Crafts with Kids
February 4, 2004 10:37 AM   Subscribe

Parents! I could use some ideas for various crafts, hobbies, and quiet activities for kids aged 8 through 13. I'm doing some long-term care for a friend, and I want to wean them from the g.d. boob tube. Cheap, quiet, and independent are key factors. TIA!
posted by five fresh fish to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
How about bookmaking or papermaking or screenprinting or pinhole cameras.

I know I like to do that kind of stuff and I am 25 - and I wish I was exposed to it earlier in life. Maybe you set out a plan for every 1 or 2 weeks you have a different craft, and by the end of the month, the kids [not to mention you] will have new ideas and gifts to give to loved ones. Teach the kids to fish, and they will fish forever...or whatever.
posted by plemeljr at 10:48 AM on February 4, 2004

puzzles: jigsaw, manipulated kind (like rubik's cubes), crosswords.

games like facts in five or kensington or settlers of catan or scrabble or chess, which tend to require more thought than most board games so tend to encourage quieter behavior.

these tend to be okay for both boys and girls. i don't imagine too many ten year old boys want to make bead bracelets, but i know a couple pre-teen girls who love to.
posted by crush-onastick at 10:58 AM on February 4, 2004

Knitting! It has an almost meditative quality, and besides, it's ridiculously easy to learn the few basics needed to make a scarf--cast on, knit stitch, cast off, and you're good to go. And yarn is available in a million different styles and colors to enchant your kids--try buying a single lot of "oddballs" from a yarn mill via Ebay to get a hodgepodge of high-quality small-to-medium quantities.

Another project is a single-shot possiblity--have 'em make tied-edge fleece blankets. Last winter, they were all the rage with the local kids in my neighborhood, from the fourth-graders all the way through college, guys and gals alike. There are a thousand funky fleeces out there that can be had on the cheap, from plaids to smiling cats to Elmo, and letting the kid pick two patterns for him or herself makes the blanket an expression of personality. And the results are quite snuggly.... I admit to making one of my own, and having to sternly talk myself out of a second go-round featuring some loon-pattern fleece.
posted by clever sheep at 11:04 AM on February 4, 2004

i used to teach that age in summer camp and i recommend the game mancala. we were all addicted to it within a week. also, girls that age tend to like anything shiny/furry. we had a good supply of glitter, feathers, beads, etc and some of the stuff they came up with was just wonderful. go to your local craft store, and let them each pick out a few things.
posted by amandaudoff at 11:14 AM on February 4, 2004

I was crazy about Origami at that age -- check out Eric Kenneway's Complete Origami.
posted by Aaorn at 11:28 AM on February 4, 2004

This might be fruitful, if they're the right kind of kids:
posted by blueshammer at 11:31 AM on February 4, 2004

There's a book that might work for you that's only $9.98 hardcover at Barnes and Noble. It's published by Sterling and it's something like the complete guide to Crafts and Hobbies.
posted by drezdn at 11:41 AM on February 4, 2004

My siblings' kids and I had a great time making refrigerator magnets. There's a type of modelling clay that comes in zillions of colors which you can buy at a craft or hobby store. The clay hardens if you bake it in a somewhat hot but ordinary oven for 15 or 20 minutes. Once cooled, use hot glue and attach one or more magnets to the backside of each.

They'll think of you and the fun they had every time they open the fridge.
posted by crunchland at 12:33 PM on February 4, 2004

Response by poster: Blank White Cards would require them to play together. I'd like an independent activity they can do on their own.

I am especially interested in longer-term hobby-style activities, such that they'll keep themselves productively amused for about a month at a time, if not a lifetime.

Knitting was a good example. Soapstone carving is another (any number of arts are a good example.)

Thanks for the book recommendation -- perhaps that's an even better way to go: hunt up the better kids' crafts/hobbies books and start going through them with the kids.

I never had hobbies as a kid, so I'm really at quite a loss!
posted by five fresh fish at 12:34 PM on February 4, 2004

Maybe too late for the 13-year-old (but, who knows? - maybe not?): After The School told my parents that I was having trouble learning (basic reading, at age 6), my father made it a regular routine for us to walk to the library together on Saturdays, get some books, then stop for ice cream on the way home.

During the week we would read the books together. It wasn't at all long before my love of reading was seriously ignited, and soon outflamed this small ritual. I became the "readingmonster" of the whole family, infamous for my reading addiction, from the age of about 7 or 8, onward, and I'm still that monster. Of course, I was living in a small Alaskan town at that time, and we really didn't have television, so this whole story may have very little to do with what contemporary parents/caretakers can hope to do with their kids. I'll only say that it is obvious that I had a great deal of lurking intelligence, yet was considered "backward" by my teachers . This was soon turned around, thanks to my Dad, who involved himself. And only a couple of years later, there was no reading curriculum that could possibly contain me. My (good) teachers were making up special programs just for me...
posted by taz at 12:56 PM on February 4, 2004 [1 favorite]

Suggest for the older kids a project that when completed they can use during a season. Summer time: build a snow sled for use during the winter months; winter time: RC boats, planes, & cars for use during spring/summer months. That way the "project" will keep them interested since they'll have something to look forward to.
As a kid we would build "popscicle stick" boats to float down our gutters during the rainy months.
posted by thomcatspike at 1:11 PM on February 4, 2004

Do they like to draw? Try flipbooks. It's fun to animate, plus it's an enormous time suck.
posted by furiousthought at 1:52 PM on February 4, 2004

My nieces and nephews had fun creating a scrapbook they left at my house and that we would add pages to when we did things together. Because the supplies for it can be pretty cheap, we'd buy cards, stickers, etc. whenever we went anywhere, and then they'd either collaborate on a page or make individual pages. It was also a nice platform for other projects - painting, drawing, collage, etc. Now that they're all older, I'm really happy to have it.
posted by JollyWanker at 1:55 PM on February 4, 2004

I know when that age I loved to make up scenarios with do-it-yourself toys:

Matchbox cars (and tracks or towns or what-have-you)
Pasticine modeling clay

I can second mancala, too, even as an adult.
posted by werty at 2:12 PM on February 4, 2004

Don't forget about Shrinky-Dinks.

My 30-something friends and I still get together to make those. (The gatherings now tend to include semi-fancy dress, hors d'ouevres and foofy cocktails, though.)
posted by aine42 at 3:02 PM on February 4, 2004

Nothing beats a deck of cards. You can play solo or with others.

Plus, I would second Crunchland's idea of the clay, but with a twist: we covered a few stainless switchplates in clay, then baked the stuff right on and sealed it with laquer after cooling. I still have one, actually. It turns my mild-mannered kitchen light switch into an "eject" switch. mwah-ha-ha.
posted by whatnot at 3:06 PM on February 4, 2004

well, it's not cheap, but I just spent the better part of the past 2 weekends building a PC with three of my nephews (8, 10 and 14). I went through the process of having them figure out what sort of machine they needed, what sort of applications they'd want to run, what kind of peripherals they'd need. Then we spent the time checking out the local computer megamart, comparing stuff. Then we spent a good amount of time finding the lowest prices online. When the parts arrived, I helped them put the thing together. We formatted the drive with two partitions -- one with windows and the other with suse linux. I think their father paid a total of $700 for all the parts. And now the boys know that computers are relatively simple devices, and not scary or mysterious.

I think I've put them on the road to greater geekdom, too.

Maybe consider projects with not so great outlay of cash ... with spring coming, build a go-kart. Or a radio controlled airplane.

Or geocaching. Or hiking/camping. Or bring them to art museums or historical societies.
posted by crunchland at 4:59 PM on February 4, 2004

Stamp collecting. Which leads to the so-very-antewebian art of foreign pen pals.
posted by Dagobert at 12:03 AM on February 5, 2004

An ebay search for "family creative workshop" will bring up a set of cheesey looking books from the 70s that are chock full of candlemaking, silkscreening, go kart construction and on and on. They may not have the most exhaustive instructions, but they are a great source of ideas.

Sandle making

Body painting

posted by mecran01 at 5:24 AM on February 5, 2004

Response by poster: Hey, that's cool.

Thanks for the ideas, everyone!
posted by five fresh fish at 8:34 AM on February 5, 2004

Ok, this isn't the most productive or quiet activity, but it does fit your criterion of being boob-tube free; when I was a kid my mother would buy us a new computer game each summer, and we'd spend weeks solving it together. Not shoot-em-ups or video games, but roleplaying games like Sierra's Kings Quest. Or we'd play Carmen Sandiego as a team, with one kid manning the encyclopedia/travel guide, another in charge of going through the dossiers and determining the identity of the crook, etc.
posted by Soliloquy at 9:04 AM on February 5, 2004

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