Monday, April 5, 2010

Artsy Craftsy

Buried in the depths of my bookmark manager are the makings of a huge reference database of crafts and art projects for children that don't suck, so I'm going to share a bunch of those today. Y'all know what I'm talking about with the kids craft suckage - type in "crafts with kids" or "kids art projects" and in the google search bar and you're presented with a multitude of neon flashing, googly eyed, haven't been updated since the first Dubya administration monstrosities. So what's a caregiver to do? Well admittedly most of our "crafts" are thought up by yours truly, I seem to have always had a knack for the arts and the crafts (at least up to a sixth grade level) and am wise to the fact that most of the time if you present a kid with really good art materials (the basics which I'll list below plus some decent "grown up" supplies) and just let them go to town the outcome will be more enjoyable for everyone. 
So here are the basics that we always have on hand: 

  1. Good paint (acrylic craft paint, about $1.00 - $5.00 at Michael's). The kids paint dries out so quickly and doesn't have the good "slip" that the grown up stuff does. Spend a little extra and invest - you'll save money in the long run! A good watercolor set is also a childhood staple. 
  2. Loads of construction and good art paper in all sizes and textures. This includes recycled paper. We regularly dig into our bin for collages and other projects. Tissue paper from birthday presents is useful, too (as in the project I'll list below). 
  3. Real paint brushes. These don't have to be expensive. Michael's sells sets of brushes starting at $10.00. They work so much better than the weird plastic ones that come with watercolors. Kids don't get frustrated by lack of ease of motion. 
  4. Glitter. So much glitter. 
  5. Elmer's Glue, pipe cleaners, yarn, googly eyes, buttons, wood beads, pom-poms. Just a collection of random. We put these into glass pasta sauce jars on our craft shelf so that we can see what's inside easily. We hoard everything and use it all. Milk bottle caps, used but clean foil, cardboard oatmeal canisters, craft sticks are also terribly fun to have around. 
  6. Aleene's craft glue and a hot glue gun. When Elmer's just won't cut it. 
  7. Mod Podge (for sealing and creating decoupaged collages)
  8. Flour, salt, water, oil, cream of tartar - for making homemade playdough.  I've seen that folks are selling this stuff on etsy now, scented with essential oil. Erm, do it yourself! Half the fun for kids is in the making of it!
  9. One of those big art kits marketed towards beginning artists and younger artists. We scored a HUGE unused one at a garage sale with pastels (also a MUST - kids love the smooth work they create with these) in a beautiful wooden case. They also have a good selection of art markers and colored pencils. 
  10. Crayola air-drying clay. This along with a bunch of cookie cutters, safe age appropriate knives, forks, and other found tools provide at least an hour of creative entertainment. 
  11. Clothespins. We use them for crafts, for securing forts, for displaying art projects, for aiding in yarn traps (yes, they're just what they sound like), for keeping the bread bag closed, for hanging clothes...We totally heart clothespins around here. Gary uses them in his line of work for securing wires and gels to lights (there's some sort of fancy film/video term for them too - bullets I think they call them. Film people are a strange lot). 
As for when I am sapped out of ideas, I usually turn to some of the beautiful blogs that I read anyway. These are traditionally coined (but not all) by other mothers of young children, and you kind of have to admit we're a force to be reckoned with in the idea department. Here are a few of my favorite projects we've done and websites we use.  

Ann Wood's 100 Horses Project:  This is a highly celebrated, simple project that creates objects of great beauty. We did just one each but managed to create little pieces of art that we'll keep probably forever. Here's a photo from her project:

Kaboose: This is a fantastic resource for educators and caregivers. We always find great crafts and activities to match whatever we're thinking of or working on (or season we're in). I used this A LOT in the children's room. I think we're going to attempt this for an Earth Day related craft. We do a lot of "nature crafts" with things we've found on walks. Hot glue guns are essential for making little tiny houses and people out of sticks, bark, leaves, mountain goat fur...

Wisecraft: This beautiful little site offers pretty things every day, and a lot of it is kid-focused (and some just inspirational to spark your own ideas). I think we're going to try this doozy next. Xander loves rocks (don't all kids - don't all adults?).
Dscn8849Hot Rocks - Wisecraft

Natural Family Crafts: I've recently found this little site and there are some sweet, "Waldorfy" ideas on here. We do a nature table and stuff though we're not strictly "Waldorf" . Adhering to any set of rules or lack of any rules whatsoever bores us, so we usually use a hodgepodge of inspiration and create our own theories and dogmas. But anyway! We'll be trying this project out (a variation) this week with leftover tissue paper. 
From Natural Family Crafts

Here are a few I go to for a quick inspirational project fix: 

Now go crazy, dump a bunch of art supplies on the floor, and go to it!

"Every child is an artist, the problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up." - Picasso

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