Hotel crafting with a toddler?
November 18, 2014 12:56 AM   Subscribe

I'm leaving for 20 days in a hotel room with a three year old in tow. At home, we do a lot of crafting, and I'd like to bring something to work on in the evenings that is safe around her, bonus if she can join in.As the three year old loves to unravel my knitting and can only sort-of crochet, is there something else?

Must be:
- Light and fits in a small box with tools/materials
- All materials can be brought with me, or are very basic (office supplies are all I can count on in Cambodia)
- Non-toxic glues, no glue gun, and nothing sharper than scissors
- Not too messy for a hotel room
- Work area no larger than a coffee table to work on as hotel room is small
- Produces something that either a three year old can play with, or has materials a three-year-old can also make things with

I DIY as a stress relief, and I'd like to have something to work on over the trip for a couple of hours in the evening as we'll be room-bound after dark.
posted by viggorlijah to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (27 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I used to spend hours making latch hook rug kits as a kid, no glue and nothing sharp as the wool tends to come pre-cut in the kits.
posted by Ness at 1:05 AM on November 18, 2014

Apparently these are now "retro" (= I feel old!) but I used to love using a wooden knitting doll as a young child.
posted by humph at 1:14 AM on November 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Finger knitting. I'm not sure how dextrous your three-year-old is, but it could be something to try if she already can sort-of crochet. Alternatively you could idly make a whole length and then hand it over to her to unravel.

Possible projects that you could actually work on while your little one is happily unravelling:
Ear warmer
Another necklace
Infinity loop scarf
Throw pillow
Seasonal ornament
Holiday wreath

Variations on the same theme:
A different kind of finger knitting, resulting in a lacier look
arm knitting
posted by satoshi at 1:44 AM on November 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Make things from old newspapers. We did this with our son when he was three and he loved it. All you need is old newspapers (or magazines) and masking tape (the kind of tape painters use to maskk eg window panes, which is almost like paper), it was great because he tore it off with his tiny fingers without scissors. Scotch tape might work too, but you will need scissors.

Newspapers should be easy to get in a hotel, possibly masking tape is available locally. The cheap one I bought for this came from China.

Diagonally roll the newspaper page, very tight, and tape at several places to secure it. this results in a long baton, like a tube, it should be so tight it is not thicker than your (adult) finger.
Make a s many as you have patience for (the rolling may be to difficult for her) and then with the tape stick together into shapes. Making the actual shapes was what our son enjoyed.
He made a house, a castle, rocket, animals, insects, masks, doll furniture, whatnot.
For making round shapes, draw the newspaper baton through your hands until it is pliable ( a few times), and then you can shape a snail house, sun, etc.
Everything will be big enough for small hands to work with.

If you have scissors, then you can also cut doors and windows into the house.

What our son enjoyed most was actually covering the entire object in masking tape, until it became one solid surface. He worked at that for hours on end! Then he coloured them with felt tip pens (a bit messy because the felt tip colour does not adhere to the tape very well).
posted by 15L06 at 2:03 AM on November 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

The adult version of this (I just realised you wanted to make something too), is to use glossy magazine pages, cut them into narrow but long triangle shapes and roll them into beads (starting from the wide end), using a knitting needle, skewer or similar thin hard stick. You can use any glue, office roll on, whatever as you don't need much.
Bonus: now you have beads your child can make a necklace from.
Some people laquer the beads to make them more durable. But you could do that at home.

Or roll small batons from a howl or half page, diagonally over skewer or knitting needle. and shape them into boxes, bowls, etc.

if you google rolled newspaper crafts, you get lots of videos and pics.
posted by 15L06 at 2:23 AM on November 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Friendship bracelets, maybe with yarn instead of embroidery floss?

Washable crayons or markers.

Newspapers often have smudgy ink, but you can buy giant pads of blank news paper at Michaels and most art stores.

Washi tape - removes easily. You can outline houses or car tracks or decorate things...
posted by jrobin276 at 2:56 AM on November 18, 2014

Best answer: Origami. You can use any paper, really, and make anything from simple toys out of big paper (toddler) to small intricate things (you).
posted by jrobin276 at 2:58 AM on November 18, 2014

My niece, when she was that age, would paint with me for hours with watercolor paints like this or we'd make things from beads like this.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 2:59 AM on November 18, 2014

Loom knitting, maybe? It'd depend at least a little on how your child is with fine motor movements, etc, but it might be worth a shot. (Bonus: it's a lot harder to pull out than regular knitting is.)
posted by MeghanC at 3:13 AM on November 18, 2014

Fusion beads are great for non-messy fun-- for a 3-year-old, maybe Perler Biggie Beads? You could fuse them with the hotel-room iron.
posted by Bardolph at 4:13 AM on November 18, 2014

do you celebrate christmas? you could make an advent calendar out of material with little felt pieces for each day. something like this?
posted by andreapandrea at 4:56 AM on November 18, 2014

Wikki stix! wikkistix

There are lots of things you can do with beads on pipe cleaners.
posted by metasarah at 4:58 AM on November 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Snap beads?
posted by jrobin276 at 5:08 AM on November 18, 2014

My parents were very big on art supplies. So crayons and blank paper. But I loved coloring books (because I never had any) so they were a special treat. Also, sticker books. You unstick the stickers and then paste them in the book. Totally wasteful and pointless, but I loved 'em when I was little.

How about jigsaw puzzles?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:15 AM on November 18, 2014

I used to love making pompoms at that age. And they are sort-of christmassy, so I expect you could work a snowball or Rudolf nose story in there if you thought pompoms on their own weren't exciting enough (I just loved pompoms).
posted by tinkletown at 5:30 AM on November 18, 2014

Response by poster: I'm actually looking for more complex crafts than child-level - I want to do something that I can either do variations or acquire a new crafting skill - bookbinding is sort of on the table except an awl seems like I'm just asking for impalement.
posted by viggorlijah at 6:01 AM on November 18, 2014

Best answer: I love bookbinding. Start by making accordion books or folded page books with beautiful covers. No awl needed. Nailing a well done cover is half the battle anyway! I'll say though, that once you go beyond the very simple decent craftsmanship gets messy. I have a dedicated desk and get glue and shards of paper everywhere, and there's wait times while things are drying or sitting under weights (phone books). YMMV, depends on what you're making and just how involved you want to get in the evenings.

Honestly, I've picked up crocheting because it's clean, portable, and far far easier to stop and start.

Otherwise, what about hand lettering and calligraphy? Or learning to draw or watercolour? Embroidery or hand stitching? Toddler could play at writing her name, draw next to you, or work on sewing cards.
posted by jrobin276 at 6:39 AM on November 18, 2014

Clay in general is a medium that scales well across skill levels from preschool to adulthood, and air-dry clay should work in your particular setting. A lot of air-dry clay is plain white/gray/terra cotta, but you can also find it in colors that don't need to be painted. If you find you like working with clay, you can get fancier or switch to an over-baked type of clay such as polymer clay when you get home. I find working with clay to be very soothing, and as the Play-Doh people well know, little kids LOVE to squish and experiment with mixing colors. In addition to creating blobby shapes, even little kids can use clay as a stamping medium (what happens when I stamp it with a button? or a coin? Or press the teeth of a comb into it?)
posted by drlith at 6:46 AM on November 18, 2014

I was recently surprised at how good my almost-3 year old is at basic beading with pipe cleaner and plastic kid beads. So if you are looking for something to do together, you could get a kit for a finer adult-level beaded thing and a small child bead project and work on your projects side-by-side.

I am impressed that you get any crafting done around your child at all!
posted by stowaway at 7:47 AM on November 18, 2014

Quilling is the adult version of newspaper rolling as described above, and you can make some beautiful things with the technique.

You may also want to look at orange swan's posting history on the Blue; she's had a few highly praised mega-link craft posts here.
posted by sockermom at 8:32 AM on November 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Seconding origami! Meenakshi Mukerji's books are my favorite - they're more complex and intricate than the origami you might remember doing as a kid, and I find choosing colors and piecing together the final shapes SO satisfying. You don't need more of a work area than a couch and small lap-table or coffee table, and the only tool you might want is a small folding tool (to save your fingers/nails from slow destruction by folding). Your three-year old could play with the colorful paper too, and learn some simple origami animals (or dinosaurs!) if she was so inclined.
posted by augustimagination at 9:10 AM on November 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Flower fairies. Supplies are just fake flowers, pipe-cleaners, and large wooden beads. (The dollar store usually has a good variety of cheap flowers - might try there first.)

Deconstruct the flowers before you go. The parts you want are anything with a hole in the middle (or sometimes edge) to use for fairy clothing, so make sure that's the kind you buy. Occasionally, some fake flowers aren't made this way - we've gotten excited about some cool flowers, only to discover they won't work.

For each fairy, you need two beads, 1/2 a pipe-cleaner, and an assortment of flower pieces. Fold the pipe-cleaner in half (so it's 1/4 long) and make a loop of the closed end. Slide the bead on the open ends, all the way up to the loop. This is the head. The loop is there to both hold the bead on, and to use for hanging, if desired. Add any "clothes" that go at the neckline, like a scarf or cape. Make little loops then twist them out for arms. Add the body/skirt pieces - you can make a twist or two of the pipe-cleaners together to separate out layers, if needed. Add a bead to hold everything together, then make legs out of the remaining pipe-cleaner.

And I apologize - I realize it's not the best explanation - but they're super-easy to make, and they're awesomely convenient little dolls to play with, too. This would definitely be a craft for her, not so much you, lol.
posted by stormyteal at 9:23 AM on November 18, 2014

Best answer: Making these paper flowers is very simple, once you have the pieces cut (which you could do all at once so you can put the scissors away) it's mostly folding with a few dots of glue. They are very pretty and can be easily strung into a garland or used for other cheery decoration.

I made a bunch (as an adult) and found it very relaxing. You can also use any random paper.
posted by pennypiper at 11:54 AM on November 18, 2014

Seconding drlith on the paper clay. It's not really all that messy, unless you smoosh it into the bedspread or something like that. I've made snowmen by covering skewered dollar store styrofoam balls with paperclay (they took a few days to dry), painted their faces and then coated them with glitter - supercute and easily manageable for the 3 yo. Also very fun to impress with texture, i.e. buttons as mentioned before; rubber stamps work well, too.
posted by sarajane at 1:33 PM on November 18, 2014

Would you consider learning to hand quilt or appliqué? Lovely, requires very small amount of supplies, easy to pick up and put down-I keep each project-fabric, pattern, thread, small scissors, pencil and a few pins-in a gallon ziploc bag. And kiddos can do big needle sewing alongside you.
posted by purenitrous at 1:40 PM on November 18, 2014

English paper piecing? My little ones like to play with my fabric while I quilt, so maybe your child would enjoy it too.
posted by christinetheslp at 7:49 PM on November 18, 2014

Response by poster: We brought a small box of basic stationary tools, including a paper cutter, and bought paper at a local bookstore. She cut and pasted paper and with my help, made giant paper flowers to decorate the room, and I made tiny books with thread and glue from this book of paper books which she scribbled on. The super-bonus was an unexpected long visit by her older cousins who on their weekends with us, made books and paper crafts as well, as we barely speak the same languages so having a portable and fun craft to do together was wonderful.
posted by viggorlijah at 7:47 PM on December 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

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