Don't be too disappointed when the weather keeps your family indoors. My family has turned snow days and rainy weekends into a flurry of activity, just by getting a little bit creative.
Children are powerhouses of creative energy. Most of the time, they need very little help from us to turn the mundane into the magical. Sometimes giving them a basic framework, some simple tools and the freedom to be inspired can result in truly astounding craft projects. Working on projects together is a perfect way to learn about each other’s uniqueness recognize individual talents within the family and create closer family bonds.
Here are some basic ideas to get you started on some craft projects. Each of these suggestions is age appropriate for any child, but parental preparation may be more necessary in some than others.
Supplies: newspaper, tape, a balloon, flour, water and paint.
Beware, this one is messy, but paper Mache sculptures are relatively easy. I’m going to give you basic instructions on how to make a paper Mache sunshine, but once you know the method, you and your kids can make nearly anything out of paper Mache.
First, in a large bowl, mix one part flour with two parts water and blend with a wire whisk. Voila! Paste. You may decide to add more water as you work if the consistency gets too thick. Next, tear the newspaper into long, 2-3 inch wide strips. Then, you’ll blow up the balloon and tie it off. The balloon will act as the structure for your sunshine.
Roll several sheets of newspaper up together in a “cone” shape, and tape it so it doesn’t unroll (make sure it’s thick, or it will lose its shape when you add the paste. Tear the wide end of the cone in four places (approximately 1 inch long) to make tabs. Tape these tabs to the balloon and this cone is now your first sunray. Make several more sunrays, and attach them to the balloon.
Now, you can start adding the wet paper. Dip a strip of newspaper in the paste and run it through two fingers to eliminate excess paste back into the bowl. Cover the entire sculpture in strips, paying special attention to areas where you have joined two shapes. Do two or three layers of wet paper over your sculpture. Allow it to dry overnight and then paint with vivid colors.
Supplies: paper, old magazines and catalogs, scissors, and glue.
Collages are another great craft project that opens up an entire universe of possibilities. Collages are usually created by taking clippings of portions of graphics from a magazine, arranging them in a new way, and gluing them to a canvas (or a piece of paper).
When my kids were very little, they enjoyed doing collages of people more than anything else. For example, we would cut out just the face of a bearded fisherman, glue it to a piece of paper, and then cut out just the body of a supermodel and glue her body to his head. As we flipped through magazines, we would find other pieces to cut out and add to the collage.
We were creating an entire story about this fictional character we were building on our canvas, and laughing the whole time. While gathering clippings, the family would talk about articles we were finding or a pretty dress in a catalog. Sometimes we would name the collage people, and they’d stick around on the refrigerator for a while. Now that they’re older, they will collage landscapes, animals, they’ve even done a few self-portraits. It’s a blast.
Supplies: socks, markers, glue, and yarn…and anything else you find lying around!
Homemade hand puppets will skyrocket you into a full day of creative fun. Once the puppets are done, most kids will want to create a puppet show for their new characters. And they are the simplest thing in the world to make.
Take a sock and fold the toe side down toward you about three inches. You can put your hand in the sock and bend your fingers down to see exactly where the fold should go. The top fold is where the facial features should be drawn. Eyes, noses, the top lip, mustaches, or rosy cheeks would all be drawn here, in marker. The sock under the fold is the body of your puppet, and the inside of the fold is the puppet’s mouth (some kids will want to draw a tongue or teeth here. It will only be visible when the puppet is “talking”). The yarn can be glued on the head for hair.
You can get as creative as you want. If you have googly eyes or buttons for eyes, these can animate the puppets even more, glue them right on the sock. Scraps of fabric or felt can be cut in shapes for hats, clothing and other accessories to give your puppet personality.
These three craft basics are just to get you started. I’ve found these three in particular to be a great starting point for hours of family fun. Forget about the rules — this isn’t paint by number. Enjoy the freedom of letting silliness and fun take the wheel, and let the good times roll.