As parents, we’ve all been there; it’s about 1 hour into the school holidays that the kids have been desperately waiting for, the lego sets have lost their appeal, the toys you fought tooth and nail to acquire them last Christmas or birthday have been discarded on the floor, the i-pad battery is flat and you just know what’s coming next…….. ‘’We’re BOOOOOOOORED!!!!!’’
Sure, you can let them loose on the recycling bin to create some masterpieces from your trash but then there’s the small matter of having to try and discretely re-recycle them at a later date. Then there are the endless ‘special’ drawings, but you only have so much room on the fridge…..
What you really need is some new ideas of how to let the kids get creative and make something that’s worth keeping without breaking the bank…. Luckily for you, that’s exactly what this post is designed to inspire you with!
With my great passion being art, craft and design, there’s always something creative occurring in our house, and more often than not, several projects on the go around the house at any one time, much to Stu’s despair. The kids have inherited my interest in creating and are always keen to have a go at whatever I’m working on.
These are some of our favorite creative ideas which are suitable for children to have a go at too with varying levels of help and supervision. I have tried to include an idea of age suitability, although this will vary with the level of supervision and assistance available. Sam, at 4, has had a go at all of them and although he needs a little more help than his brothers, has enjoyed being let loose on whatever everyone else is working on. I’ve also tried to be realistic about the mess factor although this will depend very much on your individual creative little genius.
Ready to be inspired? Read on for some creative ideas and tips on how to achieve the best results.
Make a lasting impression
Age range: 4+ (younger kids would need more help)
Mess factor: Mild / moderate (more tidying up then massive clean up for the embossing, moderate for the painting)
Children of all ages (and adults alike!) will enjoy creating beautiful works of art using household objects to create patterns in air drying clay. This activity scores points for being inexpensive, not too messy, suitable for even younger children with some help and supervision and being relatively easy to create some impressive finished results.
You Will Need …
Air drying clay (white generally looks better)
Textured objects to create patterns; buttons, shells, skewers, printing blocks / stamps
Box frames (optional)
Ribbons to hang decorations
To start making your embossed clay designs, simply roll out a piece of clay to approximately 5mm thick on a flat surface and then press your textured objects into the clay to create a pattern.
Indian printing blocks and textured rolling pins make beautiful designs but buttons, lace, fossilised coral, shells, skewers and lego bricks make for some interesting designs too.
It’s really easy to experiment and if you’re not happy, you can roll it back out and start again. We have used lettering designed for cake decorating to spell out words, but you could use printing stamps as an alternative. Little hands make a unique and beautiful design.
Once you have covered the surface of the clay with a design, you can use cookie cutters to cut shapes from the clay.
Lettering is best added after cutting to give you more control over their positioning in the finished design.
If you want to make a hanging shape, make a hole in the clay for a ribbon or hanger before it dries, using a skewer (avoid making the hole too close to the edge of the design to avoid it snapping).
Place completed pieces on to a flat surface such as a baking tray or cutting board to dry. Clingfilm helps to prevent the shapes from sticking to the board.
HOT TIP the clay will tend to curl upwards as it dries. To ensure your creations stay flat, place a light weight object on top of them while they dry or keep turning them over whilst they are drying and gently press them flat again if they start to curl.
Check the instructions on the packet for drying times but it will be around 24-48 hours for this thickness of clay.
Once your designs have fully dried, you can use acrylic paint to add a splash of colour. For the best results, brush the paint lightly over the surface with a dry brush to colour the raised surfaces whilst leaving the grooves unpainted. This helps to show off the pattern.
Your shapes can be hung as Christmas tree decorations, mounted in a box frame to hang on the wall, used as tea-light holders or turned into a fridge magnet using magnetic strips available in many craft and bargain shops (this will only work with smaller pieces).
Alternatively, you can line a bowl with cling film and press the clay gently into this to create your own bowl once the clay has dried.
Use your finished pieces to decorate your own home or give as unique gifts to friends and family.
Pour a masterpiece with acrylic paint
Age Range: 8+ fairly independently after initial instruction. Younger kids will need more help
Mess Factor: EXTREME!
Our own experiments with the exciting world of acrylic pouring were actually inspired by a local 10 year old artist, so this is certainly a kid friendly activity, but be warned, it can get VERY messy!
In essence, acrylic pouring uses a pouring medium to allow your paint to flow across a canvas and create some exciting fluid designs without affecting the quality of the paint (eg, mixing the paint with water would made it runny enough to achieve the effect but you’d loose the depth of colour and affect the paint quality.
Youtube has a huge number of video’s demonstrating different acrylic pouring techniques and has been an invaluable source of inspiration to us.
I will outline the basics and some of the different techniques you can use to create different effects, but it’s well worth heading over to Youtube for more ideas before you start creating.
We are beginners ourselves but we’ve had great fun experimenting with different techniques.
You Will Need …
Pouring medium; we favour Floetrol available from DIY stores in Australia. Here, you can also buy other pouring mediums in craft and bargain shops. In the UK, Liquitex is available from several craft and home-wear retailers.
Silicone to create ‘cells’; pure silicone or high silicone content liquids work very well. Inexpensive preparations include sewing machine or treadmill oil. Avoid organic products which may deteriorate over time and ruin your creation
Canvases to pour on to
Yoghurt pots / plastic cups in which to mix your paint
Spoons / skewers to mix the paint with
Plastic sheet / bin liners to protect the floor
Full forensic suit to protect your clothes! OK, maybe a bit extreme, but don’t do this wearing anything you treasure!
Additional items you will find useful to create patterns include;
Soft drink bottles; cut off the bottom and use this to pour your paint over (see pictures)
Sink strainer / microwave steamer with slits in the sides to pour paint through (see pictures)
Lazy Susan to help stretch the paint to the edges of the canvas without disrupting the pattern
Preparation is key for acrylic pouring unless you want a catastrophic mess on your hands (and just about everywhere else imaginable!).
It is advisable to do this in a garage or somewhere where the floor isn’t too precious or is very washable. I would strongly suggest covering the floor well with plastic sheeting to save on clearing up afterwards.
The finished creations will take a good 2-5 days to dry depending on climate and paint thickness so having somewhere free from excess dust and pet hair and inquisitive hands etc to allow drying is ideal.
Once you’ve prepared your work space, the next step is to mix your paint with the pouring medium. The exact ratio of paint to pouring medium will depend upon the thickness of the paint to start with; thicker paints will need more pouring medium to flow. You are aiming for a finished mixture with a consistency similar to strawberry sauce for ice cream; thin enough to flow easily and run smoothly from the stirrer rather than dripping slowly in blobs but thick enough to give good coverage. You will find there is a bit of experimenting until you get used to it.
The depth of colour of the paint shouldn’t change with the addition of the poring medium; if the mixture is much lighter than the original colour then you’ve probably used a bit too much. As a rough guide, you will need around 2 parts poring medium to one part paint. I usually mix my colours in yoghurt pots and stir with a wooden skewer.
You can add silicone to your colours to help to create ‘cells’; little bubble patterns of a different colour within a block of the main colour. The way this works is explained by science; acrylic paint is water based whereas silicone is oil based. Oil repels water and will push the water based paint away from it causing cells to appear. Where colours lay on top of one another, the silicone will pull the lower colours up to the surface creating some beautiful effects.
Once you have mixed all of the colours you want for your pour, you can choose a pouring method;
Flip cup pouring
As the name suggests, this involves pouring your colours into a cup (or another yogurt pot) on top of one another. Once you have filled the cup, invert it on to the canvas and wait for a minute or two whilst the paints mingle depending on how heavy they are (heavier ones will sink to the bottom) to create some interesting patterns. When you are ready, lift the cup and watch the patterns emerge.
This technique is a great way to produce cells. You can spread the paint across the canvas by picking it up and turning it but be sure to avoid covering up anything you especially like. Generally, the less movement of the canvas, the better the end result in my experience.
Lemonade bottle cascade
In this technique, you can use the bottom of a soft drink bottle to pour the paint over in layers to create a flower pattern.
If you want to maintain the flower shape, use a lazy Susan to spin the canvas to allow a more even spreading of the paint.
Alternatively, once you have enough paint on the canvas, remover the lemonade bottle and turn the canvas by hand to spread the paint around and create some interesting patterns (you will loose the flower shape by doing this)
Sink strainer / pouring through slits
You can you’re your paint through a household item such as a slitted sink strainer to create a beautiful mandala type pattern. Again, this pattern can be preserved fairly well using a lazy Susan to stretch the paint, or you can turn the canvas by hand to create an interesting pattern.
This is an interesting art form as it’s not entirely predictable what the end result will be although practice gives you a better idea of what works well. If you don’t like the end result, let it dry fully, then pour over the top of it until you’re happy.
Leave the paint for 2 weeks to fully dry and cure. After this, you should wash the canvas with water to remove any excess oil and silicone.
You may then choose to varnish the surface to preserve the original gloss finish from immediately after pouring. We use a clear spray varnish from one of the bargain shops which gives a good finish.
You can either leave the acrylic pour as it is or use sillhouttes, prints, paintings or embelishments to finish your creations.
Make Marvelous Mosaics
Age Range: 4+ with assistance to spread the adhesive and fit the wire hook
Mess factor: moderate – again, mostly a tidy up rather than a clean up provided the adhesive stays mostly on the tile! A table protector will save you a lot of work!
Little fingers will love creating unique mosaics on tiles with buttons and beads and beautiful things. These make lovely gifts as well as lasting masterpieces for young artists to be proud of.
You Will Need …
Tile adhesive (we prefer to use white)
Wire to form hanger. A paperclip would work too
Decorations! Beads / buttons / sequins / broken jewellery /shells / craft embellishments / marbles etc
We bought some second hand tiles from a garage sale to use for this activity, as well as some beads and decorations, which kept costs low. You can buy supplies from craft and bargain shops including designated mosaic tiles, or use pieces of broken jewellery, buttons, beads and small toys to make a range of interesting designs.
Firstly, apply a coat of tile adhesive around 6mm thick to your tile. For glazed tiles, you will need to apply the adhesive to the reverse side to ensure it sticks.
To make a hanger, bend a small piece of wire into a ‘U’ shape or alternatively use a paperclip, and slide this under the adhesive at the top of the tile.
Once the tile is prepared, it is ready to decorate; push buttons, beads, shells or whatever embellishments you have into the adhesive to create your design. You will need to make sure they are pushed in well so they don’t fall out once the adhesive is dry.
You can buy mirror tiles to make the tile useful as well as decorative, or leave space for a photograph. HOT TIP; If you use mirror tiles, coat the back with a clear varnish before using to prevent damp from the tile adhesive causing blackening of the mirror. Photographs pushed into the wet adhesive are also likely to deteriorate therefore better added when your work is dry.
Check the adhesive instructions for drying times, but most will be fully dried within 24 hours.
Unleash your inner Willy Wonka with some edible art
Age Range: 4+
Mess Factor: Mild to moderate
Chocolate bark is very easy to make and very tasty, so there’s no need to worry about where to display the end results – it won’t last long enough!
You can theme your chocolate bark for special occasions, with broken candy canes and Christmas sprinkles or by making snowman faces in white chocolate for Christmas, popping candy and jelly bugs for Halloween or pink sprinkles and hearts for Valentine’s day. Let your imagination run wild and enjoy eating the results.
You Will Need …
Chocolate – a mixture of milk, white and dark gives the best scope for artistic flair. It is worth buying good quality chocolate for tastier results. We favour Aldi’s own brand chocolate blocks for meltability and yumminess.
Microwave to melt the chocolate (you could melt chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of boiling water if you don’t have a microwave but this would require additional adult supervision
Decorations Cake sprinkles / smarties / marshmallows / jelly beans / dried fruit / pretzels
Start by preparing a baking sheet with greaseproof paper to pour the chocolate on to. Melt your chocolate in the microwave then pour on to the greaseproof paper and spread to make it approximately 5mm thick. If you want to make marbled chocolate, use 2 different chocolate types (dark / milk / white), pouring one colour on first then adding the second over the top; use a skewer to mix to 2 layers loosely to create a marbled effect.
Decorate the chocolate slab with cake sprinkles, sweets or dried fruit etc. You can drizzle a different type of chocolate over the top if desired. One thing we have discovered doesn’t work is to attempt to add food colouring to white chocolate; white chocolate is very temperamental and will just clog up into a sticky ball of uselessness if you try to add anything other than chocolate to it so just forget it!
Place the finished design into the fridge to set. Once the chocolate has fully set, break the chocolate into smaller pieces with your hands to make different shaped chunks.
Enjoy eating the finished product as it is, as an added treat in a bowl of ice cream or as a cake decoration.
Making chocolate bark is a fun party activity; we did this for Ben’s Willy Wonka themed party and the boys have begged to have another go several times since! A similar slab went into school with Willy Wonka himself for Book Week which was a massive hit with Daniel’s class mates. Chocolate bark also makes a lovely gift, placed into a clean glass jar, box or gift bag.
Make a garden fit for a fairy
Age Range: 4+ with assistance
Mess Factor: mild for older kids, probably moderate for over enthusiastic junior gardeners!
Making a miniature garden is easy! Gardens can be made in any container, large or small, using small plants and succulents, gravel, small decorations and a bit of imagination.
You Will Need …
Container – plant pot / mug / old shoe / saucepan
Small plants / succulents
Small decorations purpose designed fairy garden items or small toys / ornaments from home or charity shops etc / shells / marbles / glass pebbles / gravel
Fill your container with soil then plant your succulents in the desired positions. It’s best to plan carefully with taller plants at the back and smaller ground covering types at the front and spilling over the edges.
If you have a fairy house or larger decoration, it is best to place this next to make sure you have plenty of room.
You could make a fairy house with a tiny terracotta pot turned upside-down and painted with acrylic paint finished with a waterproof varnish, or use a tiny log.
Once you are happy with the layout of your plants and larger items, use gravel to create pathways, marbles or glass pebbles to make lakes and rivers and other miniature fairy garden items to finish your garden ready for a tiny inhabitant.
You needn’t stick to pretty ‘girly’ designs; tiny garden gnomes will be glad of a resting place, dinosaur fans can create jurasic gardens with small plastic toys or you could hide lions and tigers in a miniature jungle.
You can stick to tiny gardens or if you have a larger space, create a whole fairy kingdom!
Make your artwork rock!
Age Range – anyone who can hold a paint brush!
Mess factor – Moderate; cover your table to keep the designs on the rocks rather than your furniture
Painting rocks and hiding them for others to find is an art sharing craze that has taken the world by storm, and best of all, its really fun and easy to join in too! All of our boys love to paint, hide and find painted rocks
You Will Need …
Rocks – find your own or buy from garden centers / DIY stores with a garden section. Unglazed / unwaxed rocks work the best as the paint tends to peel off shiny rocks
Clear varnish to protect the design from the elements
This activity really needs no explanation; simply paint your design on to your rock then varnish it once the paint has fully dried.
For the best results, you may need to apply more than one layer of paint to give a really solid colour.
Use your imagination to create spectacular stones; cartoon characters, mandalas, beetles and bugs and flowers all make beautiful designs.
Why not try some themed rocks; ghosts and skeletons for Halloween, snowmen and elves for Christmas…… the possibilities are endless. Google images has a wealth of ideas if you’re short of inspiration.
Use your rocks to decorate a fairy garden, make pet rocks or even a rocky cactus garden.
If your local area has a rock hunting group, you could hide them for other people to find, and if not, you could start your own rocky treasure hunt!
If you do plan to hide your creations, be mindful of observing local rules and regulations, for example, rocks shouldn’t be left in national parks where they are deemed to be littering, and schools may have their own rules.
Get creative to help the environment
Age Range: 8+ due to the use of sharp scissors, hot wax and the need for speed
Mess Factor: Mild
With the growing problem of plastic waste in the world, why not make yourself some recyclable beeswax wraps as an environmentally friendly alternative to cling film / glad wrap or sandwich bags?
Beeswax has natural antibacterial properties which make it ideal for use with food.
We bought some from a local lady who also sells beeswax blocks with handy instructions on how to make your own, although we did a bit of experimenting and found that the described technique worked best for us.
You Will Need …
Pinking shears (you can use ordinary scissors but pinking shears give a better edge)
Container in which to melt the wax (eg, a cup)
Pastry brush / large paint brush
Pegs and washing line / airer to dry your finished wraps
Use pinking shears to cut a square or circle from your chosen fabric.
We used a felt pen to draw around a large plate for a round wrap, and marked out our square wrap with a ruler (we made a 40cm square).
Place your cut out fabric wrap on to a piece of greaseproof paper laid on a baking sheet or similar.
Place this into the oven to warm up the fabric; this helps to prevent the beeswax from drying too fast.
Place your beeswax block into a microwavable container and use the microwave to melt it down into a liquid form.
Remove the fabric from the oven on its tray and place on to a heat proof surface. Use the paintbrush to apply the melted wax quickly across the whole surface of the fabric, being sure to cover all edges. If your wax starts to set before you are finishes, return it to the microwave and the wrap to the oven and repeat until you have completely covered your wrap in wax and it has soaked through the fabric.
Once you are happy, allow the wrap to cool a little, then peg it up to dry fully.
Your wrap will last for up to one year if cared for properly. It should be rinsed in cold water between uses and left to dry. You can increase the lifespan of your wrap by placing it back into the oven on greaseproof paper to re-melt the wax and re-setting it, and you can add some additional wax as above if necessary. We have used this technique when ours became sticky and it has given them a new lease of life.
Use your wraps to contain your sandwiches or as an alternative to cling film to cover bowls of food or cut fruit etc in the fridge. The warmth of your hands will make the wax flexible enough to mould around your chosen item and keep it sealed.
So thats a wrap people (sorry!) If you’ve enjoyed this post, look out for more creative posts coming soon!