Wholesome things to do with kids
September 13, 2007 6:32 AM   Subscribe

Things to do with kids: Can you think of any bygone domestic arts that might be fun to do with children? So far I've thought of canning, jelly-making, sewing, quilting, knitting, darning, building a treehouse, fishing, whittling, various kinds of cooking and baking...anything else you know that sounds fun?
posted by Ollie to Home & Garden (41 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Paper Mache?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 6:36 AM on September 13, 2007

Making "rope" from rafia.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:37 AM on September 13, 2007

Paper making.

Butter churning (using a small jar and shaking it).

Ice cream making (this one is sure to be a hit)!

If you have the space and willingness to deal with it if your kids turn out to be not so domestic, raising a couple of chickens (for eggs).
posted by anaelith at 6:38 AM on September 13, 2007

Vegetable gardening?
Spinning would be fun - you could grab a couple spindles instead of having to get a whole wheel. Then they could knit something out of it.
posted by mckenney at 6:45 AM on September 13, 2007

(How old?)
Star searching / identifying.

The book The Dangerous Book for Boys might have other suggestions. (And despite the title, stuff in there is good for girls, too.)
posted by inigo2 at 6:45 AM on September 13, 2007

Pressing flowers.
posted by violette at 6:50 AM on September 13, 2007

Set up a small darkroom. You can probably get all the stuff for extremely cheap/free at this point in the digital age.
posted by bradbane at 6:50 AM on September 13, 2007

posted by belladonna at 6:53 AM on September 13, 2007

making candles by the dip method

starting and maintaining a compost pile, including looking at what actually lives in your soil and why it is there and what it does

broken tile mosaics

concrete flowerpots via hypertufa method
posted by yesster at 6:58 AM on September 13, 2007

Tie die some old t-shirts.
posted by COD at 7:02 AM on September 13, 2007

Quill making and calligraphy
posted by kimdog at 7:04 AM on September 13, 2007

Animal husbandry - milking a cow, mucking a stall, horseback riding, getting eggs from under chicken (watch your fingers!)...

Consult an old boyscout manual - setting a snare, building a shelter, tracking animals, lighting a fire using a bow...

Along the t-shirts - batik and tie die using natural dyes is also fun and not hazardous - oniions for yellow, etc. etc.
posted by zia at 7:12 AM on September 13, 2007

I just watched how to make your own photo journal. Seems fun and easy!
posted by pinksoftsoap at 7:14 AM on September 13, 2007

Make ink from black walnuts (or berries) and make quill pens from bird feathers. I did this with my daughter a few years ago and she loved it - we have a prolific black walnut tree in our backyard and wanted to use up some of the nuts. We made paper too, and she wrote letters to distant relatives with the ink and paper. We scoured thrift shops and found nice old glass containers of all kinds to bottle up the extra ink for presents.
posted by iconomy at 7:20 AM on September 13, 2007

make your own paper dolls - cut out a person shape, and then make clothes to dress the person in, leaving little tags to hang the clothes on.

Also paper doll chains are good fun: fold a long piece of paper vertically over and over until its about a persons width - then cut out the shape of a woman or man, making sure not to cut all the edges - just bits of them. Unfold and it should make a continuous chain of people.

also making snowflakes by folding a piece of paper into quarters, then into triangles, and cutting random pieces out of it, when unfolded looks pretty.

I used to spend hours doing this when I was a child.

Also, knuckles are good fun, and pick-up sticks.

The string tricks were engrossing, (one loop of string that you move into shapes) and origami I liked too.
posted by jonathanstrange at 7:23 AM on September 13, 2007

felting - a friend's daughter made some cute animals that were shared among us

basket making



growing/drying/storing herbs

cross stitch

book making

linoleum stamp making

tatting (lace making)
posted by amtho at 7:26 AM on September 13, 2007

2nding butter churning and ice cream making. Also grinding own corn/wheat/ etc., for flour to make the muffins with, then making butter while the muffins are in the oven. Yum!
Also, doing the ice cream the old fashioned way without buying the fancy equipment is even better.

Also 2nding soap and candlemaking. Both are easy to do in a home kitchen, again without needing to buy expensive equipment. Re: homemade dyes above, beets make the best reds.

Other ideas: weaving, embroidery, macrome, beading, braiding rugs. If you have a maple tree, tapping is a fun winter activity.

For children who may enjoy more complicated projects: making clothes from a pattern, making furniture, making dolls, clothes for dolls, making wagons, go-carts, and sleds.
posted by jujube at 7:35 AM on September 13, 2007

Jerkey turkey, or beef. Dry fruits
posted by Gungho at 7:36 AM on September 13, 2007

Making beef jerky. Check out Alton Brown's method, which involves air filters and a window fan.
posted by bondcliff at 7:37 AM on September 13, 2007

Hula hooping.

Also check out Craftster for tutorials and ideas on a lot of what was mentioned above.
posted by infinityjinx at 7:41 AM on September 13, 2007

Spinning with a drop spindle.
posted by MsMolly at 7:48 AM on September 13, 2007

If they weren't turning up scarce, I'd recommend collecting butterflies/moths. Far better to raise and release them instead.

Species I've raised by finding the larvae/eggs: monarch, spicebush swallowtail, tiger swallowtail, black swallowtail, anise swallowtail, mourning cloak, cecropia, tomato hornworm. I really enjoyed it and besides learning about butterflies, you end up learning about the plants and trees around you, which is not a bad thing at all.
posted by plinth at 7:53 AM on September 13, 2007

Not so much domestic arts, but what about making model airplanes? Little kids can do the snap-together ones, and older kids can handle the modeling glue. (Same with painting: the little kid models tend to have decals that you stick on, while bigger kids can handle paint and turpentine.)

All sorts of holiday crafts are fun, and they're good because they vary between holidays and don't get boring. Magazines like Martha Stewart Kids are probably good sources of ideas for holiday crafts.

When I was a kid, we went to one of those pick-your-own farms every summer, picked strawberries, and then made jam and canned it. I don't remember the canning process being a ton of fun, but the fruit-picking was awesome. You can also pick your own applies, and you can take your kids to pick out pumpkins for Halloween and then let them make their own jackolanterns. (You'll probably have to do the cutting if they're really small, but they make safety knives for pumpkin cutting for slightly older kids.)

There are a lot of commercial crafts which are fun, despite being commercial. Shrinky-dinks, for instance, are awesome, especially if your oven has a window so that kids can watch them shrink. Modeling clay is fun, too. A lot of girls enjoy making beads out of sculpey and then making jewelry out of the beads.

I know that scrapbooking has a terrible reputation, and a lot of commercial scrapbook stuff is deeply cheesy. But as a kid, I was encouraged to make scrapbooks of important events in my life, and it was fun and provided a good record of those events. You don't have to actually buy the scrapbook stuff: you can just get a photo album and paste things in, maybe with backgrounds or lettering made out of construction paper. This is a good thing to do if you ever take a long trip. Encourage the kids to collect stuff for their scrapbooks, and then make the scrapbooks when they get home.

You know what's the funnest thing in the world? Finger paint in the funnest thing in the world. I don't know, however, if you want to inflict that upon yourself. Great for the kids, though.
posted by craichead at 8:01 AM on September 13, 2007

Besides the normal food items (strawberries, corn, potatoes) growing a small amount of cotton is interesting.

Or you could raise an Angora rabbit and spin its fur.
posted by anaelith at 8:35 AM on September 13, 2007

Root beer?
posted by Stewriffic at 8:36 AM on September 13, 2007

Making play (salt) dough (lots of different recipes online), building a toad house for your new aforementioned vegetable garden, making crepe paper flowers, learning to set a fancy table (and for that matter, learning fancy table manners like how to pass and use a knife and fork), juicing, backyard camping, arranging flowers (with flowers kids grow or from a u-cut farm), garland making from paper or scrap cloth (my grandma used to make these little flag style garlands from old wrapping or kraft paper and fabric scraps to decorate pantry and closet shelves), learning simple clothing repair like fixing a hem or patching or sewing a button, raising compost worms, and learning the art of a nice letter or thank you note (for you to receive after you do any of the awesome things in this thread with those kids).
posted by rumposinc at 8:38 AM on September 13, 2007

My brother and I shared The Kids Kitchen Takeover by Sara Stein---it's no longer in print.
posted by brujita at 8:41 AM on September 13, 2007

I don't think it fits strictly under "domestic arts," but talking about old-school enriching activities for kids: a pretty cheap microscope and some pond water are totally fascinating to any kid interested in creepy-crawlies.

You mentioned sewing, but cross-stiching in particular is pretty great. And because of the block-ish nature of cross-stich designs, if the kids like video games with visible pixels, then they can cross-stitch their favorite characters pretty easily.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:45 AM on September 13, 2007

This sort of thing is popular with homeschoolers and I used to be one. Weaving, sewing doll clothing, knitting mushrooms, cross-stitch, spindling, baking bread, gardening, churning, raising animals, etc.

Magic Cabin Dolls still carries a lot of the stuff I used to have, even if the company was bought out a few years ago.
posted by melissam at 8:49 AM on September 13, 2007

Collect lots of Queen Anne's Lace flowers (available now in North America in fields and roadsides); press and dry. They make beautiful fragile snowflake decorations.
I see they're good for jelly, too.
posted by fish tick at 8:52 AM on September 13, 2007

Corn husk dolls!
Apple dolls!
posted by fish tick at 8:55 AM on September 13, 2007

making potato stamps and printing either pictures or cards
posted by koahiatamadl at 9:37 AM on September 13, 2007

You might enjoy paging through The Forgotten Arts and Crafts by John Seymour. It's a large book overflowing with illustrations about "bygone domestic arts", as well as workshop, woodland and building crafts (and more).

It's not a "how to" book, but you could certainly find some great ideas and inspiration!
posted by metabrilliant at 10:07 AM on September 13, 2007

I know this is not a domestic art, but why not teach your kids some classic street games like stickball, skelly, johnny on the pony and such.
posted by brookeb at 10:17 AM on September 13, 2007

Specifically winter activities, but two of my favourites:

Save your dishwashing detergent bottles. Dilute poster paint in water and fill the bottles with different colours. Head out into the snow and paint on the largest canvas you'll ever find!

Boil maple syrup to the soft ball stage, then pour over freshly fallen snow. Pick up the rapidly congealed and sticky mess with a popsicle stick and twist around, and voila, instant lollipop!
posted by LN at 11:20 AM on September 13, 2007

Seconding string figures. My mom gave me this book when I was a kid, and I spent countless hours with it. There are plenty of other books available if that one seems too anthropological (then again, I ended up becoming an anthropologist...coincidence?).

Also seconding the Kids America book...I spent many hours with that one, too.

Build a crystal radio (I'm pretty sure this is included in Kids America)? I loved doing that (though I could never get mine to work...).
posted by splendid animal at 2:13 PM on September 13, 2007

Coal Garden
posted by BoscosMom at 3:01 PM on September 13, 2007

Silk worms (then finding cocoons after they escape) Along the same lines setting up any kind of 'ium' for hermit crabs, fish, bugs, lizards ect.

Prawns and yabbies (with a castnet or yabbie pump) tend to be more thrilling and hands on than plain old fishing. (Um crayfish, marron, I don't know what you'd call them. Or if you have them... Shrimp? Crustaceans! (They're more fun than giant grasshoppers))

Making things out of clay
Go-Cart building
Face Painting.

Finding plants that will attract certain things to your garden and then observing said things. Also any plant that grows tremendously or will overnight lead to a frenzy of "Ohh! Look at this one! and See how big that one is!" is going to be a winner.

Dress-ups. Pirate day, grown up job day...
Geodes are pretty neat.
Science experiments
Shadow puppets or sock/finger ones. Marionettes?

...How to do housework and give massage? :)
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 3:39 PM on September 13, 2007

If the kids are going to be knitting, they can also dye their own wool with Kool-Aid. It's non-toxic, easy, and colourfast. I have done it myself with surprisingly professional-looking results--handpainting the wool is the most fun and encourages creativity, while at the same time, you can teach a bit about colour theory.

Knitty.com tutorial

how to make self-striping yarn

microwave yarn dyeing how-to
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 5:09 PM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

Animal tracking. This gets them (and you) out of the house (away from the usual temptations), into fresh air, exercising, and thinking about animals and the local ecology. Children of different sorts can all respond to this activity if you just pitch it right. Some kids think of seeing fluffy animals, some of being fluffy animals, and some of hunting and shooting them. You can learn to recognize tracks, draw them, and even take plaster of paris molds of good tracks. And of course poopology is another fascinating subject for lots of kids -- you can learn to recognize animals by the little piles of scat you'll find as you track them. You can even take scat samples home and see if you can figure out what the animal had for lunch.
posted by pracowity at 4:21 AM on September 14, 2007

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