Making crafts with kids is always a joyful experience, right? A stress-free, lovely exchange of ideas where kids happily share items and keep a perfectly clean space.
Oh wait, that's not what it looks like in your house when your kids do a craft project?
Nope, it's not mine either.
But wait–there's still hope. Crafting with kids can still be a worthwhile experience (for mom and kids). After four kids (and more-than-I'd-care-to-mention stressful kids craft experiences) here are 12 things I'm learning.
There have been times when I have questioned my sanity when I add in a craft project to that week's proposed homeschool activities. Part of me thinks, “Do you really want to do that to yourself, Alicia?”
But then something comes over me akin to my memories of childbirth: I forget about all the, um, labor involved, and I am lost in the loveliness of the craft itself. It's adorable! It will coincide perfectly with that week's lesson! And I know the kids will love it!
So… I bite my lip, add it to our list of activities and vow to have extra patience that day (hey girls, I'm just being real here).
But it took me many years to realize that a lack of patience wasn't my biggest issue. Here's what I've learned about making crafts with kids more stress free.
How to Make Crafts with Kids (with Less Stress)
1) It's not about the craft itself. Really.
What is my underlying goal in these crafting sessions? Is it really about working as hard as I can to re-create what I've deemed to be a “perfect crafting experience” for my kids? No. My happiest crafting moments with my kids have been when I've released them (and myself) into the simple joys of expression, of creativity and of doing something fun together.
2) It's not about you, either.
You see, I had to fully grasp that this wasn't “my” crafting time–it was theirs. And this is a difficult lesson for us make-everything-from-scratch, DIY-decorator, scrapbook-happy types. We want to take over and do it the “right” way. Or maybe we secretly want to do the craft ourselves (it looks super cute after all!) because we long for a bit of artistic expression too. Seriously if this is you, I say make your own version of the craft right beside your kids! I have made several of my own tissue-paper-window light catchers and Sculpey figurines simply because I needed the break and the chance to just be creative.
3) When it comes to making kids crafts, atmosphere trumps everything.
I do my human best to focus on the atmosphere and less on the kids craft itself. Five years from now, will the kids remember making every single one of these crafts? Probably not. And will I even keep all of these crafts that long (reality: some have hit the trash two days later)? Probably not. However, they will remember a loving, fun time spent with their mom and siblings? You bet. In fact, each day we're making a small imprint on our children's impression of how they will eventually view their childhood. This thought has been so strong on me lately. In those moments when I'm tempted to get angry and frustrated with how craft time is turning out, this thought reminds me the importance of stepping away, letting the little stuff go and just having a good time with my kids.
4) Welcome craft choice input.
Bad mom confession: I can't tell you how many times I've just told my kids about a craft project, “This is what we're making, and you need to do it.” This is a tricky one because we are still the parent here and an orchestra needs a conductor, if you know what I'm saying. However, let's be honest: Would we be happy if someone told us that we were going to sit down and do a project that we either 1) didn't like; 2) didn't have interest in; or 3) felt adequately skilled to complete? Oh, and that if we didn't do it (or argued about it) that we'd lose a privilege for the day? I'm learning to be better in this area. I'm learning to ask questions like, “Which of these projects sounds most interesting to you?” or “What ideas do you have?” True, in a family of four kids not everyone gets their first choice every time. However, overall, this simple strategy has resulted in much easier and happier crafting times.
5) Consider individual effort, not necessarily results.
Each of my kids are gifted differently in the area of crafts. I have one that is highly artistic and will diligently (and happily) be-labor a project until it's reached his version of “craft nirvana.” I have another child that isn't as confident in his skills (and has much less focused attention and patience) so he will hurry through a craft. I try to keep these truths in mind through the crafting process and as I view their final projects. Most kids want to please mom with their projects, so I try to find positive things to say about each project (relative to each child's ability and age) and am very careful about how I phrase any project “re-directing” that may need to happen.
6) Give your kids plenty of time to complete the craft.
I say it's better to do less kids crafts or to even skip a craft altogether if it means that you'll be rushed and under a time crunch to get it done. Rushed crafting equals stressed crafting. And speaking of time…
7) Consider having open, unstructured times for doing kids crafts.
We try to leave our Sundays fairly open and technology-free so that the kids can have loads of time to play outside, run around… or, if they're in the mood, get crafty! I have seasonally themed craft project Pinterest boards such as Fall and Christmas, along with a board called “Kids: Kids Projects and Activities” that is chock-full of simply fun, rainy-day-type craftiness. If they start getting the “itch” to craft, I let them peruse the boards for inspiration.
8) Give everyone lots of space (physically and mentally).
Kids. Need. Loads. Of. Space. When. They. Craft. And this seems especially true when kids craft with their siblings. Oh my goodness.. need I say more?
9) Kids crafts are messy. Be prepared.
This kind of goes without saying in the kids craft arena, but it's always a good reminder in order to keep the grouchies at bay (the grouchies for the mommies, I mean). Put down newspapers, don't let the kids wear their Sunday best… you get the picture.
10) Make peace with the messes (and the imperfections).
Be realistic and accept that even under the ideal circumstances and preparations, the messes (and the stresses) will still come. I had to let go of the fact that, no matter how much I prepped, someone would drop some paint or otherwise spill something; the kids would probably bug each other during the crafting session; and that yes, these things were par for the course.
11) Lower your expectations.
I needed to release my vision of what the finished craft “should” look like. I had to realize that some of the kids crafts wouldn't get completed; and that maybe only one of the crafts would (sort of) look like the one from the perfectly lighted Pinterest shot; and that, yes, this too was a normal part of the process.
12) Come with an open mind, and a willingness to let kids create!
Have FUN and let things flow! This can be a wildly playful adventure in experimentation and creativity … or time-crunched, messy burden that's full of annoyances. We set the tone! We have the power to nurture either attitude!
What have you learned to let go of (and to embrace) when making crafts with your kids? Share with us your stories and insights.