Many kids enjoy working on craft projects because at the end of the process they have something that they can show off to others or even present as a gift. While craft kits provide kids with the supplies they need in a product-oriented format (pre-cut shapes, coordinated colors), this limits kids' creativity. The following skills are transferrable to any number of craft projects. They also share the benefit of using inexpensive materials that can be used for multiple projects.
Skill #1: Tracing Shapes
In a craft store you'll find paper, wood, craft foam and other materials in handy pre-cut shapes. So, why bother teaching your children to trace shapes that they'd then have to cut out (particularly since it won't look as neat as a machine-cut shape)?
This process works on developing fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. It also allows kids to create their own designs or saves them from waiting to go to the craft store to purchase supplies (and saves you from hearing the request for a ride to the store a dozen times). Use cardboard or plastic stencils or even cookie cutters as the base of your shapes.
Skill #2: Using Scissors
Show your child how to fit the scissors onto their fingers. Give a demonstration of cutting straight strips as well as cutting rounded or angular shapes. Draw shapes or lines onto colored photocopy or construction paper and have kids follow the lines.
One thing to point out to kids is that they can move the paper as they cut it. Many kids will contort their bodies as they use scissors because it doesn't occur to them to turn the paper as they cut out a shape. Start with basic shapes such as circles, triangles, and squares before progressing to silhouettes of more complex shapes (use stencils or cookie cutters).
Another useful tip to share is related to conserving paper. When your child gets comfortable cutting shapes from paper, challenge them to work close to the edge of the paper or where they've just cut a shape. Kids will view a single piece of paper as the source of a single shape so teach them how to get the most shapes from a sheet.
Skill #3: Taping Things Together
Young children may lack the ability to grasp a small piece of tape, apply the right amount of pressure, and twist their hand to tear the strip of tape. The mechanics of using a piece of tape then extends into placing it in the right configuration. Should two objects be taped together with the tape being lined up along the length of the piece of tape or can it attach items using just the width?
Buy some transparent tape and some masking tape when it's on sale and encourage your child to experiment taping things together. Give them recyclable materials such as pieces of paper, cardboard tubes, egg cartons, plastic yogurt cups, etc. Challenge kids to discover the least amount of tape required to hold things together.
Skill #4: Gluing Things Together
This skill is an extension of taping things together. Most kids think that if a little glue is good then more glue is better. Allow your child to glue pictures or cut-out shapes into a collage. If they've used too much glue then the paper is warped and it may even end up with wholes.
Show kids how to spread glue with their finger, a cotton swab, or a wood craft stick so they have a thin layer of adhesive. You can also have kids practice gluing pieces of craft foam, cardboard, wood, etc. so they learn how to judge what amount of glue to use so the excess doesn't become visible blobs or streaks.
Skill #5: Keeping the Work Area Tidy and Cleaning Up after a Project
Yes, this is really a skill for kids to develop. Keeping the area neat as they work means that they can find the supplies they want with a minimum of frustration. Cups (that won't tip over) can be dedicated to crayons, pencils, paint brushes, scissors, etc. While fitting crayons back into a box may be tedious, scooping up a handful of colored pencils and sliding them into a cup takes seconds.
Cleaning means that your child washes her paintbrushes and picks up the scraps of paper that fell to the floor. A messy area is difficult to work in because the child may not find what they want to use or may be discouraged to start a new project because there is no space. Parents don't have to spend a lot of money on storage supplies, however, they should make certain that materials have their own place.
Your child's success with these skills depends on their age and other physical and mental factors. However, all children can benefit from developing these arts and crafts skills to the best of their ability. As they continue to work on crafts, they will improve their skills.
Craft projects don't have to come from the store. In Earth Art: Nature Art Projects for Kids Ages 8-to-14 and Their Creative Adults by Susan Caplan McCarthy (available on Kindle and Nook), you can find a variety of projects that emphasize creativity and exploration.
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