Hints and Tips
Keeping it simple.
For as long as I can remember I have loved arts and crafts. Especially children’s craft. I was surprised to find out that most people don’t share my enthusiasm for paint and glue. Most people don’t see the creative potential in empty cereal packets; most people throw them away.
Everything changes when children arrive. Suddenly you have large blocks of time to fill and little expectant faces waiting for you to fill it.
The key to successful craft time with the kids is simple, speedy activities that don’t drain your wallet or your strength.
As much as I adore specialized art and craft stores, it isn’t always practical for parents of small children to shop in them. Generally a visit to a craft shop with one or more toddlers in tow is done at break neck speed, invariably set to a soundtrack of yelling, crying (sometimes you, sometimes the children) and profuse apologies to staff. Leisurely browsing is a luxury enjoyed by singles, newlyweds and empty- nesters. If you didn’t make the most of browsing before you had children, too bad – you had your chance. Those days are gone now.
For this reason I have used many materials that can be found at the supermarket. There may not be much time to visit craft stores, but all of us have to trudge through the grocery store at some point during the week.
Items that can often be found at the supermarket:
Egg carton and aluminium foil palette.
1. Tear the lid off the carton and cut out the raised centre points.
2. Lay the foil over the base.
3. Gently push the foil into the indentations. Put the paint or dye in each indentation. When finished you can then hold the whole palette over the bin and throw the foil, with all the liquid, straight in. No mess, no cleaning and the egg carton can be re-used over and over.
Baking Paper Palette
If you are using acrylics that have a bit of body, lay out a piece of baking paper as a palette. The paint will not bleed through to the other side and you can throw it away when finished. No cleaning, no mess. For young children, tape the corners of the baking paper down to stop it from moving about.
Cereal boxes are a great source of cheap and useful cardboard. To store them, simply undo the ends, flatten, and then slip into the bookshelf or cupboard. When you need some card, just cut the large flat sides out. Alternatively cut down one side to make a reusable, fold out craft mat.
Storing small boxes.
Keep a selection of small boxes from your groceries. Toothpaste, biscuits or light globe boxes are perfect for craft making. To store simply undo the ends and flatten. This way they don’t take up too much room in your cupboard and can be easily re-assembled by sticking the ends back up with tape. Use a craft knife to cut out doors and windows for a simple building.
Zip Lock Bags
These are the normal sealable bags found in the supermarket – usually located near the tin foil, wraps or other plastic bags. Buy 2 or 3 sizes and use them for storing all the bits and pieces in your craft kit. They are also excellent for storing jigsaw puzzles, stationery, toys and anything that has small parts that need to stay in one place.
Blocked glue bottles
Glue bottles, such as PVA or Craft Glue, often get blocked nozzles. To prevent this, try storing it with a satay skewer down the nozzle instead of the plastic witches cap it comes with.
When working with food colouring, use a straw to measure out small amounts. Simply dip the straw into the colouring, blocking the end with your finger. Release your finger when you want the colouring to come out.
Dividing a page into even columns
1. For example, to divide an A4 page into 4 equal columns, place your ruler on an angle across the page. Work out the nearest number that is divisible by 4. In this case it is 24cm. With the ruler at an angle, place the start exactly on one side of the page and the 24cm mark on the other side. Now mark the 6cm, 12cm and 18cm points.
2. Slide the ruler down to the bottom of the page and repeat.
3. Line the ruler up against the top and bottom marks and draw a line from top to bottom. This technique will work for almost any sized space, as long as you have a long enough ruler.
All that glitters
Let’s be clear about this; there is no place in my house for glitter. Unless you want your house to resemble a disco you will follow my lead. If your child is determined to use glitter, look for glitter paint or large sequins in a variety of shapes. Avoid the glitter glue that comes in small tubes as these tend to be hard for little fingers to squeeze. Glitter paint is easier to use as it can be brushed on. Although sequins will make a decent mess when scattered on the floor, they can at least be quickly scooped up with your hands. On the other hand, if a bottle of glitter hits the carpet you might as well move house.
At some point your child will ask to use paint, invariably with their hands or feet. I blame Play School. You can’t turn it on without seeing Justine or Jay splashing paint about with their hands, feet, ears, nose, or exploding balloons. When it is time to buy some paint go for a small selection of student quality non-toxic acrylic. If you don’t see anything labelled ‘student quality’ look for something that is not the cheapest and not the most expensive. Avoid anything labelled ‘Artist Quality’; these are not for children as some colours contain heavy metals and chemicals that are highly toxic when ingested and can even be absorbed through the skin. Always look for the ‘Non-Toxic’ label.