons
• Use a paring knife to cut a potato in half and carve a relief design. Let your child dip the potato in paint and then press it on paper.
• Help your child cut shapes from thin foam and glue them onto a cardboard tube. Pour paint into a shallow pan and have your child dip his “roller” into the paint and roll it onto paper.
• Cut shapes from sponges. Have your child dip the shapes in paint and press them on paper.
• Wrap string or yarn around a block of wood. Have your child press the block in paint, then on paper.
• Cover a griddle with foil. Warm the griddle slightly, then have your child draw on the foil with a crayon. Show him how to carefully press paper on the design and lift it off to make a print. Wipe the foil with a damp cloth and start over to make a new print.
MODELING AND SCULPTING
Modeling and sculpting are activities that create three-dimensional structures out of a variety of materials. Although such activities (using papier-mâché, for example) can be messy and complicated, they can also be quite simple (for example, sculpting with play dough or modeling clay). The following activities use a variety of modeling compounds and techniques to create interesting and beautiful pieces of art.
This is an easy, clean activity that even adults will enjoy. It’ll keep your child occupied for a long time.
Make three-dimensional sculptures by joining toothpicks and miniature marshmallows. Your sculptures can be simple or complicated. Challenge your child to see who can build the most elaborate house, the most interesting car, or the funniest animal.
Plastic or glass bowl
Eight single sheets of newspaper
Large container full of warm water
Liquid tempera, acrylic, or spray paint
Shellac or clear acrylic spray
Turn the bowl upside down on a flat surface. Place a sheet of newspaper in a large container of warm water. When the newspaper is soaked, remove it from the water and lay it over the bowl. Shape it firmly to the bowl and press it firmly along the rim of the bowl.
Repeat the procedure described above with the remaining sheets of newspaper, being sure to alternate the direction of the paper for each layer. Let the newspaper dry.
When the newspaper is dry, it will lift off the bowl easily and retain its shape. Lift the newspaper bowl and trim its edges with scissors. Let your child paint the paper bowl. Finish the bowl with a coat of shellac or clear acrylic spray.
Papier-Mâché Piggy Bank
1/4 cup flour
6 cups water
Several sheets of newspaper
Empty paper egg carton
Black paint or marker
Let your child mix the flour with 1 cup of water. Add the mixture to 5 cups of boiling water. Gently boil and stir the paste for 3 minutes. Let it cool, then pour it into a shallow pan.
Tear the newspaper into squares or strips. Then inflate and tie the balloon. Have your child dip the squares or strips of paper into the paste, then place them on the balloon, making sure their edges overlap. Cover the balloon with many layers of pasty paper and let it dry for a day or two.
Cut 6 sections from the egg carton. Glue 1 section onto the tied end of the balloon for the pig’s nose. Glue 4 sections onto the underside of the pig for its feet. Cut the remaining section in half and glue 1 piece onto each side of the pig’s head for its ears. Use a curled pipe cleaner for the pig’s tail. Cover the nose, feet, ears, and tail with papier-mâché and let them dry. Then paint the pig pink and add details with black paint or marker. Use a utility knife to cut a money slot in the top of the pig.
1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
Food coloring (optional)
Liquid tempera or acrylic paint and paintbrush (optional)
Clear acrylic spray
Preheat your oven to 200°F. Mix the flour and salt with enough water to make a dough that feels like modeling clay. If you like, tint the dough with food coloring. Let your child use his imagination to shape the dough into small figures. If he wants to make letters, have him roll the dough into ropes and then shape the ropes into letters. Bake the figures on a baking sheet until they’re very hard. (This may take an hour or two.) If you like, your child can paint the figures. Finish the figures with clear acrylic spray, then use a glue gun to attach a magnetic strip to the back of each figure.
Shallow box or old baking pan
Small objects like keys, coins, string, and leaves
2 cups water
3 cups plaster of Paris
Paint stick or wooden spoon
Paintbrush and acrylic paints (optional)
Clear acrylic spray (optional)
Press the clay into the bottom of the box or pan to make a smooth, flat surface. Press small objects into the clay.
Pour the water into the bucket. Sprinkle the plaster of Paris over the water and stir the mixture until it’s about as thick as pea soup. Pour a thin layer of plaster over the objects in the clay and wait 10–20 minutes for the plaster to harden.
Now carefully remove the plaster. The objects will have made an imprint in the hardened plaster. This is called a negative imprint because the image is backward. If you like, have your child paint the plaster with acrylic paint. Then spray the plaster with clear acrylic spray.
Clay Pot (No-Kiln Method)
Clay that can be oven-dried, such as Fimo or Sculpey, or air-dried
Paintbrush and tempera or acrylic paint (optional)
Clear acrylic spray
Help your child use one of these methods to make a pot:
• Roll the clay into a ball and make a hole in the center with your thumb. Push outward from the hole with your thumb and place your fingers on the outside of the ball as you press and shape the pot, turning the clay as you work. Try to keep the clay the same thickness all the way around.
• Make long ropes of clay about as thick as a large crayon. Coil the ropes around and around, piling the coils on top of each other to make a pot shape. You can leave the pot as is or use a spoon to smooth the coils into a flat surface.
Follow the clay manufacturer’s directions to dry your pot. If you like, have your child decorate the dried pot with tempera or acrylic paint. Finish the pot with clear acrylic spray.
Clay Pot (Kiln Method)
Use this method if you plan to build an outdoor kiln.
Airtight plastic bag (optional)
Slip, a water-clay mixture available at art supply stores, and spoon or smooth stone (optional)
Follow the directions for making a clay pot on the previous page using regular clay instead of clay that can be air- or oven-dried. If the clay starts to dry out as your child works with it, add a little water.
Don’t let your child’s pot dry out before you fire it. If you can’t fire it right away, keep it at the “leather-hard” stage (hard enough to hold its shape but soft enough to cut easily) by storing it in an airtight plastic bag. If you like, polish a leather-hard pot before firing it by applying a coat of slip and rubbing the pot with the back of a spoon or a smooth stone.
Fire your pottery by following the directions on the next page.
Unpainted leather-hard pots
19-by-19-inch sheet of heavy metal
This kiln is big enough to fire thirty 4-inch pots. Check your local fire regulations before building it.
Arrange 8 bricks in a square. Arrange another 8 on top of the first 8 to cover the cracks in the first layer. Repeat this process until all the bricks are used. Seal all the cracks between the bricks with wet clay. Put 3 inches of sawdust in the bottom of the kiln. Put a layer of pots 1 inch apart upside down on the sawdust. Add sawdust until there’s 1 inch of sawdust on top of the pots. Continue adding pots and sawdust this way. Top the last layer of pots with 3 inches of sawdust. Put crumpled newspapers on the top layer of sawdust. Light the newspapers and put the metal on top of the kiln. (You may need to weight it.) Let the kiln burn until the smoking stops.
If the firing has gone correctly, when you open the kiln, you’ll find all the sawdust burned up and the pots together at the bottom. Pottery fired this way isn’t as hard as pottery fired in a regular kiln, but it is quite hard. Your pots will have turned black and, if you polished them with slip before firing, they will have retained a fine polish.
GIFTS TO MAKE
I’m always looking for good ideas for gifts my kids can make for their friends, music teachers, coaches, and others at Christmas, year-end, and so on. Here are some of the items we’ve made over the years that have been fun both to make and to give.
Use this box to store photos, jewelry, or other treasures.
Tissue paper, patterned or in complementary colors
Small box with removable lid
Three disposable cups
Craft glue or glue gun (optional)
Dried or silk flowers (optional)
Metallic-ink pen or permanent marker (optional)
Have your child tear the tissue paper into small pieces.
Use the sponge brush to paint a thin layer of decoupage glue on the outside of the box lid. Have your child quickly cover the glue with overlapping tissue pieces. (If your child works slowly, use only a little glue at a time.) When the lid is covered to your child’s satisfaction, balance it on a disposable cup to dry for about an hour.
Repeat the process above for the sides of the box. Balance it on two disposable cups to dry for an hour, then flip it over and do the same for the bottom of the box.
If you like, decorate the lid by gluing on dried or silk flowers tied with ribbon. You can also use a metallic-ink pen or permanent marker to write a label on the box, such as Emily’s Treasures orGrandma’s Photos.
Pencil and ruler
Craft glue or glue gun
Glitter glue, paint, beads, buttons, dried flowers, and so on
Place the cardboard on a protected surface and cut out a 6-by-8-inch rectangle, a 5-by-7-inch rectangle, and a 7-by-11/2-inch strip. In the center of the large rectangle, pencil a small rectangle whose sides are 11/4 inches from the edges of the large rectangle. Cut along the lines and discard the cutout. Apply craft glue along the very edge of the top third of the small rectangle. (Don’t glue all around it, or you’ll have no opening to slip a photo into the frame.) Center the small rectangle glue side down on the large rectangle and press on it. Now bend the end of the cardboard strip and glue the bent end to the center of the small rectangle to make a stand. Put the frame under a heavy book until the glue dries. When the glue is dry, have your child decorate it with glitter glue, paint, beads, buttons, dried flowers, and so on. The frame will hold a 4-by-6-inch photo.
Your child can make one of these nifty, easy bracelets for each of his friends.
Elastic cord or fishing line
Clear nail polish
Clasp (with fishing line)
Lay the beads on a towel to keep them from rolling around and have your child arrange them in any pattern he likes. Cut a length of elastic cord or fishing line six inches longer than the circumference of your child’s wrist. Then string the beads in one of the following ways:
• If you’re using cord, tie an anchor bead to the end of the cord. Have your child string the beads in the order he’s chosen. (If he’s using letter beads, make sure they’re facing the right way.) Tie the ends together so the bracelet fits your child’s wrist snugly but stretches enough to slip over his hand. Brush nail polish on the knot to make it more secure.
• If you’re using fishing line, tie a clasp to one end of the line. Have your child string the beads in the order he’s chosen. (If he’s using letter beads, make sure they’re facing the right way.) Tie the other end of the line to the clasp, making sure the bracelet will fit your child’s wrist when the clasp is fastened. Brush nail polish onto the knots to make them more secure.
21 spring-style clothespins
Paint and paintbrush
Clear acrylic spray
Pull the clothespins apart and discard the springs. Glue the smooth sides of the pieces in each pair together. Let the glue dry. Arrange the pairs in a flower blossom shape with the pointed ends touching in the center. Glue the parts that are touching and press them together. Let the glue dry. Have your child paint the trivet. Finish it with clear acrylic spray.
Two magnetic strips
Cut the cardboard and the fabric two inches longer and two inches wider than the notepad. Glue the fabric onto the cardboard. Glue rickrack around the edge of the cardboard. Glue two magnetic strips onto the back of the cardboard. Glue the notepad onto the center of the fabric. Have your child decorate the fabric with glitter glue, fabric paint, or tiny dried flowers. Let the glue and/or paint dry.
Craft glue or glue gun
Paint and paintbrush
Clear acrylic spray
• Base: Lay several Popsicle sticks side by side to make a square. Spread glue on four more sticks and lay them across the square at even intervals to hold the square together. Let the glue dry. Turn the base over.
• Sides: Glue a stick onto the base along each “bumpy” edge. Put a dab of glue at each end of these two sticks. Lay two more sticks on the first two and along the other edges of the base. Continue gluing sticks in this log-cabin style until the box is as tall as you want it.
• Lid: Follow the directions for the base.
Have your child paint the box. Finish it with clear acrylic spray. Glue a marble onto each corner of the base (for legs) and one onto the center of the lid (for a handle).
Have your child brush a thick coat of glue all over the ball. Roll the ball in potpourri until it’s covered. Let the glue dry completely. Tie a length of ribbon around the ball and secure it with glue. Place the ball in a drawer or hang it in a closet.
Precut wood shape
Permanent black marker
Clear acrylic spray
Buy an appropriate precut wood shape (for example, an apple shape for a teacher) from a craft store. Have your child paint the shape with acrylic paints and let it dry completely. Add words with a permanent black marker. Finish the shape with clear acrylic spray. Attach a clothespin to the front of the shape and a magnetic strip to the back with a glue gun. The message clip will adhere to any metal surface and can hold messages, recipes, to-do lists, photos, and more.
23 spring-style clothespins
Paint and paintbrush
Clear acrylic spray
Have your child pull the clothespins apart and discard the springs. Glue the smooth sides of the pieces in each pair together. Let the glue dry. Lay three pairs on a flat surface so that their sides are touching and glue them together. Let the glue dry. This will be the base of the napkin holder. Sort the remaining pairs into two sets of ten. Arrange each set in a semicircle with the pointed ends touching in the center. Glue the parts that are touching and press them together. Let the glue dry. The two semicircles will be the sides of the napkin holder. Apply glue to the two long outer edges of the base. Press the bottom of one semicircle to each side. Let the glue dry. Let your child paint the napkin holder. Finish it with clear acrylic spray.
An amazing variety of crafts can be made from a simple supply of paper, scissors, and glue. The following activities use very basic materials but will challenge your child artistically.
If your child has never made a mosaic, make a small sample to show him before he begins.
Construction paper in many colors
Help your child cut light- and bright-colored construction paper into 1/2-inch-wide strips, then cut the strips into 1/2-inch squares. Have your child sort the squares by color. Then give him a sheet of dark-colored construction paper and a glue stick.
Let your child glue squares onto the dark paper in any design he likes. Your child may want to start with a large central image, such as a tree, flower, whale, or car, then fill in the background with a contrasting color. Explain to your child that the tiles should not touch each other but should only have a tiny bit of space between them.
When the mosaic is finished, apply a coat of shellac. Mount the mosaic on one or two larger sheets of colored construction paper to give it a border.
Envelopes made from gift-wrap or wallpaper add a special touch to holiday cards, invitations, and thank-you notes.
Gift-wrap or wallpaper
Pen or pencil
Glue, tape or stickers
Let your child choose an envelope the same size as the envelope he’d like to make. Help him carefully pull apart and open the envelope flaps to create a flat pattern for tracing. Lay the pattern on the wrong side of a piece of gift-wrap or wallpaper and have your child trace it.
Carefully cut out the traced shape. Fold in the side flaps and glue the bottom flap onto the side flaps. (Look at the original envelope if you’re not sure where to fold.)
Let your child place a card or letter inside the envelope and seal it with glue, tape, or stickers.
Books, Books, Books
Book club fliers
Construction paper or lightweight cardboard
Clear contact paper
Have your child cut pictures of his favorite books from book club fliers. If his class doesn’t participate in a book club, ask friends and relatives to save their fliers. Your child can use the pictures for the following crafts:
• To make a bookmark, cut a strip of construction paper or lightweight cardboard about two inches wide and six to eight inches long and glue pictures of books onto it. Cover the bookmark with clear contact paper. Punch a hole in the top, thread a ribbon through the hole, and tie the ends of the ribbon together.
• To make a collage, glue pictures of books onto a sheet of construction paper. Cover the pictures with clear contact paper and use the collage as a place mat or wall hanging.
• If your child is keeping a reading journal, pictures of books make great decorations for the journal cover and pages.
Greeting Card Box
Rectangular greeting card
Pencil and ruler
Glue and paper clips
Have your child cut the card along the fold.
• Lid: Turn over the front of the card and draw a line 1 inch from each long edge and 11/2 inches from each short edge. Fold along each line, then open the folds to make a little rectangle in each corner of the card. For each little rectangle, cut along the line that starts at a short side so the rectangles become flaps. Fold the long sides up and fold the flaps inward. Brush glue on the outsides of the flaps. Fold up the short sides of the card and press them onto the flaps. Fold the top edges of the short sides over the flaps and glue them down. Secure the glued spots with paper clips until the glue dries.
• Box: Repeat the process above using the other half of the card. Make the bottom slightly smaller so the lid will fit over it by increasing each measurement 1/8 inch.
Making a book with your child is a fun way to encourage a child who likes to write or illustrate stories. A book can be:
• paper stapled together with a construction paper cover
• a small notebook with blank pages
• an inexpensive scrapbook
• a three-ring binder with plastic page protectors
• a hand-bound volume
Let your child write a story along the bottom of each page and illustrate it with drawings, photos, or cut-out pictures.
Black construction paper
White paper or matte board
Tape a sheet of black construction paper to a wall. Shine a lamp on your child so the shadow of his profile falls on the paper. Play with distances and angles until the shadow’s proportions are accurate. Trace the shadow with chalk. Have your child cut along the chalk line. Glue your child’s silhouette onto a sheet of white paper or matte board. Mark his name and age on the back of the silhouette, then tape it to the wall or put it in his scrapbook.
Woven Place Mat
Construction paper in two or three colors
Stapler or glue
Fold a sheet of construction paper in half so the long edges meet. Hold the paper so the fold faces you. Starting 1 inch from the left edge, mark every 1/2 inch along the fold. Stop marking 1 inch from the right edge. At each mark, cut a straight slit from the fold to 1 inch from the top edge. Then unfold the sheet of paper. This is the mat that will be woven.
Cut 1/2-inch-wide strips of construction paper in one or two other colors. The strips should be as long as the long sides of the mat. Beginning at one of the short sides of the mat, help your child weave a strip down through the first slit, up through the second, down through the third, and so on through all the slits. Weave another strip up through the first slit, down through the second, up through the third, and so on. Continue weaving strips in this way until there’s no room for any more strips. Adjust each strip after weaving it so it’s snug against its neighbor and/or the edge of the mat. Secure the strips along the short edges of the mat with staples or glue.
Generations of children have enjoyed making paper-doll chains. Your child can use this technique to make a border for his bed-room, the mantel, or a plain wall in your home.
Large sheet of paper
Crayons, markers, or paint
Cut a strip of paper about 36 inches long and 6 inches wide. Fold the strip of paper accordion style, making each panel about 3 inches wide. Have your child draw a simple figure on the top panel. Make sure part of the figure touches the fold on each side. Carefully cut out the figure, making sure not to cut along the folds. Let your child unfold the chain of figures and decorate it with crayons, markers, or paint.
Wallpaper scraps come in handy for these quick, easy projects. If you don’t have wallpaper, gift-wrap is a great alternative.
Wallpaper or gift-wrap scraps
Clear contact paper
Plain paper and envelopes
Cardboard, matte board, or paper plate
Cut shapes from wallpaper or gift-wrap scraps. Let your child use them as follows:
• Glue cutouts onto a sheet of construction paper. Cover the paper with clear contact paper and use it as a place mat.
• Glue small cutouts onto plain paper and envelopes to create stationery.
• Use cutouts to decorate homemade greeting cards.
• Glue cutouts onto cardboard, matte board, or a paper plate to create a picture. Tape a matching set of paper plate pictures to the wall.
The craft projects that follow use a variety of materials and will challenge your child’s imagination and artistic ability. They’re fun to make and great for rainy afternoons or when your child is feeling a little under the weather. Your child can make crafts as gifts for friends and family or use them to brighten up your home. If he plans to give a craft away, remember to photograph it first and store the photo in your child’s portfolio or scrapbook.
Making dioramas is educational, but it’s also just plain fun!
Paintbrush and paints or glue and construction paper
Shoebox or small box
Small toy figures, magazine pictures, dried or silk flowers, fabric scraps, thread, tape, and so on
Let your child choose a theme for the diorama, such as a jungle or a pioneer village. Have him paint the inside bottom of the box an appropriate background color or glue a sheet of construction paper onto it. Set the box on its side so the inside bottom of the box becomes the back of the diorama.
The objects your child uses in his diorama will depend on his theme. He might use small toy figures of people or animals, pictures cut from magazines, dried or silk flowers, fabric scraps, and so on. If he wants items like birds or fish to appear suspended in the diorama, he can tape one end of a short length of thread to each item and the other end to the ceiling of the diorama.
When your child’s diorama is complete, stretch plastic wrap tightly across the front of the diorama and secure it with tape.
1/4-by-3/4-inch molding (optional)
8-by-8-inch piece of 1/4-inch plywood
1/2- or 3/4-inch ceramic tiles in several colors
Cardboard with straight edge
If your child wants a framed mosaic, cut molding to fit the edges of the plywood and glue the molding to the plywood.
Have your child arrange the tiles about 1/8 inch apart on the plywood in a colorful pattern. Show him how to glue the tiles onto the plywood by starting at one corner of the plywood and gluing them one row at a time. Coat the underside of each tile with glue and place it back in position. Let the mosaic dry for 24 hours. Reglue any loose tiles and again let the glue dry. Seal the edges of the mosaic with tape if it isn’t framed.
Mix the grout with water until it’s thick and creamy. Spread grout over the mosaic with the cardboard, pressing the grout into the spaces between the tiles. Wipe the tiles gently with a damp sponge to remove excess grout. When the grout is dry, remove any tape and clean the mosaic thoroughly. A framed mosaic looks great hanging on the wall, and an unframed mosaic makes an attractive trivet.
A child who doesn’t like to wear necklaces will still enjoy making one for a friend or family member.
Beans and seeds
Collect an assortment of beans and seeds, such as apple, cantaloupe, acorn squash, pumpkin, watermelon, brown allspice, and sunflower seeds. Coffee beans also work well. Soak hard beans or seeds in warm water for several hours.
Lay the beans and seeds on a towel to keep them from rolling around and have your child arrange them in any pattern he likes. Thread a strong needle with heavy thread. Tie a knot in the end of the thread and help your child string beans and seeds onto it. When the necklace is long enough, knot the thread and trim the ends.
Pressed flowers can be used to decorate a variety of paper items.
Newsprint or other absorbent paper
Plain note cards, note paper, or construction paper
Clear contact paper
Have your child pick an assortment of small flowers, such as pansies, violets, buttercups, and daisies. Make sure he picks them when they’re free of rain or dew. Place them between sheets of absorbent paper, making sure the flowers don’t touch each other. Cover the paper with a heavy book. Leave the flowers for a week or so until they’re completely dried.
To make stationery, have your child glue the pressed flowers onto plain note cards or note paper. He can also glue the flowers onto construction paper to make bookmarks or gift tags. To make a collage, have your child glue the flowers onto a sheet of construction paper. Turn the collage into a place mat by covering it with clear contact paper.
Clean, empty soup can
Colorful contact paper or paintbrush, acrylic paints, and clear acrylic spray (optional)
Plastic bucket and sand (optional)
Lay a Popsicle stick next to a ruler, aligning the ends. Use a waterproof marker to copy the ruler markings onto the Popsicle stick. Mark every inch, half-inch, quarter-inch, and eighth-inch on the Popsicle stick.
If you like, have your child decorate a clean, empty soup can with colorful contact paper or acrylic paint. If your child paints the can, finish it with clear acrylic spray.
Stand the Popsicle stick inside the can and glue it onto the side of the can. Set the can outside in a place where it won’t tip over. If you like, place the can in a plastic bucket and pack sand around it.
After a rainfall, read your Popsicle stick ruler to see how much rain has fallen. If you like, log your readings on a calendar or in a weather notebook. Pour the rain out of the can after each reading.
Stuffed Animal Holder
18-by-36-inch piece of felt
Plastic clothes hanger
Craft glue or glue gun
Fabric scraps in various colors
Glitter glue, buttons, lace, and so on
Lay the felt on a flat surface and set the hanger at one of the short edges so the hook is off the felt but the rest of the hanger is on it. Have your child spread glue on both corners of the felt near the hanger, stopping at the hanger. Fold the corners over the hanger and press hard. Set a heavy book on the hanger and let the glue dry completely.
Cut out 8 fabric pockets, each about 5–6 inches square. Turn the felt over and arrange the pockets on top of the felt. Spread glue along the sides and bottom of each pocket and press the pockets onto the felt. Set a heavy book on each pocket and let the glue dry. Let your child decorate the pockets with glitter glue, buttons, lace, and so on. Your child can slip a small stuffed animal into each pocket and hang the holder in his closet or on his bedroom door or wall.
4-by-22-inch piece of fabric
Needle and thread
9-inch length of 1/4-inch elastic
Have your child fold the fabric in half lengthwise with the wrong side out and pin the long edges together. Sew a seam along the pinned edge to make a fabric tube.
Attach a safety pin to one end of the tube. Tuck it inside the tube and push it all the way through the tube so that the tube turns inside out. (The fabric will now be right side out.) Remove the safety pin.
Attach the safety pin to one end of the elastic. Tape the other end of the elastic to your work surface. Use the safety pin to thread the elastic through the fabric tube. Remove the tape, overlap the ends of the elastic, and sew them together.
Tuck one end of the fabric tube into the other, making sure the seam matches up. Fold the edge of the outer end under. Stitch the folded end to the tucked-in end all the way around.
This craft is found among many cultures of the world. Its Spanish name is ojo de Dios, which means “eye of God.”
Two sticks (any kind)
Yarn in several colors or variegated yarn
Have your child cross two sticks so they’re perpendicular to each other. As your child holds the sticks, bind them together by crisscrossing yarn around the center of the cross.
Tie one end of a length of yarn to one arm of the cross. Show your child how to wrap the yarn over and around an adjacent arm. (Be sure to wrap the yarn around the arm, not just over or under it.) Wrap the yarn around the next arm in the same way. Keep wrapping yarn in this way, creating a diamond shape, until you want to change colors. Tie off the end of the yarn and repeat the process above with a new length of yarn in a different color. Do this as many times as you like.
If your child has difficulty changing yarn, use variegated yarn. You can make your own variegated yarn by cutting yarn of various colors into two-yard lengths. Tie the lengths together end to end.
This simple, easy craft is a great way for your child to keep busy while he’s waiting for his meal in a restaurant or at home.
Fork with four tines
Green pipe cleaner or floral wire (optional)
Tie the end of a length of yarn (at least 12 inches long) to one of the end tines of the fork. Show your child how to weave the yarn over the adjacent tine, under the next one, and so on. Wrap the yarn around the other end tine and weave another row in the other direction. Continue weaving until the fork is full of yarn.
Help your child thread a separate length of yarn (about 6 inches long) between the two middle tines at the bottom of the weaving. Pull the yarn tightly around the center of the weaving and tie a knot. Pull the weaving off the fork to reveal a puffy little yarn flower. You can trim any long yarn ends whenever it’s convenient to do so.
If you like, have your child make several flowers. Attach each to a stem of green pipe cleaner or floral wire. Let your child arrange his bouquet of fork flowers in a vase.
White or light-colored all-cotton T-shirt
8 cups cold water
4 cups hot water
Cold dye fix
Old wooden spoon
6 tablespoons table salt
Wash the shirt but don’t dry it. Squeeze out the excess water. Let your child gather large and small bunches of fabric all over the shirt and fasten them with rubber bands.
Place the pail in a sink or bathtub or on a surface covered with an old towel. Pour the cold water into the pail. Pour 2 cups of hot water into the bowl. Stir the dye into the hot water. Pour the dye mixture into the pail of cold water. Rinse the bowl.
Pour another 2 cups of hot water into the bowl. Stir in the cold dye fix and the salt until the salt dissolves. Stir this mixture into the contents of the pail.
Have your child place the shirt in the pail and stir it slowly and gently for about 10 minutes. Let it sit in the pail for another 50 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove the T-shirt from the dye and rinse it under cold running water until the water runs almost clear. Squeeze the shirt and roll it in a clean old towel to remove excess water. Remove the rubber bands. Wash and dry the T-shirt by itself before your child wears it.
My son made this craft early one spring and had fun cutting his grass buddy’s hair for months afterward.
Spray bottle full of water
Have your child sprinkle grass seeds into the toe of an old sock, then add about two cups of potting soil. Knot the sock right above the soil to make a head shape. Turn the head knot side down and have your child draw facial features on it. If he likes, he can draw details like clothing and jewelry on the Styrofoam cup. Balance the head on the rim of the cup. The knot and the rest of the sock go inside the cup.
Have your child spray his grass buddy’s head with water and set it in a warm place. If he keeps the soil moist, in a couple of weeks the grass buddy will sprout delicate blades of grassy hair. Your child can use a pair of safety scissors to give his grass buddy a haircut as needed.