Childhood arts and crafts I ca enjoy as an adult?
March 19, 2015 1:21 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for things like colouring books, craft kits etc. which are marketed for children but might be more fun now, as a more competent adult.

I posted two previous art questions, and have been enjoying all the suggestions immensely. What I am finding is that in some ways, I missed out on a lot of this by being somewhat inept as a kid. I would get these art and craft sets because I wanted them, but I was not competent enough to produce a good result so I got frustrated and gave up.

Now, as an adult, I am interested again, and competent. I have this naive hope that I can pick up where I left off, do all of this stuff properly now, and then follow some sort of progression where I move onto what would have been the next thing had I not given up, then the next thing to that and so on, until I am doing 'real' art on my own.

Some things I have tried so far:

- Zentangle drawing, a book of which sparked my art resurgence
- Sketchnote drawing, another great book
- Complex 'adult' Colouring books (I now have enough of these to last a long time!)
- Spirograph drawing kit (I loved this! Done right, they look super-polished)
- A kit where you colour in a pencil case (I used 'real' markers, not the ones in the kit)
- Several books by Klutz Press (a stencil one and a lettering one)
- Several books by Usborne publishing, including a tear-off drawing-a-day book

I don't want more stencils or colouring books, or anything like rainbow loom where you have to buy tons of fiddly bits. I am also not super-interested in painting or collage---yet. I may change my mind on that down the road, but right now I want to draw.

I also am not interested in more stencils. I feel like I am okay using those for squares, circles and basic stuff but I want to progress with my drawing so I am not using that as a crutch anymore. I don't expect to ever be super-fantastic at drawing, and I am not interested in sketching and developing a proper picture where the eyes are exactly this many dots away from the nose. But I want to be able to draw in my journal and adequately represent things.

So, if eight-year-old me had gotten to where I am at now and not given up, what would I have done next? What other kid crafts might I enjoy now that I can actually do them properly?
posted by JoannaC to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (29 answers total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
I just started doing latch hook rugs from a kit. I unwisely chose a huge pattern that's kind of complicated but there are plenty of smaller simpler ones designed for kids. In my view they're pretty similar to coloring books, but with yarn instead of markers.
posted by Polyhymnia at 1:23 PM on March 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Origami is amazing. Is it a problem that it's not to do with drawing?

If it needs to be drawing, I think you need to shop for more drawing books, in the adult section. Kids drawing books always seem to be step by step how to draw a horse, and things like that. Drawing On the Right Side of the Brain might be better.

If you were actually a kid, at this stage you'd probably be taking drawing classes. Have you considered something like a figure drawing class? It's incredibly eye-opening.
posted by BibiRose at 1:35 PM on March 19, 2015 [7 favorites]

Friendship bracelets. You can get as complicated as you wish with them, but they are quite simple to do at their most basic level. All you need is some embroidery floss and maybe a safety pin to secure the end to something (I use the knee of my pants leg, but you can pin it to a couch cushion or something else).
posted by fancyoats at 1:40 PM on March 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Wreck this Journal is fun.

French knitting
or knitty knobbys can be fun. There are kits around, or you can buy the tool and yarn and watch tutorials on youtube.

Friendship bracelets for days. Again, you can buy a book or kit, or buy some embroidery thread and watch tutorials.
posted by MadMadam at 1:44 PM on March 19, 2015

This is something I made a right mess of as a kid and would love to have another go at as a (slightly) more competent adult.
It's a bit hard to get hold of now though by the look of it but this kind of fiddly model making could be fun.
posted by KateViolet at 1:52 PM on March 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Shrinky Dinks!
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 1:59 PM on March 19, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Regarding drawing: I got this Ed Emberly drawing book for my 8 year old and I think I've used it more than he has!

Other craft ideas: leather crafts. I remember loving them at summer camp as a kid but as an adult the possibilities seem endless to create some really nice stuff!

Stained glass kits.

Making pinch pots/clay.

I was recently introduced to drawing (using sharpies) on the backs of dominos. Your canvas is the back of the domino! So fun!!

Similar to the dominos - finding broken shells and using those as the canvas - using the unique shape of each shell piece to incorporate your small picture (I used thin sharpies).
posted by Sassyfras at 2:02 PM on March 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

DIY Shrinky Dinks

Depending on how you feel about plush/stuffed things, you might enjoy creature kits, which you can replicate and modify with your adulthood powers of patience and cunning, or you could just free-hand it, with a bit of guidance.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:07 PM on March 19, 2015

Best answer: The Craft Crow collects art and craft projects for kids from all over the internet. I follow it, and some other art teacher blogs (Painted Paper, Arte a scoula, Art projects for kids), to scout for new techniques to try.

Acrylic sun prints - have been meaning to try this.

I recently did shaving cream marbling on paper - it was fun!
posted by Squeak Attack at 2:08 PM on March 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Paint-your-own ceramics shops are an example of an activity that I liked but was terrible at as a kid. Now that I have slightly better hand-eye coordination and a need for mugs and things, it's way more fun.
posted by bleep at 2:17 PM on March 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you want to make projects that others have designed, I recommend Adult Dot-to-Dot or DIY oil painting kits. But you want to be able "adequately represent things", so what about starting with cartoon or comic drawing? There are scads of books on how to draw comics and I'd bet that you could find a book+kit at either a craft store or Barnes and Noble. Sometimes it might be called line drawing.
posted by soelo at 2:19 PM on March 19, 2015

While it's not drawing as such have you thought about trying Papercut style art. That link is some very fancy stuff but there are a lot of simpler patterns out there to copy, we used to do this a lot as kids and had to trace patterns, now a days there are so many patterns from so many cultures on the internet you can print off and do.
posted by wwax at 2:19 PM on March 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

How about paper models? I went through a (thankfully brief) paint-by-numbers phase, and currently I'm making a yoyo quilt out of worn-out shirts that promises to be hideous when finished. But so comfy and serviceable! Besides, it's fun, especially on long plane trips. The other thing you can do is DIY your own insanely intricate Doverbook coloring pages. Draw, for instance, a dragon. Then draw fivemillion tiny intricate scales all over the dragon and then color in the scales. Draw and color some leaves and flowers and other fun-to-color stuff around the dragon. Voila. Not serviceable, but also very inexpensive. And not nearly as ugly as a yoyo quilt.
posted by Don Pepino at 2:25 PM on March 19, 2015

Michael's and Amazon has kits made by American girl that look fun- I almost took this one home the other day.

I made something like this the other day with my kids (sort of). It was simple and satisfying and lucky for me, I have the kind of home decor that works well with rainbow stars in the windows.
posted by LyndsayMW at 2:45 PM on March 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm not clear on what you're asking---the title asks one thing, and then the end of your comment seems to say you want drawing...

anyway, string art is super-fun, and you can make really sophisticated and complicated designs. And then you can move in to three-dimensional sculpture...

I like the kind of string art you do with thread/embroidery floss and cardstock, personally. (and I'm a sucker for geometric patterns)When my daughter was doing it, she taped the numbered pattern of dots to the back of the cardstock, punched the holes through with a pushpin, and then sewed the string with a tapestry needle.
posted by leahwrenn at 2:51 PM on March 19, 2015

Decoupage! Decoupage! Decoupage!
posted by Sweetie Darling at 3:32 PM on March 19, 2015

Paper mache? Instant camera? You can get cyanotype sun print kits, jewelry making kits, doll house kits, paint-your-own matryoshka doll kits... what you need is a high-end toy store! Making simple pamphlet books/zines is good too - I made heaps when I was about 6 (all about a purple princess with 100 cats...).

All you need to crochet is ONE hook and a ball of yarn, and one basic stitch. There are heaps of (free!) patterns for easy, cute soft toys - check pinterest and ravelry for "amigurumi". There's also basic sewing, like making softies out of socks and whatnot. My mom was making doll clothes at that age (on a sewing machine!). My sister learned to knit at about that age (but IMHO, it's more complicated - more different types and sizes of needles).

(I'll just throw in... drawing is a skill that you can learn, just like anything else. I HIGHLY recommend Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. You can probably be as good as you want to be.)

I was a very crafty kid (ha) and remember drooling over the HearthSong toy catalog.
posted by jrobin276 at 6:16 PM on March 19, 2015

Like you, I was also not a great artist as a kid, and am becoming interested in learning as an adult. I really like the book You Can Draw in 30 Days by Mark Kistler. It's structured in 30 lessons where you learn about shading, perspective, etc. Full disclosure, I only do one every few months, so my 30 days has stretched into 2 years and counting, but even after just a couple of lessons I felt like my drawing had improved immensely. (My drawing started out as basically stick figures, you may be more advanced than me.)
posted by chickenmagazine at 7:15 PM on March 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Honestly, the best thing you can do to practice drawing is to draw. One of my art teachers gave me that advice and suggested that I take a sketchbook and pencil/pen everywhere. Waiting for a train? Sketch someone else who is, or the train tracks, or a rubbish bin - anything. Having a coffee? Do a quick sketch. The object here is not to create polished pieces, but to get into the habit of seeing with a drawing eye, and of course practicing hand-eye coordination and the translation of your vision by just drawing, all the time.

I definitely second BibiRose's suggestion of art classes if you aren't already taking them. Experimenting with different techniques - contour drawing, especially continuous line (don't lift the pencil off the paper) and blind contour drawing (look only at the thing you are drawing, not the paper you are drawing on). Negative space. Collage. Instead of holding the pencil between two fingers and your thumb, as if you were writing, hold it with all your fingers on top and your thumb on the side, as if you were going to shade horizontally. This gives you the ability to move back and forth between thin, precise lines and thicker, more textured lines. This is the kind of stuff I remember from my art classes now more than 25 years ago.

So that's my drawing suggestions. Craft-wise, definitely origami and friendship bracelets (which others have suggested). Great fun. If you are stocking up on embroidery thread with which to make friendship bracelets, you could also try cross-stitch. There are many kits that are aimed at beginning cross-stitchers (wide range from cute to nauseating). These ones are awesomely cute - though they only seem to be available to buy in Australia and New Zealand, there is always ebay!
posted by Athanassiel at 7:23 PM on March 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Fingerpainting, maybe? Or needle felting?
posted by dilettante at 7:23 PM on March 19, 2015

This year I made my own holiday cards by buying nice card paper and a make-your-own rubber stamps kit. The stampmaking kit had some patterns, or you could design your own, which I did. It reminded me of, and inspired me to try, printmaking, which I'd done ages ago in a high school art class.
posted by kapers at 7:34 PM on March 19, 2015

Cross stitching is really easy and fun and very therapeutic/tactile. I highly recommend getting a deluxe kit from Subversive Crossstitch. They come with everything you need other than sharp scissors. Her patterns are simple and she has a ton of resources on her site. The projects are very manageable. Obviously this site is geared towards adults but I did this kind of thing as a kid.

Needle felting is also fun. I made a cute penguin from Wool Pets.
posted by radioamy at 8:56 PM on March 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

No home is complete without a mid-1970s macrame owl. I just started to macrame again after 37 years and I'm not sure it's that much easier as an adult. My larger fingers aren't helping with the bracelet patterns. Next up is a plant holder.
posted by Lil Bit of Pepper at 11:29 PM on March 19, 2015

I'm really enjoying putting Zentangle patterns into geometric stars that I learned to draw from Eric Broug's Draw Islamic Geometric Star Patterns guide. Got a pencil, a pen, a compass and a ruler? You're all set to make some pretty tricky looking stuff! So pretty!
posted by heatherann at 5:45 AM on March 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

I have enjoyed making Hello Kittys, smiling kawaii fruits, Super Mario mushrooms and other 8bit video game nostalgia out of Perler beads (a.k.a. melty beads - the kind you fuse with wax paper and an iron.)
posted by TheClonusHorror at 7:14 PM on March 20, 2015

I enjoyed embroidery, kind of winging-it, as a way of making eg names on Christmas stockings. There are lots of little techniques of how to make flowers or different kinds of textures (rough, smooth, etc). Like cross-stitch but more free-form.

If you're getting in the sketchbook habit, they sell these tiny little watercolor kits that are very easy to take along and let you add a pleasing dimension if you're sketching at the coffeeshop or somewhere else you can get a dixie cup of water.

Model painting - ie painting model airplanes or similar
Painting on varnished wood, eg little treasureboxes or house decorations, mirror frames, etc.
Painting on slate, can make eg house name signs ("The Smiths") for wedding gifts, etc
This could lead to painting wooden dolls, realistic duck decoys, etc.

Tile mosaic (or make a mosaic of pieces of broken thrift store plates) is another one that's good for making household decorations, mirror frames, etc.

Papercraft ornaments, or more complex things like ornaments, mobiles, boxes,... paper automata, even a paper clock. There are a bunch of sites out there and old posts on Mefi about options here.

Lego - specifically, Klutz has these little Lego kits (eg crazy Lego action contraptions) that come with a small box of parts and the instructions to build little rubber-band powered cars, which are fantastically fun. If you haven't done Legos since you were a kid, they're a lot more fun when you're an adult who can systematically follow instructions and understand how the mechanical pieces are working together. They have some really cool stuff.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:42 AM on March 21, 2015

I'd like to second origami. The easy designs are simple enough for children, yet very intricate advanced designs reward the care and patience you can apply as an adult. (Disclaimer: I have dabbled a bit in origami; I am nowhere near an expert.)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:04 AM on March 24, 2015

Best answer: Calligraphy: I find it meditative and it has a low barrier of entry too. All you need is to buy or borrow a calligraphy guide, tracing paper, paper, ink, and patience.

Black and white ink illustrations: It may sound a bit vague but if you're interested in drawing for a journal there's a lot of books which focus on still life or figure drawing using ink.

Photography: Smartphones have nice enough cameras to practice elements of framing or composition. This would partly fall under collage too though.

Papercraft: The advanced version of origami. I admit some of the more detailed designs can give me headache but I like origami enough to keep trying.
posted by chrono_rabbit at 6:23 PM on March 25, 2015

Modular origami may be fun for you -- the individual pieces are often simple, but it's repetitive and fun (and connecting them is often an exercise in 3D thinking). I'm a big fan of Tomoko Fuse for this -- Unit Origami and Floral Origami Globes are two good places to start. (And you can generally get as minimal or as complicated as you want with this, too.)
posted by darksong at 7:03 PM on March 25, 2015

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