“The thing about doing crafts with small children”, said my sister, “is that it seems like a fun idea, but it almost always ends up being really annoying.”
She has a point. It can be incredibly frustrating, to the point that sometimes the effort, mess and irritation seem to outweigh the potential for enjoyment and prevent you even getting started.
But she had got me thinking. What makes for a good arts and crafts session with the under-fives, and how do you mitigate against the inevitable irritations? We certainly haven’t cracked it yet, but I have found a few tricks to make it go more smoothly.
- Keep it short and quick. Small child = short attention span. If they show signs of getting bored, stop. Pick something they can make from start to finish in less than 15 minutes. They lose interest if they don’t see results.
- Get everything ready before you suggest the activity. They want to get started RIGHT NOW and won’t want to sit quietly in front of a tempting pot of glue and pieces of felt while you go off to find a piece of paper for them, when there’s a perfectly good table to start sticking them to already!
- Get a good wipe-clean tablecloth (see point 2, above).
- If you’re making a specific thing, have one you made in advance so they can visualise what they’re aiming for.
- Resist the temptation to ‘help’, unless they ask for it. You might have an an aesthetic vision, but now is not the time to expect it to be adhered to!
With these thoughts in mind, I wanted to come up with a spring-themed craft for our seasonal tree that was truly child-friendly, that they could make with minimal assistance. So, I give you – cotton wool sheep!
All we needed were some cotton-wool discs, pipe-cleaners for legs (which I had pre-cut to size), and felt for heads (ditto).
Then it was just a case of spreading glue on one cotton wool pad, sticking on the legs and head and sandwiching the second pad on top. Once they had dried, I used a needle and thread to form a hanging loop. Then all that remained to do was to hang them on the tree.