Preparing Art Projects for Children – Is It Worth It?

by Josée

A quiet day at home was just what we needed. My eldest has been begging me to do some Valentine’s day crafts so we sat down and looked at some ideas. This was a bit of mistake because the crafts he initially chose we didn’t have the supplies for. Eventually, we did find a couple projects to fill our day: a fingerprint heart tree and some play dough.

I don’t often plan crafts for my children unless there is a special occasion or project; however, they do make plenty of crafts. We have a cabinet in our dining area stocked with crayons, scissors, glue, paint and other crafting materials. Naturally our dining table is overtaken with scraps of paper and crayons so we’ve relegated to eating meals in the breakfast nook unless we have guests over. Having a crafting space is probably the main reason my children spend so much time crafting.

But I have a confession, sometimes I feel bad that I don’t organize projects for them more often. In my own childhood, my parents encouraged and appreciated art. We had supplies and space to work, but I cannot remember many times that my parents prepared a craft specifically for us to do. Perhaps this is why I don’t see the sense in having structured crafts times with specific projects very often. In fact, nothing irks me more that an ill-conceived craft that require an adult to do most of the work. That being said, I place great value in mentoring children when it comes to learning new art and craft skills. Lately I have been putting in a little more effort in gathering ideas and materials for projects that I can share with them. I try to choose projects that reflect crafting philosophy and that are engaging. Slowly, I have been accumulating ideas on my Pinterest boards Natural Art and Crafts and Recycle and Reuse Art and Crafts. I also have a couple books that inspire me: Eco-Friendly Crafting for Kids and Made By Hand. Both books are full of beautiful ideas that can be a springboard for trying new techniques and projects.

So, do I think it is worth preparing art and craft projects for children? It depends. I think that children need to have the space to create and explore independently and I also believe that they should be mentored in learning new skills. It’s about finding the right balance and I suppose every child’s needs will be different. What are your thoughts?

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Elisa Armstrong February 5, 2014 - 10:02 pm

I also don't usually prepare crafts. I am cheap. I wouldn't go out and buy things specifically for a craft that may end up in the trash in a few weeks. We do have plenty of construction paper, scissors, markers, crayons, pencils, tape, glue sticks, and drawing books that are in our "drawing room". The kids are in there all the time and all sorts of learning happens on its own. Next week we will make Valentine's Day cards for fun. But that is hardly a craft. Just some paper cutting. I think maybe when/if they get older? I like making things myself and if they want to help me, I let them. That's what we do! Sometimes at Christmas, we also do extra stuff, like making ornaments. It has to be usual for me to make it worth the cost of supplies usually – something you can save and use, or give as a gift.

Chelsea Rae February 5, 2014 - 10:24 pm

I just purchased 'The Artful Parent.' After borrowing it from the library for the 8th time I decided I better just buy it, it's awesome!!! It has a lot of great ideas that don't take a ton of special supplies.

We don't do a whole lot of structured projects, but I have a basket full of art idea books sitting on our art desk that get looked through often. I also try to provide a variety of supplies and add new things to inspire them. I find having a designated art space make me relax more when they are making messes.

Jeremie February 6, 2014 - 3:39 am

Very nice pictures. I like how Theo's still wearing the mask 😉

Things are going well out East, got 1+ foot of snow today, which made for a nice walk!

Julie February 6, 2014 - 5:58 am

As a trained Early Childhood Educator, I can tell you that the first thing we learn in college is that children's art should be self-directed, not adult directed. You should not compliment on the quality of the art, but rather on the process (ie; I see you painted a purple cat and a big green house). Ask questions about the process and what inclined the child to create. Approaching art with this kind of view will allow you as a parent to "relax" and enjoy art with children instead of stressing over the end result. This said, our art room sounds like yours; a big box of random papers, paint brushes, crayons, etc the children can freely use! Happy art time!

Josée February 6, 2014 - 11:11 pm

I will admit that I don't like spending money of stuff that going to get throw out right away either.

Josée February 6, 2014 - 11:14 pm

I've heard of that book a couple times. I put it on hold from my library. Thanks for the suggestion SIL 🙂

Josée February 6, 2014 - 11:14 pm

Thanks Hubby 🙂 We'll see you soon!

Josée February 6, 2014 - 11:18 pm

Julie, I didn't realize you were an early childhood educator – cool! Yes, I'd say self-directed crafts is basically what goes on around here. It's pretty amazing what children can create when left one their own.

Cindy February 6, 2014 - 11:30 pm

I like to direct sometimes. I find my own children very proud of their own creations, but equally proud of a directed artwork where they have learned a new skill and like the result as well. When I direct, I often pair it with a self-directed project so they don't get frustrated. It is also a good way to deal with the "waiting" involved with a taught artwork. We tried the valentines day hand trees yesterday with lots of success. Thanks for posting those pictures!


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