13 February 2013

Planning Happy Crafts Projects With Kids

When you are planning crafts projects with children I have found there are a few important things to consider. Some years ago I founded a children's art program in my hometown. It was a great adventure in planning and executing crafts projects with a room full of kids. I have learned that anything you do will take them longer than it takes you. At some point they will get distracted and either start making messes or disturb everyone else in the room.

So when I decided to help The Bug make the Wild About You Valentine's posted in 2010 by Gabby Blair of DesignMom, I started my preparations just after I dropped The Bug off at school yesterday morning. Earlier today I posted on where I sourced everything for this project. Check it out here to save you time and money.

Here are the first things that guided my planning. Initially I thought she would love to go with me to pick out all the animals and such and then I realized that would be another hour or more of time added to the project. She's generally a little tired, hungry and fussy the first thirty minutes after school. She needs a break. Running errands with her after school is not a break for her or for me.

School nights are a tight squeeze. Even though she's home from school at 3:00, by the time I let her unwind for an hour, help her do some "must" like clean her room or pick up her stuff from around the house or take a bath, start dinner while directing the completion of homework, eat and clean the kitchen and then immediately get her ready for bed the night is gone. It's amazing that if we aren't eating dinner at 6:00 I know already that we won't make bedtime at 8:00.

So mix in a major shortage of time and a girl who has already had a long day and still has lots to do before bedtime and it became pretty clear that a long drawn out craft shopping trip and activity was the last thing either of us needed. Most of the time any craft project that takes more than an hour at a sitting is going to be a little too much for kids, especially if they are tired or rushed. I came up with a plan that I thought we could accomplish in just about an hour so that we could keep it fun, moving quickly and we'd see quick results.

Here's how I made it easy:

1) Did my research. Read the instructions thoroughly and to make sure this was a project we could handle. Sometimes things that look easy or should be easy with kids are the complete opposite, so I thought this one through.

2) Made a quick list of supplies and necessary shopping stops. This included counting up how many of each type of animal I would need and how many print outs of the cards I would need.

3) Gathered all the supplies. I hit all the shops early in the day. Crowds were light and I got things done quickly. One stop to the party store for animals sold individually and for small candy bags. Then a quick trip to a copy store allowed me to get the tags copies on a heavy, glossy cover paper for a great professional look.

4) Took all the tags off all the animals. This is something she could've easily done. However I could totally see this taking 30 minutes alone if she stopped to play with each animal as she we removed the tag from -- which she would.

5) Cut and trimmed all the tags. A paper cutter makes this much quicker and easier than a pair of scissors.

6) Used a bone folder and a straight edge to score and fold all the tags. A bone folder is a great way to score paper so that you get a beautiful, professionally clean fold.

At this point I was done with my preparations and I very deliberately saved specific tasks for The Bug. 

Here's what she did.

7) Organized the bag of animals, lining them up by type.

8) Organize the corresponding cards to the correct animals.

9) Choose the card and animal she wanted to give to each student as we went down the list of her classmates.

10) Filled out each card with TO: and FROM: salutations. She did this while I put the animals in the bags, feet down, and then I stapled each filled out card to the bag. Then I put each finished Valentine in a handled paper bag she can carry them in to school. 

I couldn't help but also do a little upcycle on the paper shopping bag we were reusing to make it a special Valentine's Bag. I'll share that with you tomorrow. Also, I have to confess that I broke down and made sugar cookies after all. When I thought about how much I was going to spend buying a few I realized I could easily make a small batch that would be tons cuter and much less expensive. Because it's not Valentine's Day without a good sugar cookie!

What fun last minute projects are you up to today and tomorrow? I have to say I'll be a little sad to see Valentine's Day and all it's fun details pass this year. But happily we have bright and colorful Easter coming up. I already have some easy fun crafty projects in the works for Easter which I'll share in a few weeks.

all images by kalanicut

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