Studying is a great way for your tween to develop discipline, and computer games are an entertaining diversion that helps to engage motor and problem-solving skills, but nothing beats real world craft projects for harnessing a child's creative energy.
A little glue, wood scraps, Styrofoam, paint, ribbon, fabric and glitter can be the building blocks of a lifelong passion for sewing, woodworking or interior design. But that's not all. Teaching kids to "make" instead of just "buy" shows them that they can control the process as well as the outcome. It's an invaluable lesson you'll be glad they learned early.
These 10 DIY (do-it-yourself) projects are kid-friendly and won't cost a fortune.
Door decorations are fun to make and add personality (and kiditude) to a bedroom door. You can use almost any lightweight material as a base, like Styrofoam, cardboard or scrap plywood, and decorate the sign with acrylic paints, glitter, stickers, stencils, fabric, construction paper and glue. If you think you have a budding sculptor on your hands, you can easily craft signs from salt clay dough using stencils and cookie cutters, too.
Interlocking modular wire storage units and plastic bins go together quickly and easily. Your child can help redesign his closet or play area and then assemble some of the storage elements himself by hooking or stacking them in place. This is also a great way to finally get him to inventory, organize and stow his stuff. As projects go, this one can get pricey, but it has some hidden advantages. Your child will be more likely to take responsibility for keeping his room tidy if he helped design and "build" his own closet or play area, and once you do have enough storage, you (or your child) can finally get things, like toys and school gear, up off the floor.
Your tween may not be up to making furniture from scratch, but finishing a stool or chest may be right up her alley. Most craft stores have unfinished wood pieces, such as small shelves, chests, footstools and even large alphabet letters that can be decorated with acrylic craft paints, scrapbook paper, stamps, and even dimensional art like foam paint or beads. These small projects are a great introduction to home décor and crafting. They also make useful and attractive kid's room accessories. This tutorial for crafting wooden letters will give you a general idea, but make sure to do the precision cutting yourself.
Putting together a message center to display photos, letters and artwork is an easy DIY project your child can complete a number of ways. From buying a readymade bulletin board and having her decorate the frame with fun stickers to covering a Styrofoam rectangle with fabric and weaving ribbon over the surface, bulletin board projects are flexible enough to be simple or advanced depending on your child's level of skill and interest. Bulletin boards can be as useful as they are fun, too. They make effective wall art behind the desk in your child's room, or even in a kitchen or hall. A smaller version would work well in your child's locker at school, too. The project below is pretty easy, but after tackling it, your young DIY-er may be ready for one that's more involved.
Your child may be a budding artist without a big enough canvas to work with. To give him a wall of his very own, all you need is a can of blackboard paint and some colored chalk. You do the honors laying down the paint (with some kid labor and recommendations thrown in). Game rooms, family rooms or children's rooms are great spots for this type of casual but creative wall treatment. Why not pay a little extra for blackboard paint mixed with magnetic paint? Your budding artist can craft a multi-purpose design wall that's perfect for all kinds of art projects and display pieces. If this seems too ambitious, consider backing a poster frame with luan plywood and using that as an artwork blackboard. It's large enough to make a great kid's canvas and your child can paint the plywood himself.
Plants are endlessly fascinating, and the first time your child realizes that a tiny seed is actually a cunningly disguised manufacturing plant for flowers and vegetables, your landscape, windowsills and patio will become a playground for experimentation.
Start indoors with peat pots, and choose plants that have large seeds that sprout fast, like pumpkins, sunflowers and sugar peas. Mark the seed start date on the calendar, and encourage your child to keep a plant diary and take lots of photos. Children find fragrant seeds or seedlings very entertaining, too, so try herbs like lemon balm and mint alongside faster growing plant varieties.
When temps warm up in the spring, move the project outdoors by clearing and prepping a portion of a flowerbed for your child's garden. Provide him with some child-sized gardening tools, include some vegetables, and be creative with your choices. Even if your child hates veggies, he's bound to want to try some he's grown himself, so take advantage of the opportunity to introduce your budding gardener to some new and interesting greens.
If you're always losing those pesky, small household keys (for the padlock on the back gate or to the utility shed) this simple kid's project will solve your key problems once and for all. You'll need a 3-inch by 12-inch piece of sanded plywood or a bare wood plaque from the craft store. Encourage your child to decorate it with acrylic paints and anything else that will make it a one-of-a-kind key kiosk worthy of display. After the paint dries, attach four or five equally spaced cup hooks to the front and add two picture hooks to the back. Hang it by the door most used by your family. If you want to make a bigger project out of it, you can craft a key minder out of salt clay, too.
Drawing is relaxing, doesn't take much room and can be a refreshingly quiet pursuit. With some colored pencils and a sketch pad, your child can explore her artistic side and discover new ways to express herself. Some easy tutorials will help get the ball rolling, but after a few projects, she'll be branching out with her own designs that can become framed prints, wall murals or freeform furniture or fabric art. When you're ready to frame her masterpieces, encourage her to decorate the frames, too. You can pick up simple wood stained, black or white frames at the craft store and she can embellish them with beads and glitter or repaint them in her favorite colors.
Boys and girls want their bedrooms to reflect their interests and budding personal styles. Why not include your child in his bedroom makeover? One of the easiest ways to personalize a lamp is to add a child-decorated shade to an existing lamp base. From crayon drawings to beribboned confections in girlie pastels, tween-designed lampshades make an easy, inexpensive afternoon project that will shed a warm glow on your kid's artistic vision. This short tutorial will get you started.
Quilting is a uniquely American craft that's more popular today than ever before. From small pieces of fabric, kids can stitch together lap robes, snuggle blankets, wall hangings, framed art and even wearable art. Although there are thousands of patterns to choose from, we like simple, colorful fabric squares for a child's first quilt. You can purchase precision cut five- or six-inch fabric squares at any quilt shop:
- Lay out the squares in a pleasing pattern.
- Sew squares into rows using a quarter-inch seam allowance.
- Sew the rows together.
- Create a quilt sandwich with the quilt and backing material facing and the batting as the last layer.
- Stitch around the outside of the quilt on three sides and then turn it as you would a pillowcase.
- Stitch the open side by hand.
- Tack the fabric down every few inches to hold the batting and backing in place. You can use decorative yarn or ribbon for this tying off process.
Making a rag quilt is another easy option. These rustic quilts are a breeze to sew together with simple straight stitching.
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