10 Easy and Functional Crafts Preschoolers Can Do with Minimal Assistance

August 9th, 2011 by Dionna | 21 Comments
Posted in Carnival and Special Series, Carnival of Natural Parenting, Children, Eclectic Learning, Homey Goodness, Just for Fun/Miscellaneous, Preschoolers

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Welcome to the August Carnival of Natural Parenting: Creating With Kids

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how they make messes and masterpieces with children. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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When I need to get work done during the day and Kieran is having a hard time playing alone, I can usually engage him in a craft next to me. He likes to work alongside me – it’s still connection, even though we’re not engaging in a high level of interaction.

Craft activities for preschoolers often require quite a bit of parental involvement, so we’ve figured out some fun ones that he can do with little help. Following are ten easy and relatively inexpensive craft ideas that your preschooler can engage in with little assistance. Added bonus: all of these ten ideas double as something functional – whether it’s an educational component that your child can revisit later, decor for your home (can’t all craft projects be turned into home decor?!), or gifts for a friend or family member.

1. Cut and Paste

There is something about scissors and glue that can hold many a child’s attention for long, concentrated periods of time. In this activity for preschoolers who are mastering their ABC’s and the concept of grouping, there is an added element of learning. Ask your preschooler to cut out pictures that belong to some theme – you can choose “things that start with the letter P,” “animals,” “things that go,” etc. I would try to have a few of these items cut out for your child already so they can have something to use as a guide. Once your child has a group of similar items cut out, they can paste them onto a piece of paper. You can write the group category on the paper and then save these collages to pull out and discuss later.

garden 2

Our garden decorated by Kieran's painted rocks

2. Painting Garden Rocks

If you can move your work outside (or if you have a good indoor space for painting that you don’t have to worry about), find some good sized rocks, give your little one some paint, and let them get artistic. We use tempera paint, because we just repeat the project after our paint washes off of the rocks. But if you’re going to use the colorful garden rocks as gifts, I’d use something more permanent.

3. Decorate Homemade Greeting Cards, Recipe Cards, and Stationary

Some people are fabulous about sending out thoughtful letters and cards – this one is for you. Set your child up with stamps and ink pads (or create your own stamps from fruits or veggies), crayons, stickers, and other fun items and have them decorate blank note cards, stationary, or greeting cards.

You can set these aside to send out anytime you want to make someone smile. For the chefs among us, you can also create a homemade recipe card set to gift people on birthdays or holidays. Or for those of us who are incredibly organized (like Kellie of Mindful Life), you can turn your newly decorated 3×5 cards into a chore filing system.

4. Dress-up Creations

What kid wouldn’t want to wear something s/he had created?! There are several relatively easy craft ideas your preschooler can do with minimal assistance.

String necklaces made of colorful macaroni (you can dye them yourself in advance with natural dyes!1), large wooden beads, cereal, or use a hole puncher on shapes/pictures that your child cuts out of construction paper or magazines.

If you’re feeling more adventurous, let your child paint old shirts, aprons, or other dress-up clothes (another outside project perhaps) for the dress-up box. You could also cut a rudimentary cape out of an old sheet or spare fabric and let your little one paint that in his/her favorite superhero colors.

5. Create Your Own Wrapping Paper

This one is both a money saver and a fun way to personalize gifts – create your own wrapping paper using butcher or recycled paper decorated with paint, stickers, markers, or whatever other medium your child is in the mood for. We did this a couple of years ago using tempera paint – the results were beautiful, but be warned – the paint tends to fleck off when you wrap a package with the paper.

6. Decorate Your Walls with Art Displays

There are so many ways to brighten up your house using children’s artwork. I love this idea from Childhood 101 on creating an art space – what an inspirational place to make more art! In our house, we have a pretty art display board that Kieran proudly displays his creations on. You can also choose to find nice frames to hang your child’s artwork in – show it off around the house! Have a regular “art day” when your kids can sit next to you and create with whatever medium they choose – then rotate the artwork in and out of your regular display places.

7. Painting and Decorating for Gifts

There are so many simple items you can buy to decorate for gifts. The adults in your child’s life will enjoy watering cans, clay pots, wooden step stools, picture frames, or other items decorated by your little one. Because you’ll likely be using permanent paint to decorate with, this might be a good activity for an outside craft project (and you might want to have kids paint the clay pots in the yard so there is less of a chance that the pots will break).

8. Sticker Scenes

One of Kieran’s favorite easy crafts is to get out our box of stickers and put them all over paper. He can sit for quite awhile, calmly peeling off stickers and placing them in whatever order he thinks makes sense. To make this more of a “learning” experience, challenge your preschooler to create a scene made of various stickers. Feel free to offer some direction at first by showing them how they can put several stickers together, then telling a story about them. Once they’ve arranged their stickers on the page, have them narrate a story about their creation. No matter what the story, celebrate their creativity!

Homemade Playdough

9. Playing Kitchen

For little ones who are eager to help you in the kitchen, turn the kitchen into their own personal creation space. Set your child up with playdough (you can make your own!) and real kitchen utensils: rolling pin, butter knife and cutting board, slotted spoon, egg separator, ice cream scoop, plate, bowl, measuring cups and spoons – anything remotely interesting that you use in the kitchen, pull it out. It can all be washed! You can even create “recipes” for your child to follow – feel free to use numbers and pictures instead of words to help your preschooler make sense of the recipes.2 What a fun, no-pressure way for kids to learn about kitchen utensils and the process of baking from a recipe!

10. Decorate Picture Frames with Nature or Miscellaneous Crafty Objects

Buy some cheap picture frames at your local dollar store, make sure they have plenty of room on the frame (not the glass) to glue objects on. Let your little one decide what to decorate the frames with – you could go on a nature walk and pick up things outside (twigs, leaves, dried flowers, etc.), or you could get out all of those random craft items that you’ve been saving for a rainy day (think googly eyes, feathers, colorful pipe cleaners, etc.). Let your child go crazy with a bottle of glue (remove the glass from the frame first so that there are no accidents).

What are your go to craft projects when you need some time and space to get your own work done?

What are your favorite art projects that can double as “functional”?

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon August 9 with all the carnival links.)

  • Family Draw Time Art ShowKate Wicker shares art (and inspiration!) from her family’s cherished tradition of family draw time.
  • The Rules of Creativity: Learning to Create with the “Non-Creative” — Zoe at Give an Earthly shares how she learned to accept her “non-creative” child and claims that anyone, child or adult, can be creative given the right handling and environment.
  • Creating With Kids: 4 Ways That Work For Us — See how Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings nurtures creativity with her kids through craft projects, outdoor creative play, celebrating the creative process, and setting up “little spaces of beauty.”
  • Creating memories, not things — Mrs. Green from Little Green Blog reflects on life with a ten year old and how ‘creating together’ has evolved from ‘things’ to memories.
  • The Gift of Creation — It may be hot, but Kellie at Our Mindful Life is already thinking about winter.
  • Hidden Talents — Sylvia at MaMammalia describes how providing the opportunity for creativity sometimes means learning to look for hidden talents in unusual places.
  • Creating Joy — CatholicMommy at Working to be Worthy shares how she and her one year-old son create joy for their community.
  • How to do Crafts with Kids — Gaby from Tmuffin guest posts at Natural Parents Network and describes how to keep things simple when doing crafts with kids for magical (easy-to-clean, and tantrum-free) results.
  • Sugar & Spice & Baking on the Kitchen Floor — Carrie at Love Notes Mama enjoys making a mess in the kitchen with her daughter.
  • Young Scientist Makes Purple Potion — Hannah at Wild Parenting loves being a lab assistant for the young scientist in her life.
  • Making a butterfly house — Lauren at Hobo Mama demonstrates the proper way to build a wooden butterfly house with a preschooler.
  • Nurturing Creativity — Amyables at Toddler In Tow shares the enjoyment she feels in nurturing the creativity of her children.
  • Home School Music – Sparking A New Generation Of Musicians — Based on her musical background, Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey talks about how she creates with and teaches music to her children.
  • Creating (im)perfectly TogetherMudpiemama shares some of the highlights of a summer spent building everything from ships to hoops but most of a lesson on letting go of perfection.
  • Family Soccer Kick Around — When her children wanted to play soccer, Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children helped organize something that would work for her family.
  • Creating Memories Together on Skype — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells how you can create memories online with adult children or anyone who lives in another city or country.

  1. Here’s a post on dying eggs with natural dyes; this one is on dying rice; dying macaroni with natural dyes would use the same concepts, but here’s an article specifically on dying macaroni with food coloring.
  2. Here is a piece on non-reader recipes – obviously the recipes are for real food, but it can give you some ideas for playdough recipes.

21 Responses to:
"10 Easy and Functional Crafts Preschoolers Can Do with Minimal Assistance"

  1. Rebekah   liberatedfamily

    Am I correct to assume that tempera paints are non-toxic and safe?

  2. Lauren @ Hobo Mama   Hobo_Mama

    I am keeping this handy the next time I need some parallel activity time. I was on #3 and was thinking, “Or wrapping paper!” And then I got to #5. :) I need to find creative ways to display Mikko’s art — thanks for the great suggestions!

  3. Kate Wicker   KateWicker

    I never understood complicated crafts designed for little ones where Mom ends up doing all the work or going crazy because her children end up frustrated and crying. I’d much rather encourage simple crafts that my toddler and preschoolers can actually do with minimal assitance. This gives them more ownership and pride over their creations!

    Thank you for sharing these wonderful ideas.

    One simple craft my littles have loved as well is collecting artifacts from nature and then gluing them on cardstock paper to create natural scenes.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      What a great idea Kate – thank you!! And I agree – Kieran always has a much better experience when he can take ownership of his work.

  4. Amy   anktangle

    Thank you for these great ideas! I’m excited to try the child-decorated greeting card idea, as soon as Daniel is interested in using crayons and such.

  5. My 3 year old is not fond of playing alone, although when the new baby comes in about another month I’ll certainly need a few ideas up my sleeve. I’ll definitely be coming back to this post for the great ideas!

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Yours and mine both Shana ;) I’m slowly trying to build up his confidence in solo play so that he can feel more confident playing alone when our new baby gets here. It’s a process!

  6. Ana   pandamoly

    These are great ideas! I’m definitely going to file these away for when Niko is ready. I love the homemade wrapping paper and remember making it when I was a child.

  7. Kellie   MindfulLifeShop

    What a great post! And how honored am I to have a LINK! Yoinks! :D I feel a little giddy. :D

    Seriously, though, this is such a great idea. I rarely set the kids up with crafts when I’m not ready to be part of the process, simply because I don’t want to deal with the mess if I’m doing something else. I need to let go more and let them do more self-guided crafts. We do many crafts together, and the kids follow their own goals for about half of them with the other half being fairly guided. The kicker for me is that I pretty much refuse to do things that just collect and are not functional – so having such a great list of functional crafts is great for us! Thanks so much, Dionna!

  8. You are right up my alley! Just about anything and everything Heidi and Piper create, I try to turn into a gift somehow (I used to think it was just because I’m cheap…). I’ve done some of these things and look forward to doing more of them, especially the painted rocks (since Heidi and Piper just love throwing them around outside).

  9. Terri   onelovelivity

    Great ideas! We will be trying painting the rocks as soon as it stops raining here! My kids painted today and the little one ditched the paper and spent the whole time painting his legs! Maybe it will be a different technique if we try outside!

  10. OMG scissors – don’t even get me started! Marley can spend hours cutting up paper. Making confetti is her favorite activity LOL. But let’s just say we’ve lost several outfits and some bed clothes over the years =:-0.

    I also appreciate the ideas for displaying things. We’ve tried a number of different options over the years and they were all fine, but frankly I get a little bored with them so new ones (or reminders of waaay old ones) are quite helpful ;-).

    We also do a ton of box projects at our house. Since we buy so much in bulk from costco or coop there are always lots of boxes laying about to be cut and glued and drawn on and taped up. Hours of entertainment for children of all ages.

  11. Jessica @ Crunchy-Chewy Mama   crunchychewy

    Wow, your home is like a dream come true for a child! These are all such great ideas. Now that we’ve finally done some landscaping, maybe I will try the rock idea. And so many more! Thank you!

  12. Wood beads, “art day”, painting rocks, and stickers are among my favorite ideas. I think even Munchkin would find them fun. Thanks for sharing these!

  13. Mrs Green @ littlegreenblog.com   littlegreenblog

    What’s not to love about stickers – my 10 year old still adores them. Making nature displays with treasures found on walks is another favourite and modelling with clay is great and can produce some quirky presents to give friends and relatives. Thanks for all the lovely inspiration!

  14. Jenn @ Monkey Butt Junction   MBJunction

    Wow, I do love your blog format. It really is fantastic.

    This is a great list. At 19 months old, my son isn’t quite ready for some of these, but I bet he’s more capable than I think, so we’re going to try them anyway. Wonderful list, definitely bookmarking this.

  15. Zoie @ TouchstoneZ   TouchstoneZ

    These are great ideas. My kids love painting rocks. Often we let them dry, then they throw them in the kiddie pool. They can do this for a long, long time. I only keep half an eye on them for safety, of course, but this gives me a break to write or amazingly do something until it’s complete.

    I’m notorious for reusing “trash” and “recyclables.” I toss them in a bin, include scissors, markers, glue, pipecleaners etc and just let them create.

  16. I like the rock idea… my 3 year old LOVES rocks and would probably do this for hours.

  17. Isil   smilinglikesuns

    Great ideas Dionna! My daughter also loves painting rocks, and plays with them for hours on end!

  18. Deb @ Living Montessori Now   DebChitwood

    I love the painted rocks in your garden! My kids made a lot of homemade greeting cards for relatives. I especially liked having art materials available on trays so that my kids could get out their own work to do near me. Except for their artwork gifts for relatives, I think I still have all their artwork!

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