I remember watching Daniel Tiger when my first-born was just a baby and having one of those sobering moments of mommy-dread. The characters on the show were talking about playing make-believe, or making crafts, or doing something, or acting out something … I don’t remember … and one of them said, “Let’s go get supplies from the make-things box!”
Wait. What did she say? The “make-things” box? What the heck is that? Is that a thing?
It turns out it is a catch-all box of odds and ends that you might use one day. The kids can use them to make crafts or build skyscrapers or whatever. I felt immediate pressure. I needed a “make-things” box.
Fast-forward to the four-millionth day of quarantine, and I am the queen of the make-things box. I had collected a couple little things before—crayons, stickers, glue—but, now, everything goes in the box. I save egg containers, bottle caps, toilet paper rolls, scraps of paper, yarn, string, sponges, and pieces of cardboard both super-huge and teeny-tiny. And when COVID-19 quarantine began, I added more basic supplies like finger paint, brushes, pipe cleaners, pads of paper, felt pieces, and stencils.
I have two boys, ages 20 months and 3 years, so I knew the quarantine would present a challenge when it came to keeping them busy. My Type A mind catapulted my body immediately to the chalkboard, where I came up with a schedule that included time for art, music, and playing outside. I knew they needed structure, and I was determined to try to keep them engaged. We were already doing Kindermusik via Zoom, so that was taken care of. Now, what am I going to do for art?
My kids are very little, so they can’t do a lot of the super-sophisticated crafts that are dominating everyone’s blogs and Pinterest boards. Every once in a while, I would find good ideas just by Googling the supply I had on hand, e.g., “Easter crafts with toilet paper rolls.” Other times, I just had to make something up.
Most of the crafts I do with my boys are very easy and take little planning and preparation. Let’s be honest, I do a lot of the actual work for their crafts, but I still think they enjoy just getting their hands dirty and focusing on something different for a half-hour or so.
Here are 20 crafts I’ve done with my kids that are easy to accomplish with things around the house (plus maybe an art supply here and there--hello, Amazon).
- Egg crate wreath. Supplies: egg cartons, finger paint, paintbrushes, construction paper, cardboard, scissors, glue and/or tape. Cut the egg cartons into four-egg sections and paint them. Once they are dry, tape them (packing tape works best) onto a cardboard wreath. I cut mine out of a cardboard insert from a new set of sheets, tracing mixing bowls as my circles. You can then fill in the holes on the wreath with leaves cut out of construction paper or another material like ribbon or tissue paper. (p.s. You can make a ton of crafts with egg cartons.)
- Painting with worms. Supplies: cooked spaghetti, finger paint, paper. Put the cooked spaghetti in various bowls with some finger paint. Put your kids in front of some blank paper and let them go to town.
- Number-focused projects. Supplies: various items. We do number-focused projects a lot. We traced our hand with crayons and colored in the number five for our five fingers. We also have colored the number eight and then made octopuses out of painted paper plates and construction paper.
- Toilet paper flower stencils. Supplies: toilet paper rolls, scissors, finger paint, paper. Cut the toilet paper rolls into several sections and then shape them into flowers and tape away. There is no sophisticated way to do this, but you will want to assemble your stencil while it sets atop a flat surface—this is so the entirety of the bottom of it will touch the paper when you press it down with paint on it. Then just put some paint on a paper plate and let the kids stamp the paper. If your kids are older and the printmaking is more controlled, you also can draw stems on the flowers with marker or crayon.
- Ice cream cones. Supplies: construction paper, crayons, scissors, tape. Cut several different color circles for the ice cream. Let your child decorate them however they’d like (older kids could use other media like glitter … if you’re feeling brave, mama). Then, cut a triangle for the cone and stack the ice cream on top!
- Egg crate caterpillar. Supplies: egg carton pieces, finger paint, paintbrushes, black marker, scissors, tape, pipe cleaners. Cut egg carton into individual sections and paint. When dry, tape the sections together to create the caterpillar. Draw eyes on and poke the pipe cleaner through for the antennae.
- Lava lamps. Supplies: construction paper/poster board, finger paint, scissors, tape. Cut the lava lamp bottle shape out of bright paper or poster board and let your child paint the “lava.” Cut the simple shapes of the bottom and cap out of darker paper and tape together.
- Hot air balloons. Supplies: construction paper, finger paint, large Ziploc bag, scissors, tape/glue. Cut a few clouds out of white paper. Cut a basket shape out of brown paper. Cut a balloon shape out of a lighter colored paper (heavier paper or card stock works best). Place the balloon shape in a Ziploc bag with some squirts of paint. Seal the bag and give it to your child to push the paint around. No mess! I love this method! Remove it from the bag immediately and let it dry. Assemble all the pieces on a darker background piece of paper.
- Drums and shakers. Supplies: Construction paper, paint, empty food container like from oats or Pringles chips along with something to fill the shaker with. Decorate the paper however you’d like and affix it to the container. You can leave the drum empty; and you can fill the shaker with rice, beans, or even something like pouch tops. Shake, shake, shake!
- Beehive. Supplies: toilet paper rolls cut into sections, yellow finger paint, black sharpie, scissors, tape, paper. Have your children put yellow fingerprints all over the page. When they dry, they (or you) can draw stripes, faces, antennae and/or legs on the bees. Then, select a spot to build your hive, and tape sections of the toilet paper roll into the shape of a hive (this works best if your TP rolls are brown or gray.) Buzzzzzzz.
- Toilet paper roll puppy dogs. Supplies: toilet paper rolls, tape, scissors, black marker. I don’t think I can do better than these instructions, so click here for the 411.
- Jellyfish. Supplies: paper plates, crepe paper or tissue paper strips, crayons, scissors, tape. Have children color the paper plates as they wish. Cut strips of the crepe/tissue paper and tape to the bottom of the plate for the tentacles. You can also use a piece of paper to create a little handle on the top of the plate.
- Handprint flowerpot. Supplies: finger paint, construction paper, scissors, tape/glue. Have children cover their entire hand in green paint and make a handprint on the paper. Then use multicolored paint to create fingerprint flowers at the end of each finger/stem. Cut a flowerpot shape out of another color construction paper and affix below handprint. The kids can decorate the flowerpot too.
- Potato or sponge painting. Supplies: cut up sponges or potatoes, finger paint, paper. Cut sponges into shapes or carve out patterns or letters in a potato. Dip into paint and make prints on the paper. I remember doing this as a kid, and it’s just as much fun as an adult.
- Kites. Supplies: tape and scissors; construction paper for kite; crepe paper for tail; construction paper, paint, crayons, etc., for decorating. Cut the base shape for the kite and have the kids decorate however they’d like. We cut some polka dots out for this round. Then, tape on the tail.
- Paper plate turtles (or dinosaurs or fish). Supplies: paper plates, tape, scissors, finger paint/crayons. You can cut basic shapes out of paper plates to create pretty much any animal. My favorites are turtles, dinosaurs, and fish. Have your kids decorate the pieces and then help them assemble the completed animal. Voila!
- Dream catchers. Supplies: pipe cleaners, yarn, scissors. Create a shape with the pipe cleaners (we did a simple circle). Then, wrap the yarn around. There’s no rhyme or reason here; just throw it around the room and have fun. Then, tie off the end and hang in a window.
- Collages. Supplies: the point here is that you can make a collage out of just about anything. We have collage day every once in a while. I get out scrap pieces of paper, stickers, crayons, etc. I also have just cut random pictures out of magazines for our collages. Grab some paper and glue and go.
- Hand crabs. Supplies: red finger paint, construction paper, black marker, scissors, tape/glue. Have your child cover each hand with red paint and place them on the paper to make a print—thumbs up, base of palms touching. This works best when you do one hand at a time. Create eyes from white paper and color in black eyeballs. Cut out scenery (we did palm trees). Then affix eyes and scenery once dry. Love this one!
- Little cars. Supplies: paper, crayons, scissors, tape. Cut car shapes out of light-colored construction paper. Let your kids decorate with whatever media you’d like. Then, create wheels and tape them on. (These wheels were cut out of ads in a sports magazine because I didn’t have any darker construction paper. Just improvise!) It’s fun to do a bunch of these at a time. Traffic jam!