Kids’ Arts & Crafts Hacks for Not-So-Crafty Parents

Does the thought of kids' arts and crafts projects make you cringe? Or do you dive in headfirst? Either way, these hacks are my secrets to success.

Essential Tips For Kids’ Arts and Crafts Fun:

We are all born creative. The more children get to exercise and develop their creativity, the more skilled they will be at everything from problem-solving to self-expression. This is why many parents like to encourage their kids’ arts and crafts pastimes – or even join in the fun! But even if you’re reluctant to give your kiddos free rein over their own makeshift art studios, these tips will help them explore creative side without trashing your home in the process.


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Parents’ Secrets for Kids’ Arts And Crafts Success:

Have a designated space

Two-year-old Kimmie assembling Valentines at the girls’ former art table

If at all possible, I recommend setting aside a corner for kids’ arts and crafts activities. A small table and easel are all you really need. This way, your kids won’t forever be scribbling with crayons all over your floor or your kitchen table. (Or worse yet, your walls.)

RELATED POST: Five Must-Haves for a Kids’ Art Table That Works

RELATED POST: Easy DIY Wall Mount Art Caddy

Or find a space

If you can’t set aside a designated art corner, or your art corner isn’t suited to the bigger messes of young artists, here are a few other suggestions:

Finger-painting on the kitchen rug, protected by a drop cloth
  • Have them make “art” with their food. This is as simple as putting a dollop of plain yogurt and a few drops of food coloring directly onto your infant’s tray, and letting them swirl to their heart’s content.
  • Spread a painting drop cloth, large sheet of plastic, plastic picnic table tablecloth, or even a large trash bag cut open at the seams, onto the floor. Then put large sheets of paper and plates of finger paint directly onto the drop cloth.
  • If you have some shade in your yard, take your kiddos outside on a warm day and spread their finger-painting paper directly on the grass, deck, or driveway. Then strip your child down to a diaper plus art smock (or for older kids, a bathing suit) for easy-peasy cleanup.
  • Or have them chalk your driveway/the sidewalk/the street. Or make art collages on the driveway out of flower petals, small pebbles, acorns, twigs, etc.

Keep it simple (and age-appropriate)

As the above examples suggest, projects don’t have to be complicated or Pinterest-worthy to work for littles. Some arts and crafts activities will be too dangerous or complicated for your little ones to complete until they’re much older. Babies and toddlers really don’t need more than food coloring/yogurt or finger paint/paper, and a lot of supervision.

This is what happens when your littlest artists DON’T have adequate supervision. Lesson learned.

If you do go hunting for inspiration online, make sure it’s a craft that your little ones can handle without getting frustrated. Or else be on hand to do the harder parts yourself. When your kids get to be preschool-aged, they can practice cutting and glueing simple shapes into designs or collages. Confessions of a Not-So-Crafty Momma has tons of great projects along these lines.

At the same time, though, don’t forget that as kids grow older, it’s good to keep them interested by adding new challenges. No, your five-year-old may not be into knotting bracelets. But your seven-year-old is probably ready to practice this skill, and your nine-year-old could benefit from the fine-motor-skills practice of adding beads to the mix. (Not to mention the mental challenges of mapping out a bead pattern on paper.)

Nine-year-old Kimmie mapping out a flag pattern for a beading proect.

Whatever crafts your kids get into, it’s a good idea to get to know your local art-supply store. If it’s part of a national chain, they will probably have classes to teach kids new skills, like sewing or crocheting or knitting. And if you have a local independent or upscale art store, you’re in for a real treat. Stores like this will often have unique finds you won’t see anywhere else, and they may be able to special-order things they don’t have in stock for your budding artist’s ever-evolving needs.

Let It Go

Most craft projects result in a three-dimensional piece of art that you then need to display, or, at the very least, store. Add in kids’ arts and crafts projects from school, and you’ll soon be drowning in former craft projects and “masterpieces”!

So repeat after me: It’s OK to let it go! The easiest way, perhaps, is to get a digital photo frame, photograph everything, and then toss the originals/let the digital duplicates rotate through the frame.

Here are some other things you can try:

Homemade wrapping paper, aka preschool art projects
  • Use painting projects as wrapping paper, or cut into shapes and glue onto blank notecards for holiday gift cards. (This is what the girls often do for Valentines.)
  • Divide up art projects every so often into piles, and send a few pieces to each distant grandparent, aunt/uncle, etc. This works great if your family is large and far-flung, and especially brightens the day of relatives who are getting on in years.
  • Laminate a few favorite pieces to use as placemats and/or crafting table protectors at home. (For what it’s worth, getting your own laminator for this purpose is not that expensive. My jaw hit the floor when I recently got a small poster laminated and it cost $5 at our local office-supply store! For the price of about a dozen oversized laminating jobs at that rate, I bought myself a laminator and enough assorted pouches to last me a long time!)

Give it away:

Alternately, kiddos’ art can make great gifts and display pieces:

  • Pick out the very best pieces to enter in a local county fair, mat/frame/decorate your home with, and/or mat and frame for holiday gifting.
  • Or finally, steer your kids toward “practical” crafts whenever possible. For example, the girls LOVE weaving on their potholder loop looms, and have made a set of coasters for each branch of the family. They like the fact that they’ve been able to make something useful and from the heart for gifts. I (and their grandmothers!) love the end result, and we adore using our favorite coasters.

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