Ideas for children's art projects that can be made in about 15 minutes?
November 25, 2018 9:53 PM   Subscribe

Please give me your ideas for art/craft projects that children ages 5-11 can make in a relatively short amount of time. Anything with science-y elements would be especially appreciated, but not required. These will be for an arts event with several creation stations that the kids can circulate among, so it’s not expected that they’d spend more than 15 minutes or so at any particular project. These could be collaborative, but should also be possible to do individually.
posted by theory to Education (11 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Any time I can tell people about educator Arvind Gupta is a happy day for me. He has figured out dozens and dozens of exactly the kind of activities you are looking for, using extremely cheap or free or recycled materials that you can find in any village in India. His slogan is "Toys from Trash." All demonstrate a basic scientific or engineering principle. A general introduction to his story can be found in this TED talk. As for the actual activity plans, he's been doing this since the 1970s, so there are so many of them. Here is a good collection to start with, separated into categories.

With this guy you are getting four good things-- the activities are easy, fun, fast and cheap to make. I used to give presentations every year at Career and Technical Education teachers' conferences, and I always plugged this guy, and the next year, those who tried his stuff (which is almost all free, although if you want I think he sells books) would say that it was good and it worked in the classroom. Have fun!
posted by seasparrow at 10:23 PM on November 25, 2018 [16 favorites]

Making any kind of playdough that they could take with them might be fun. This goop stuff is fascinating for people of all ages.
posted by slidell at 12:29 AM on November 26, 2018

Best answer: Slime is always a winner, but this will depend on how much mess you're allowed to make.
These are some of my favourite make-and-take science-craft (disclaimer: I work for Fizzics, one of the websites linked)
Colour wheels
Bird in a cage illusion
Invisible Ink Art
Cartoon Flip Books
Bird Feeders
posted by cholly at 12:36 AM on November 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Paper chromatography withvarious markers and various solvents
posted by sciencegeek at 3:55 AM on November 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

These ideas aonfar are good - a few I haven’t seen mentioned that have worked at other events like this I’ve attended:

Decorate your own cookie/cupcake
Perler bead crafts
Make greeting cards to send to veterans or a local nursing home
posted by nuclear_soup at 5:17 AM on November 26, 2018

My group had huge success at an Earth Day booth by having kids make small terrariums in empty jars.
posted by MexicanYenta at 5:20 AM on November 26, 2018

Best answer: Exploratorium’s Science Snacks are often cheap, fun, and easy for kids. Some skew more towards demo and not craft, so read thoroughly.

If you’re shooting for 15 minutes or less, you can only have one or two steps. Also, people will take anything that someone doesn’t have direct control of, so if there’s a stapler or scissors or something hard to replace, station a volunteer whose only job is that.

Much of STEM in Libraries might be too involved, but I have modified their projects before. Many of these are pre-adapted for take-and-make which sounds like what you’re working with.

DLTK Kids are mostly print/cut/color items listed by theme. Skews younger.

Aunt Annie’s Crafts are also mostly paper crafts and it skews a little to hard for kids to complete on their own. I have found that on most sites you have to adjust the age range up by a couple years— i.e. if the site says perfect for age 5+, that means 7+, and if it says 10-12, that means 13+. I don’t know if that’s just my screen-oriented library kids or what, but try all the projects first to identify issues and bottlenecks.

Color A Smile offers coloring sheets with a twist— when you’re done, mail them in and they’re sent out to cheer up a lonely person. Sheets are refreshingly non-licensed-character but kids still like them.

If you want to be the most popular station, do slime, but find a way to control crowds. Slime works best if adults do the pouring OR components are pre-measured. Put a tarp on the floor if you have carpet and have a wet-dry vac on hand to quickly eliminate spills so nobody trips.
posted by blnkfrnk at 5:42 AM on November 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

We just made shrink dinks this thanksgiving and it was a hit for all ages. You need access to some type of oven though. They sell the sheets on amazon or you can use #6 plastic. It is THRILLING to watch them shrink!
posted by absences at 6:39 AM on November 26, 2018

Best answer: Chromatography Snowflakes
posted by belladonna at 6:45 AM on November 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Like MexicanYenta's idea of making terrariums, they can make their own gardens or wildlife scenes without needing live plants and later sunlight to keep them alive. A variety of craft materials would be needed. Start with sprigs of real, artificial or dried greenery and twigs or bare grape stems and use little blobs of plasticine to make them stand up. A package of plastic toy animals can be split up, one animal per kid. The ground can be made of any of a variety of material - recycled green, brown, white or dun coloured fabric, coloured paper, glue and sand, sand without any glue (but the sand will fall out on the way home or end up in the carpet once it gets there if it isn't glued) Any of a variety of materials can be used for additional foliage and decorate, undecorated mini christmas trees, rocks or gravel, terarium gravel, green background scenes cut from old National Geographics or out door living magazines. Mirrors are traditionally used for water but silver paper or anything similar can be used as well. Yellow construction paper cut into fringes can be grass to go with savanna animals, for example. Stickers are another decorative option for the very young

Since this is a creative endeavour rather then merely a matter of assembling you would need to make a couple of different dioramas as examples, and prepare some of the material in advance.

for a base collect some of those cardboard flats that shrink wrapped cans come in, or cut down the bottoms or sides of suitably sized boxes. A small scene could be constructed in a hamburger helper box with one side cut off, laid flat and taped at the corners for added strength.

As well as a garden or happy nature thriving scene, a diorama could be made of a polluted or destroyed environment, depending on the age and creativity of your participants. Black paint for spilt oil or charring on a burned forest would be for kids that could be trusted not to get it all over themselves. Water soluble kids pain washes up the best.

Layers of chocolate cake can be used to make a paleontology scene by cutting away the cake to reveal the bones of plastic prehistoric animal. An chocolate sheet cake would allow for more excavation area, or each child could get a cupcake or square of the cut cake. It could be a bones discovered curing construction if a small plastic construction vehicle is included. Various edible foliages can decorate the edges and string and bamboo skewer grids made by the older chldren who can do such fiddling work.

If this is a Christmas activity they could make their own manger scene by gluing cardboard figures into a small lidded box. Dead grass should be supplied for straw, which can be cut outside in this weather in much of the world.

Bead stringing possibly teaching patterns such as fractals or the Fibonacci sequence.

Doll making, perhaps using wooden spoons, yarn and felt.

Making birchbark canoe models

Add something to a mural. The mural could be a town scene - add cars, lampposts, mailboxes, people, pets and foliage, a doll house which needs to be furnished and populated, a pond which need frogs, frog spawn, tadpoles, dragon flies, fish, lilies, bulrushes,a lost rubber boot etc. Another idea is a battle scene, if that idea is not too gory, as it is popular with kids when allowed. if a battle scene is not allowed, a combat scene from a game might be acceptable with the mural being the background to a platform shooter so the kids put in traps, monsters treasure and players. A finished image of what might go in the mural is needed for inspiration and instruction which could be printed or purchased as a poster, and a basic outline drawn on a large sheet of white or brown paper to provide structure. Paint is not recommended for this.
posted by Jane the Brown at 6:45 AM on November 26, 2018

If you take a balloon, and paper mache over it (use white glue mixed with water and newspaper strips) and then paint it grey. You have to make some kind of string hanger on top. Then hang it outside where it can't get wet. It will look like a wasp nest to other wasps and theoretically they won't build a nest there. So this will be sciencey and good for the environment by not killing wasps with pesticides.
This seems to be working on my property but this is also an opportunity to get kids to keep scientific notes on this experiment - and see for themselves if it works. They can record if any wasps do make nests near the fake nest. Take pictures, etc.
So it's a win-win even if wasps do make nests near the fake nest the kid still learns scientific process.
posted by cda at 9:38 PM on November 26, 2018

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