Arts and crafts are wonderful ways to bond with your children and encourage their creativity. But lots of dads don’t know where to start when it comes to crafts with kids.
There’s an unspoken rule in my house: I do the outdoorsy and physical stuff, like teaching the kids to ride bikes or swim, and my wife does arts and crafts. There’s a simple reason for that. I would far rather kick a football about in a hurricane, or hurtle down a snowy hillside on a fragile plastic sled, than break out the glue sticks and poster paints. Quite simply, I am terrified of making things, and I am far from the only dad that feels this way.
But we shouldn’t. Making stuff is great, and many dads we speak to feel exactly the same. Children love it, and it sparks their creativity. It’s also a wonderful - and weatherproof - way of bonding. With that in mind, and for the sake of all the craftless, unartistic dads out there, here are six tips for for unleashing your inner maker.
1. Invest in the basics for craft making
Nothing is more dispiriting than finally plucking up the courage to tackle a craft project with your kid, and then realising that you’ll have to go out and buy all the maker stuff you need first. Instead, keep a good supply handy at all times. A basic art and craft box should contain:
9. Recyclables - e.g. egg boxes, cereal packets, lolly sticks, the inside bit of toilet rolls, and so on.
10. Shortcuts - Don't be afraid to take them. Tracing paper is great for producing amazing art, without being artists. Sugru is a fantastic mouldable glue that makes making everything from skull lamps to necklaces that little bit easier.
2. Pick a good time to enjoy craft ideas with the children
If your project takes an hour, put aside an hour and a half (for prep and tidying up time), then silence or (better) switch off your phone, and give it your full attention.
Paul, dad of two, says: “When I first started to do arty stuff with the kids they could tell I wasn’t really into it, so they were a bit half-hearted themselves. They kept asking when they could go and play Xbox! But when I put my heart into it, their attitude changed too."
3. Get some maker help on easy craft ideas
You’re not alone, dads. There are loads of online resources for inspiration and instruction. Parents.com has a whole section devoted to easy craft ideas, and there are lots more. This Pom Pom Birds is one of our favourites.
4. Don’t be scared to improvise
Don’t have the right shade of green? Nobody will care. You don’t have to follow instructions to the letter, and as you become more experienced you might want to use them just for inspiration - adding your own details and refinements as you go on.
As the folks at Activity Village say: “Crafting with children is all about having fun, experimenting, taking ideas that you see and adapting them to suit what you have available and what you think your children would enjoy most.”
5. There’s no such thing as failure in craft making
Chris, dad of two daughters, says:
“The first thing I made with my eldest daughter many years ago was an elephant mask. It turned out a mess. It looked more like a really long-nosed and unhappy donkey than a majestic elephant. But it didn’t matter. We loved doing it and laughed for days about our amazing ele-donkey. We haven’t looked back.”
As Chris knows, the point isn’t to make brilliant pieces of art or incredibly useful objects, but to have a good time with your children. If you make nothing more than a mess, and yet everybody has fun, it’s mission accomplished.
If there was no failure, then brilliant inventions like this new Lego inspired High Chair would not have been formed, thanks to dad's intervention, and a little Sugru. Damn that stuff is good!
Speaking of Sugru, as you may know at DaddiLife we're big fans of lego. Sugru has been a great way to get even more lego goodness into the kids' lives.
Whether that's through making any toy a lego toy...
Or even getting dad to create a whole new bendy lego! More Sugru inspirations here.
Take Note: Unlike LEGO, Sugru is not a toy. While it's still soft and squidgy, sugru is for grownups, not kids, so keep it away from those little guys. Once sugru has had time to cure, it's safe for everyone.
6. Big up your child’s efforts
Art teacher Nichola Cortese advises: “When your child shows you their creation, never say “what is it?” (even if you don’t know what it is). They might think it obvious and your question might undermine their confidence. Instead say: tell me about this.”
Be fulsome in your praise. But as Nichola says, don’t just say “that’s great”: “Be specific, and it will be worth more. Talk about their use of colour or the shapes they’ve made. It shows you really have taken it in.”
And the final piece of advice, just do it. After all, what’s the worst that can happen?
Need more help? No problem, there's always a great YouTube tutorial on hand.