For those of you who know my blog, you will know that this is not my usual kind of post. Normally it’s a fun craft idea that’s photographed nicely on a white background, free of distractions and is most often made by myself. Sometimes if they’re in the mood my kids make the craft as well, and you might find a picture of their version mixed in with the pictures of my own (like here), but not always. The truth is that they have their own ideas, and they don’t always want to make MY crafts. Sometimes they make their own crafts along side me when I am making something, and sometimes they nab the recyclables that I’ve put aside for a particular idea I’m planning and create something completely different with them. This is OK with me, and in fact I could not be more proud because they are becoming more independent and developing their own creativity. As my daughter once said to me when I set out what I thought was a fun craft for her one day; “Mum, I don’t need you anymore. I have my OWN ideas now.”
It hurt just a little bit but I was also impressed, and this is what I’m referring to when I say child-led craft. I don’t often blog our child-led crafts because while they are beautiful to me they look just like any kid’s creations and are probably unremarkable to the rest of the world. Their creations are not going to win any awards or hang in any galleries but the real reward is the experience of making something, of using their creativity and of having fun. However there are times when the creative concept behind the craft completely blows me away and I copy their great ideas and create my own version for the blog (after asking my kids first, obviously, and usually they are more than happy about it).
You heard me right, I steal craft ideas for my blog from the kids!
The tips I’m giving you today are five things that have worked for our family and are based purely on my own experience rather than any real expertise or learned knowledge. The pictures throughout are ones that have been taken on the spur of the moment and posted to my instagram account, rather than the usual painstaking set up I’d use for my own crafts. They are all art, craft and creative play ideas that have been initiated by the girls with minimal input from me.
Five simple tips for fostering creativity and child-led art and craft at home
#1 Grit your teeth and put up with the mess
It’s hard I know, but really worth it. While you might remember the crafting session as a colossal mess that needed to be packed away mostly by yourself, chances are the kids remember the fun they had making something and how clever they felt when they were problem-solving how to make the idea that began as a spark in their mind. In the picture above my kids were creating ‘experiments’ with food colouring, a current favourite activity of theirs. I’ll admit that I feel VERY nervous when I hand the little bottles of food colouring over to them, I know that they think they’ll be careful with it but somehow manage to spill a bit here and there. I tell them to please do their experiments outside (and make sure they are wearing older clothes), which is better than inside for sure!
#2 Allow them free access to craft materials that they can use whenever they like
You might want to keep some things out of reach like acrylic paints and permanent markers (believe me about the permanent markers) but allow some washable things to be stored where they can get to them. I also have baskets of recyclables that my kids often play with and use as props for toys or as the basis of their craft projects. Sometimes they make pictures and patterns with them, and sometimes they use them as building blocks. Best thing about recyclables is that they are absolutely FREE, and you’re doing the world a favour by not putting them into landfill.
#3 Never put down your own creative ability in front of your kids
This is the last thing they need to hear, because they are looking to you as a role model and need to know that ‘creative’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘perfect’. If you enjoy crafting yourself then let them see you making things, it’s a great example for them.
#4 Indulge a creative whim or two when they happen
If they feel like dragging every box in the garage up through the house and onto the back lawn to make a ‘giant maze’ like in the above picture, then that’s OK. Even if their ideas seem a bit far fetched to you it does no harm to let them try. I don’t think my girls got very far with this maze before all the boxes had to be dragged back down again but that’s beside the point really. They had fun, worked together and used their creative thinking. Another time my daughter had it in her head that she absolutely had to make a cardboard reindeer with bells for eyes, but we only had one bell. My husband drove her to the craft store especially to get some for her project and she made this little creature.
#5 You don’t have to do or buy anything else, just let them go for it and sit back and watch
You don’t need fancy craft kits or anything like that to help your kids be creative – they already are. All you need are simple materials close on hand that you are happy to let them loose on and they will do the rest.
Watercolour splatter art by Miss K
Scrap fabric wall hanging by Miss K
Snow men by Miss R
Super power paper ring by Miss R
Balloon puppy by Miss R
Creating and bottling ‘fairy dust’, and planning to sell it for $50 per jar, by Miss R
‘Salad with sauce’, by Miss K
Paper reindeer baskets as gifts for friends, by Miss R
‘Peg fountain’ by Miss K
Finger painting with melted chocolate (not the original activity planned)
A jar of ‘fairy magic’, by Miss R
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t make adult-directed craft activities with your kids (such as what I post on my blog). They are fun, good for an idea source and there is always room for ‘creative license’ in there. Never forget that there are a hundred ways to make a craft your own, and infinite possibilities for any idea. From this type of crafting kids learn new skills and techniques and get a true sense of accomplishment when they finish something. My girls also love to flip through craft books and borrow them by choice from the library. This fuels their creative drive even more, and often they will want to make one of the projects in the book. Seemingly craft ideas are way more inspiring when they don’t come from your Mum!
For lots more creative ideas for kids you might like to visit our art ideas board on Pinterest.
And just for the record, these are the craft ideas I’ve copied from my kids:
What great ideas have your kids come up with?