The secret to using craft projects to fill the long days of winter is to keep the projects open-ended. This ensures that kids are using their imaginations and expanding on ideas instead of following step-by-step instructions. Here are some craft ideas to get you started.
Image via Flickr by sciondriver
Give the kids markers, colored pencils, crayons, or whatever you have lying around and have them take turns lying down and tracing each other on larger sheets of butcher paper.
Then set out all the craft materials you can find, and let them decorate their self-portrait or create changeable outfits for themselves. Let them cut up old clothes to make outfits or hair for their portrait. Use colored paper, plastic bags, leaves, and twigs, macaroni, or dandelion blossoms. Their imagination is the limit. Make water-soluble glue from flour and water to tack things in place.
When the kids say they’re finished and come looking for the next activity, send them back to illustrate their dreams. Can they decorate their self-portraits to look like astronauts, kitty cats, emperors, ninjas, princes, or princesses?
First, send the kids out to collect twigs and sticks with interesting shapes. Next, give each child a sturdy box or container to decorate. They can brush the container with a mixture of white glue and water and cover it with wrapping paper, construction paper, fabric scraps, or pictures torn from magazines.
Next, fill the container with clean sand, gravel, rice, beans, or whatever you have available. Have the kids arrange their sticks to create either one spectacular tree or a tiny forest. Then invite them to decorate the trees with strings of holiday lights. Choose cool LED lights from a supplier like Christmas Lights Etc. so you don’t have to worry about heat. The finished light sculptures make terrific night lights.
Egg Drop Engineering
Looking for a challenge to keep older kids engaged? This classic engineering activity is perfect for budding geniuses with longer attention spans. The goal is to create a container that will keep an egg intact when dropped from a specific height. Give the kids lots of supplies to choose from, including tape, glue, egg cartons, cardboard, fabric, packing peanuts, bubble wrap, and plastic sheeting.
Set ground rules that will challenge and engage the kids but still set them up for success. Is there a time limit? Will you drop the eggs from the porch or from a second-story window? Are they restricted to the materials you’ve laid out for them, or can they add in other items? It’s up to you whether to have them compete individually, in teams, or all together to solve the problem.
Keeping kids busy is mostly a matter of giving them an idea and some materials, then popping in to offer a new idea or challenge from time to time. The more open-ended the activity is, the less you need to be involved.