Is craft time one of your least favorite parts of parenthood? Maybe you don’t enjoy the crafts themselves, or simply can’t stand the mess that gets left behind? Either way, here are some ways to make craft time with your kids less stressful!
You probably know that craft time is beneficial for your child beyond just decorating your fridge. And yet it can be so hard to make time for it, especially when it causes so much stress! It can go from coloring sweetly to crayon rubbed into the living room rug pretty quickly if we aren’t careful.
There is good news, though! Craft time doesn’t have to be that stressful. Our family has found a system that works for us to minimize clutter, mess, and most importantly- stress.
1. Keep Materials in Containers
The first line of defense is to have a good plan for organizing all those craft supplies! What has worked for us is separate containers for each type of material, with labels. Markers, pens, colored pencils, crayons- everything in its own container.
Some good ideas for this are mason jars or baskets. Small plastic boxes work great if you are just looking to store and not leave them somewhere visible. Containers with lids put out of sight and reach can be especially helpful. This is where you’d keep supplies you don’t want the kids getting into willy nilly, such as the paints or glue sticks.
The important thing in my opinion is to have things not just put away, but separated in a way that makes sense. If all the markers, colored pencils, pens, and crayons get put into one large bin then it can be chaotic. When the organization system itself looks more organized, I find it easier to follow through with.
2. Only take out what will be used for the craft at hand
Once you have completed tip #1, this one is so much easier. Whatever materials needed for a particular craft should be all that’s out at any given time to reduce the mess. Before we start an activity I always like to clear the table of anything that may have been thrown on there throughout the day.
Beyond having your materials sorted to take out, I suggest only taking out the *amounts* needed for a specific project as well. For example, I would not put an entire stack or handful of construction papers out on the table for the kids to grab freely. When it has happened, papers get thrown on the floor, ripped up, one little squiggly on this piece before moving on to the next paper- you get the point.
What works better is to take out the amount you expect them to use. You can always grab more if needed! So I might only put one page of stickers out, or a handful of markers, or have them choose a couple colors of construction paper to use. When given an abundance of choices, kids will often resort to chaos. I mean… that’s not just my kids right?
3. Have a specific area for crafts
This one is one of the most important ways to make craft time with your kids less stressful. There should be specific areas where your kids can do their crafts freely. It’s probably not reasonable for most of us to have an area where this is its only purpose, so a great alternative is to just have a tablecloth to protect the area when needed. This is what we do!
Our dining room has turned into a full on homeschool/activity room since we don’t eat in it regularly, but that doesn’t mean I want my dining room table ruined. So whenever we take out something messier, I have a vinyl tablecloth that gets laid out.
In fact, I plan on getting a clear plastic one like this soon. That one will be left on most of the time since even markers and colored pencils can leave a mark if you have budding artists who are determined to make a mess! This is probably the easiest way you can make crafting inside less stressful.
4. Take it outside when possible
This time of year it isn’t really an option for us in the Northeast US. But in the nicer months this is my kids’ favorite way to make craft time less stressful! Especially when it comes to paint or anything else particularly messy, we just love taking the activities out onto the grass.
It’s really a win-win-win: less mess to worry about, kids need to get outside everyday anyway, and nature usually inspires their crafting! This is why so many of our crafts involve nature of some sort, because that’s what is around us while working on them. For extra protection for either your outdoor surfaces or the craft itself, lay out that same crafting tablecloth from inside or set down some cardboard.
5. Just say no to glitter
I am half kidding, but also very serious haha! If you are feeling extra creative and laid back one day, then by all means I’m sure your kids will love to use glitter. But for us mamas who are trying to MINIMIZE stress, I’d just keep it and anything similar stored away for now.
There are great alternatives that aren’t quite as messy such as glitter glue or paint. We go through phases of using glitter glue a lot and my kids are just as happy with the end result from that as they would be with glitter. Not to mention it’s easier to keep those crafts since the glue holds it in and you don’t have glitter falling off everywhere.
However, if a craft absolutely demands you use glitter, I suggest going back to tip #4 and taking the whole activity outside!
6. Keep your child’s skill level in mind
I have a bad habit of getting too excited for my kids’ advancement that I start them with things too early. Let me just say, there’s really no reason for a toddler to use oil pastels when they are just as happy to use crayons which do NOT leave residue all over their hands. (That in turn gets all over… everything!) Don’t ask me how I know this.
In all seriousness, there are so many types of crafts out there that we really do have to keep in mind the level our children are currently at. Not only will it make crafts more fun and age-appropriate for them, but it will create less stress for you as well. Items that are being used properly should not be causing much chaos.
7. Have realistic expectations for the outcome
This tip is less about the mess and more about the expectations we put on our kids, and ourselves. It’s tempting to see those beautiful crafts on Pinterest and think ours should be turning out the same. That can lead to frustration when we see how very different it looks when our children actually DO the craft.
The reason for that is simple. Those picture perfect crafts were most likely done by adults! When you see a craft online, it is done with the intention of showing what steps to follow and that needs to have a degree of neatness to be understood. But doing the crafts in real life will probably look very different than most online.
Even if those footprint angels don’t look very angelic, grandma will still love them. The real treat is looking at how their crafts develop over the years and they improve at their own pace. And that means way more than making today’s craft look like the online tutorial!
8. Set up craft kits ahead of time
If you’re trying to plan ahead for a time where they may need to work more independently for an extended period of time, such as a new baby arrival, craft kits are so helpful! I promise the time and effort spent on putting them together now will be worth it later. This is really a fun idea for activities in general, but for now we’ll focus on the craft ones.
Making a craft kit can be as simple as throwing some items into a ziploc bag. Search around online for some craft plans, or come up with ideas of your own. Then put the items needed for that craft and put them together for later! Here are some quick examples of craft kits you can make:
~Butterfly: Include a template for your kiddo to trace and cut out on a piece of construction paper, or just cut out the butterfly yourself if they aren’t using scissors yet. Then throw in a glue stick, gems, stickers, and pipe cleaners for them to decorate it with!
~Suncatcher: Cut out some fun shapes in clear contact paper. Add in a roll of tape and tissue paper. They can tape the non-sticky side to a window and then take the protective film off. Let them rip up the tissue paper and stick it all over the contact paper. Young kids especially will LOVE this one, and it’s super easy!
~ Octopus or Jellyfish: grab a paper plate and either leave it whole or cut in half. Punch a few holes along the bottom half. Throw in some markers/crayons and pipe cleaners. Check out how this one turned out when we made it, it would be so easy to use a craft kit for!
Minimizing Stress for Craft Time
Truth be told, these tips won’t entirely eliminate the mess that can happen during craft time. BUT they can help to minimize not only the mess, but the stress that comes along with it.
Giving our kids time to explore different mediums and textures is so worth it, even if it causes a bit of a headache. It helps them physically, mentally, and educationally! I hope these tips help you to make craft time less stressful with your kids!