Crafting is a fantastic hobby for kids. It's educational and fun, engaging both their head and their hands. It becomes even more enjoyable when they have a craft station of their very own, chockful of intriguing materials and complete with a comfortable work surface. You can set one up and stock it with "goodies" without investing a great deal of money or effort. Here's how.
Where to Put the Craft Station
Depending on their age and personality type, young children tend to want to be near you (except for those times when they prefer to hide in their room and get up to who knows what mischief), preferably engaged in an activity similar to what you're busy with. Call it a form of parallel play, if you like. Accommodate them by providing a dedicated crafts "workspace" close to you. In the kitchen, if you are squeezed for space, it could be a fold-down shelf, while in a home office or a full-fledged crafts room, you might set up a table or desk or even add built-in carpentry to convert a closet into kids' crafting territory. The advantage of this last idea is that it will accommodate a nice collection of crafty materials … and also allow you to literally close the door on the mess if the area starts getting a little out of control.
How to Organize it
Organizing the chaos will not only keep you as the parent or caretaker happy, it'll also make the creative process more enjoyable, since young artists will be able to easily find the materials they need. A good life lesson for children of all ages is: "You use it, you tidy it up." A well-thought-out organizing system encourages this practice. Containers that separate crayons from glue sticks from skeins of yarn are essential. You could go out and buy them, but why not upcycle used household items like empty oatmeal cans or yogurt cups? Be sure to identify each one with a label, using pictures for the pre-school set. A rolling crafts cart can corral all your containers. Just wheel it out of the way when the fun is over for the day.
What to Include
The sky is the limit when it comes to crafting materials. What you include really depends on your child's age and interests. Don't worry if you don't have much of a budget for this project. Plenty of recycled and repurposed items can be transformed into crafts supplies. Think brightly colored magazines or advertising flyers, fabric scraps, and the perennial favorite, toilet paper rolls, for example. Here are more ideas, some purchased, some free, just to get you started:
- Bubble wrap
- Child-safe scissors
- Foam supermarket trays
- Greeting cards from holidays past
- Old tin cans
- Oversized wiggle eyes
- Paper punch
- Plastic sewing needles with thread
- Ribbon and twine
- Rubber stamps and washable ink pads
- Tempera paint and paper (Use the reverse side of printouts or junk mail.)
- Wooden letters or numbers
Keep Your Kids Safe
Ensure that the craft station is a source of safe fun. Small beads, buttons, bells, marbles, and other objects less than 1.25 inches in diameter are choking hazards for children up to the age of 3 or 4. Stock larger versions only; if you're not sure, try passing it through an inexpensive device called a small objects choke tester. Stay away from latex balloons for youngsters under 8 years old as well. Mason jars and other glass containers are often recommended as craft supply organizers. I don't know about your kids but around mine, I'd consider those an accident waiting to happen. Wood, metal, or plastic would be a wiser choice. Remember that crafts goodies which are totally suitable for your older child still need to kept away from baby sister or brother.
Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.