Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Easy Crafts For Toddlers - Not Necessarily Pinterest-worthy!

Making pomanders.  Poking holes first with a metal olive pick.

Recently, Pax wrote about her frustrations while doing crafts with her toddler.  I have also found toddler crafts to be potentially frustrating.  Pretty much anything that turns out a nice-looking finished product is usually done about 90% by me, and is too often made just for the sake of a cute gift (for an adult relative), or to hang on the fridge (for my own benefit?).  Sly - age 3 -  does enjoy when our crafts turn out looking like something "real", but he's usually just as happy to have the opportunity to use the materials in a "scribbling" fashion - just playing around with art supplies for fun.

I look around for craft ideas online sometimes, and I feel like a lot of them are inspired by the Pinterest-mentality: really cute or beautiful results, but not something that's practical for a quick and easy craft-session with little kids [especially when there are younger and very-grabby siblings to deal with!].  And I don't like crafts that I end up doing all by myself. In my opinion, Sly needs to be able to help with at least some of the major steps.  If he can't, I'm just going to save that one until he's a bit older.

This was cute, but Sly wasn't able to do much of it himself (from Usborne's book: 50 Rainy Day Activities)

Also cute, but the only part Sly did was begrudgingly allow me the use of his hand

I thought I'd share some of the easy things we've done together.  Most days that Sly asks to "do a craft", I set him up at the kitchen table with a few supplies that he can play around with sans constant supervision.  If I'm feeling up to it - or Sly is really begging for it - we'll occasionally do something a bit more involved. 

Everything on the first two lists is mostly just a way for kids to practice using various art and craft materials.  Most of the results of these efforts end up being disassembled or thrown into the trash a day or two after they are done.  The third list is for those more lasting crafts that a parent might actually use as longer-term decorations or even gifts.  These are the sort I do with Sly only when I'm feeling up to it!

All ideas listed below are ones I have used myself.

"Crafts" that Require Very Little Oversight [really just practice with materials]

- Sticking stickers on paper
- Coloring with crayons or colored pencils
- Punching holes into paper with a hole punch
- "Painting" with water on a surface
- Stringing beads on string (pony beads or large wooden ones) or using pop beads
- Tracing with stencils
- Cutting practice with dull "kid" scissors
- Using chalk on a chalkboard/sidewalk or dry erase markers on an appropriate surface

"Crafts" that Could Get Messy or Require Minor Assistance [really just practice with materials]

- Painting with watercolors or washable paints
- Using markers
- Using rubber stamps and ink
- Clay or Play-doh [Sly recently broke the cardinal rule of "NOT ON THE CARPET!", so these things are banned for the time being]

Growing skills: clay cats at age 2

Play-doh fish at age 2.5

EASY Toddler Crafts that Actually Produce a Finished Product [require some parental assistance]

- Halloween: Kleenex ghosts - Ball up one tissue as the head.  Drape another tissue on top.  Tie a string around to create a neck.  Draw on eyes and mouth with marker.  Hang from ceiling.
- Thanksgiving: Hand turkeys - Trace your hands on paper.  Draw or glue on turkey features to turn the thumb into a face and the fingers into tail feathers.  These can be decorated an infinite number of ways (color with crayons, glue on beads or sequins, glitter, etc.)

The big one was my "example" turkey.  Sly's is the little one.  From last year.

- Advent/Christmas: Pomanders (see photo at top of entry) - Take an orange or clementine.  Stick cloves into the skin (it helps if parents poke some pilot holes with a toothpick or skewer first) then coat with cinnamon or nutmeg.  Hang up in the house for a nice spicy scent.
-Easter: Hatching chick - Cut out a large "egg" using a 9x11 sheet of paper.  Allow child to decorate it.  Cut across the middle of the egg in a zig-zag pattern.  Glue bottom of egg onto another sheet of construction paper, and use a brad to add the top of the egg above.  It will now be able to swing open and "crack".  Draw or paste on the top half of a chick inside the egg, which will "hatch" out when the child swings open the top.
- Kleenex flowers - Layer a few open kleenex on top of each other.  Accordian-fold, starting at one side.  Once you have one long rectangle, bend in half, and tape around the folded base.  Carefully pull apart layers of tissue, and fluff into petal shape.
- Straw necklace - Cut drinking straws into approximately 1-inch sections, and let kids string them.
- Bean or macaroni art - glue dried beans or pasta to paper to make a picture.
- Cotton ball sheep - Draw or print out a picture of a sheep.  Let child use glue and cotton balls to add some wool.  Googly eyes are a nice touch.
- Paper bag puppets - Use lunch-size bag.  Decorate with a face on the "bottom" of bag, and make a mouth underneath the flap so you can make it talk.

Also, I've found that it's easy to get supplies for little or no money.  Almost everything in our craft cabinet came from my own childhood (an advantage to being the first one to have kids in the family!), a thrift store, the dollar store, or the clearance bin at Michael's.  I also hang onto promising-looking craft items that I come across: pretty pinecones or rocks for painting, feathers, toilet paper rolls, ribbons or tissue paper from gifts, etc.

Feel free to share some of your own crafty ideas for toddlers!


  1. Good ideas! One we have been doing it's stringing Cheerios on yam to eventually take outside and hang in the trees for bird feeders.

    1. Nice idea! I think you can also string popcorn, if you have a needle....maybe a thought for the future.

  2. I feel exactly the way about crafts. It's hard for me but I want to do more of them so thanks for the tips.

    We do lots of leaf rubbings. I'm not the most creative mama out there but the kids love them so that's what matters. And I love it when we go on walks and the kids bring me things to take home for their pictures. I really think that art 'class' has helped them look more closely at the world around us.

    1. ooh - I haven't thought about leaf rubbings since I was in preschool! Thanks for the reminder!

  3. I am actually doing a kids craft blog entry about once a month over at http://plumcrazylife.wordpress.com/ And you are spot on about it needing a lot of adult help :(