Is your crafting cupboard or drawer bursting with broken bits of crayons, uncapped, dried out markers, crumpled paper and bits of yarn all randomly stuck together with leaked glue from the left-open bottle? Does the sight of glitter and the memory of trying to clean it up bring tears to your eyes? Are you stifling frustration every time your child asks to paint? How is it that some people seem to be able to make craft time with their children an idyllic pause in their day, but some of us struggle to balance our children’s creative explorations with liking to use the dining table for meals? Here are a few ideas that might help you find a comfortable compromise for you and your budding artists.
Set a Time
It is okay to specify particular times for certain activities. When you and your child know that there will be a whole hour to devote to painting after lunch on Thursdays, it makes the time special. It also means you need to be ready for whatever that craft entails, and you can work on having a glad heart.
Try doing whatever the craft is with your child. Painting, especially wet-on-wet watercolor, is amazingly relaxing. Even spilled paint seems less disastrous when you have allowed yourself to be part of the activity and not just a servant to it. Rediscover the magic of crayons you knew in your own childhood; coloring takes on a new dimension when you share the experience with your child.
Try Something New
Give a new craft a try. Seasonal crafts, like window stars, leaf rubbings, or Ukrainian egg dyeing add the element of tradition to craft time. Creating figures or models out of modeling beeswax, paper folding and origami, or candle dipping can be more challenging, but even younger children will enjoy the results of their efforts. Focus on fun; don’t prioritize perfection!
Store Selected Pieces
Making a portfolio out of cardboard or poster board as part of a birthday tradition each year to set aside the year’s artwork is a nice time to see how their art has changed through the year. It also gives you a chance to sort treasure from chaff.
Teach Tidying Skills
Include cleaning in the time you set aside for the activity. At different ages, children will be more and less able to help with clean up, but if you make it an imperative, they will see that the privilege of crafting includes the responsibility of tidying. Included in tidying is the care of crafting supplies.
Be clear in your own mind what care must be given. Maybe you do not mind a jumble of crayons, pencils, or brushes, but cannot stand the lid being left off the glue. Whatever “tidy” means to you, take the time to teach your child. They may not remember the exact message for years, but the fact that you care will be clear.
Be Flexible and Listen to Yourself
Feel free to eliminate crafts you can’t tolerate. There are so many options to explore that there is no reason to have supplies that make more of a mess than you can stand. For example, we did not have markers in the house until the children were in middle school partly because I did not like their temptation to mark on furniture and skin.
This Too Shall Pass
Finally, know that at some point, kids seem to go through especially messy crafting phases. Finding ways to let them explore little tiny bits of paper or yarn while still keeping your sanity will benefit everyone.