Last week, I received this very sweet email:
“Thank you so much for the wonderful comments. I’m totally inspired by your fabulous toddler crafts. Can you help me get my three year old interested in crafts. Do you have any tips?”
It’s taken me a week to put my thoughts and ideas together, but I came up with 5 tips and decided it would be fun to dedicate a whole post to talk about them.
1. Don’t be afraid of messes. Make sure to make preparations for messes so that you and your children are able to relax and enjoy the experience more. When I first started doing crafts with my kids I was extremely paranoid about the messes. We all like a clean house so the idea of paint all over the place and on children’s clothing can really make you squirm. After a couple episodes of paint on clothing (even when using an apron), I decided to let my kids each have a craft shirt that they used every time we did a messy project. I felt like that in itself made the experience better because not only was I no longer paranoid about paint, but my kids were able to relax more and have a good time because they weren’t worried about me being stressed about getting paint on clothing.
I also used to cover my entire table with newspaper before doing a craft but then I discovered these wonderful place mats at Family Dollar. You can simply wash off the mess when you are done in the sink and reuse them over and over. Plus, if any paint does happen to get on the table I have my handy Magic Eraser’s on hand. Seriously, splurge on those things. They work miracles!
2. Start out with no end result in mind. In my opinion, the best way to start getting children interested in crafts is to let them explore painting without having a specific end result in mind. Start by just simply getting out the water colors or paint with the brushes and let them paint all over a piece of paper however they choose. This not only helps them get familiar with the colors, but also teaches them how to properly use the brush and water cup. Once they feel confident in their abilities to paint and switch colors properly, they will be more excited about painting a specific thing.
Here are some of my oldest son’s projects just after he turned 3.
Once he understood how to control the paint brush and how to use the water cup to switch colors, we were able to expand our projects. This is one of the first projects we did that had an end result in mind. My son was excited to be able to choose which colors he wanted to paint to make his caterpillar his very own style.
3. Choose projects that interest your child. Both my boys have gone through phases where they completely immerse their lives into certain subjects. My oldest loved trains! When he first started talking at 2 yrs old, he seriously had a British accent because his favorite thing to do was watch “Thomas the Train” and play with all his trains. His love for trains pretty much consumed his entire day so I had to learn how to incorporate trains into our crafts so that he would be excited about them.
I found this little wooden train at Robert’s that my son painted himself, and then his Daddy helped him put glue in the right places and put it together.
He carried that little train around for months and we still have it some where around here. If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t have been so keen on painting it exactly as the directions stated. I would have got out more colors and let him choose however he wanted to paint it.
We’ve painted these little wooden sculptures (you can find at Wal-Mart for cheap) several times. I always let them choose which one we buy so they are more excited about painting it. This is my son when he was only 2 yrs old painting his red airplane.
We had a phase where my kids loved fish and sharks so we made these cute pop open shark cards. I drew the outline of the shark and the boys colored them.
If you notice now, dinosaurs seem to pop up in our crafts all the time. Dinosaurs are my son’s thing right now so I just have to go with it and work around his interests.
4. Use different materials to keep crafting exciting. It’s important to mix it up with toddlers so they don’t get bored of doing the same old thing. Now that my kids are older they actually like getting out the paint all the time, but they didn’t feel this way when they were 2 and 3 yrs old.
I found cute foam ocean life stickers at Wal-Mart and we created our own ocean scene.
We made 4th of July Trees by putting square tissue paper pieces on the end of a pencil eraser and gluing it down.
I cut out different shapes out of pieces of construction paper and the kids enjoyed creating their own robots. After gluing on the shapes, they were able to use glitter glue, little heart sequins, and buttons to add some flare.
We also used to like to go on nature walks and collect things we found to make collages.
Now that my boys are over 4yrs, I still try to find different ways of painting to keep it interesting. Like last week we used a spray bottle to help us paint a Universe scene.
And instead of always using a paint brush, we try different things like using a fork.
5. Incorporate stories, food and activities into crafts. This is currently how I get my kids interested in crafts. I do research before going to the library and pick out stories based on themes to go along with crafts. Looking at Blogs is obviously a great resource for finding books to use.
We also love making snacks to go along with stories, like our Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Tree and Bagel Piggy.
Whenever possible, we also try to have outings that coincide with themes and crafts I have planned.
Earlier when I pictured that train that my son painted, that next weekend we visited a local train museum.
I always try to plan animal crafts around visits to the zoo, and a couple weeks ago we visited the Aquarium and since then we’ve been reading ocean themed books and I have some crafts planned that I’ll be posting soon.
Most importantly, every child is so different and unique. Some things my oldest son enjoyed doing, my younger son didn’t and vis-versa. Sometimes it’s hit and miss and that’s ok! Eventually after trying several things, you are bound to find something crafty that your child enjoys doing. The most important thing is that you are involved with your child. They won’t remember the specific crafts you did anyways when they are grown up. They will remember that you were there and that you spent quality time with them.
Thanks so much for the question! I hope this post helped create some inspiration.