I have to admit I hate craft time. The chaos, the mess, and the fact that it takes twenty minutes to set up and twenty seconds for my child to get bored with it. Not to mention the cost of the supplies. So, for other moms like me, check out my list of fun and inexpensive kid activities for non-crafty moms.
My Child Prodigy
When my older daughter was an infant in daycare I would be reminded each week to collect the completed projects in her art folder. I would proudly bring home the little painted Halloween pumpkins and Thanksgiving hand turkeys complete with googly eyes and neatly painted bodies. And I would think, wow, my six-month-old did that? She’s a genius!
I can’t say I wasn’t concerned my infant was handling hot glue guns and choking hazard plastic eyes, but the crafts were so cute!
But seriously, craft time for infants struck me as a little bizarre, however much I appreciated the effort. Most of the crafts did use my sweet girl’s hand or footprint, which I enjoyed, but the rest of it had to be a pain in the patooty for the daycare staff.
Craft Time at Home
I am an avid reader of parenting blogs and articles on the internet. And who doesn’t love Pinterest? But I feel like crafts for kids have gotten a little intense. Where did we get the idea our kids needed to be making crafts? Or having craft time at home? I see it on Facebook pages and Pinterest boards. Home is not summer camp, play with your toys kids!
When I started my own infant and toddler home daycare a couple of years ago I began to understand craft time a little better. You’ve got a couple of kids and a lot of hours to fill. No matter how many toys you have, they get tired of them all eventually.
And kids get a kick out of making a mess. And if there is one thing I know about craft time, the mess is inevitable.
I Do Not Craft
I am not crafty. Or I think I mean craftsy. I am pretty sly so crafty may actually apply. But, back to the point. I wanted to have some fun activities for my daughter and the other kids in my care. But I could not see myself spending nap time gluing googly eyes on my carefully painted Halloween pumpkins and pretending the kids had much to do with it.
When it comes to activities for kids, it’s the journey, not the destination. So, I pretty much ditched crafts after a few false starts and concentrated on creative activities.
My kid-friendly activities have to meet some important criteria.
It has to be fun. It has to be simple. And it has to be inexpensive. It also has to be easy to clean up.
I’ve found several activities, both craftsy and not, for toddlers and young children that fit my criteria. They may not produce the kind of art you can frame, but your kids will have a blast. And I don’t have to make five handprint, googly-eyed turkeys in my off time.
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Kid Activities for Non-Crafty Moms
I’m starting with a classic. This is one of my daughter’s favorite activities and has been since she was about a year old. It has been a favorite with daycare kids as well. It’s fun, it’s messy, it gets you outside, it hits most of the high points in a kid’s day. Littler ones can spin in circles with a bubble wand and older ones can try making the huge globe size bubbles. Every age likes chasing and popping the ones that drift away. Fun for everyone.
2. Bubbles Part II
These kinds of bubbles don’t involve a bubble wand or premade solution. Take a big bowl of water, squirt some dish soap into it and place it in front of your child with a straw. Ready, set, blow! If you haven’t tried this, it makes a mountain of frothy bubbles. My daughter likes to feed the bubbles to her plastic dinosaurs. Or make a beard on her face. There are lots of options. This is a great one for playing outdoors but can be moved inside with a towel on the floor to catch the inevitable spills.
3. Play Dough
This is another favorite from my own childhood. I became a super play dough fan when my youngest daughter was born and play dough kept my older daughter busy for large chunks of time while I fed my new baby. You can get involved and help make masterpieces or stand back and watch little ones work. Playdough possibilities are pretty limitless. We’ve made everything from pretend cupcakes to dinosaur models.
4. Kinetic Sand
Kinetic sand is spectacular for making a huge mess, so naturally a hit with most kids. If you haven’t used it before, this sand sticks to itself so cleanup isn’t as hard as it initially sounds. Once you get a pile going, it’s easy to pick up. My kids enjoy burying stuff in the sand to dig out, or molding it into shapes. The sand has great texture and is a fun change from dough or other sensory activities.
5. Finger Paint
There is a lot of fun options for finger painting. With older toddlers and kids you can go the simplest route and buy it. Definitely, buy washable if you do this, but be aware it is only washable for a short while. In my experience, if you wait a couple of days to clean it up, washable paint becomes a lot harder to remove. Not that I would ever wait a couple of days to clean up a mess. I learned this from a friend.
Edible finger paint can be fun for young kids, or any you can’t trust to keep their fingers out of their mouths. Here is one recipe. You can also just use yogurt or chocolate pudding. Anything kiddos can put their hands in and smear around on paper.
6. Cut and Paste
If your children are younger, I recommend you do the cutting. Last spring I cut large Easter eggs out of construction paper. The leftover paper scraps I cut into random shapes and let the kids use glue sticks to glue them on the paper eggs as decorations. This would work with Christmas trees, stars, circles, any shape you’d like to try.
This is a little more of a craft, but it was pretty simple. I just cut out some egg shapes. The eggs this produced were actually even refrigerator worthy. Every kid was Picasso that day.
Cornstarch and water mixed together make a bizarrely textured watery, slimy, fun goo. Kids love it. You can put some cornstarch in a bowl and give your kids a spray bottle of water to create their own mixture. Bonus if you add food coloring to the water.
Or you can pre-mix and just let the kiddos enjoy getting their hands in the goo. Or even their feet if you place the mixture on the floor in a dishpan.
These seem to be called reusable stickers these days, but when I was a kid we called them colorforms. Basically, they are semi-sticky pictures of animals, cars, or people you can stick on the backgrounds they come with to create fun scenes. I think I have every set they make. They are inexpensive and last forever as far as I can tell, as long as your kids aren’t too rough on them.
We’ve had hours of fun setting up jungle or farm scenes. You can also buy ones to make faces or dress princesses. There are lots of options and you can mix and match.
9. Colors and Stickers
Plain old markers or crayons and paper are a sure winner most days. Add in a coloring book and most kids are good to go for at least twenty minutes. I also like to add stickers to the mix. Just make sure they only get stuck on paper. Peeling stickers off my floor and cabinets has taught me to keep my eye on where they end up.
Most of these supplies can be purchased at a dollar store and provide hours of entertainment.
I saved the best for last! Cooking is my all time favorite activity to do with kids. It should be a whole separate blog post. This can be fun for everyone and works with ages as young as one.
I suggest doing all of your measuring ahead of time. Then have kids take turns pouring in ingredients. This works best with baking projects where there is a lot of dry goods and liquids to mix in. Then let everyone take a turn stirring the mixture.
You can make cookies or cupcakes. Or you can help a picky eater feel involved and hopefully more likely to try a healthy meal by having them help cook it.
Crockpot meals are awesome for having your kids help add ingredients without having them near an unsafe burner or oven. My daughter loves adding all the ingredients for taco soup!
Now it’s your turn! What are some fun, inexpensive at-home activities you use with your kids? I’d love to add some new ones to my repertoire!