Although it may seem easier to buy prepackaged kits, school and camp programs can keep their budget low by using open-ended craft materials such as paper plates, felt, paper lunch bags, straws, construction paper, feathers, pompoms, paper fasteners, chenille stems, craft sticks, paper tubes, aluminum cans, and other purchased and recycled materials. Instead of assembling a kit, kids get to use their imaginations and problem-solving skills while learning to manipulate different materials.
Puppet Crafts for Kids
Paper plate – Fold the plate in half and attach it to a poster board or cardstock body; leave the plate flat and add on legs, tail, a head and/or facial features. Glue on a craft stick so the children can manipulate the puppet.
Lunch bag – Add on facial features, legs, and a tail with markers or construction paper.
Craft stick – Print a coloring page onto cardstock, cut out the shape, and attach to a craft stick.
Felt – With older children, cut out shapes and sew a hand puppet.
Making Masks with Children
Even the simplest mask transforms a child during play. With scissors cut a paper plate, a piece of craft foam, or a piece of poster board to the general shape of an animal’s face. Add on appropriately-shaped ears and nose with construction paper or craft foam.
Create Murals and Dioramas
Create a mural on a large roll or paper. Work the art on the floor or hang the paper on a wall at a child-friendly height. Use paint, crayons, or markers to show a place, illustrate a series of events connected to a historic event or even tell scenes from a story.
Dioramas can be constructed over several days as the children continue to add a variety of components. Children can enhance their dioramas as they learn more about a topic. For example, while learning about the life cycle of butterflies, the children could make a plant one day, add in eggs another day, followed by a caterpillar, a chrysalis, and finally an adult butterfly. A big project will seem less overwhelming if it is tackled over several days. If you don’t have enough boxes use half-gallon milk cartons and remove one of the side panels.
Art for Kids
Collages – Select a theme and then look through magazines and catalogs for pictures. Cut out the pictures, overlap the images, and glue everything to a sheet of poster board. As an alternative, make the collage into the shape of the artwork’s topic – a tree shape for pictures of forest animals, a car shape for automobile images.
Picture Frame – After the kids have created a drawing or painting, have them make a frame from poster board, craft sticks, twigs, plastic drinking straws, rolled tubes of magazine pages, etc.
Magnets – Whatever your topic, cut out an object from a coloring page or craft one from construction paper or craft foam. Mount a paper shape onto cardboard for support. As an option, glue the shape on the metal lid from a frozen orange juice concentrate container. Glue a magnet onto the back of the shape.
Sculpture – Use modeling clay, chenille stems, recycled materials, and any other available materials to create a three-dimensional structure that represents something from the topic the teacher has been discussing.
Mobile – Start with a branch, a coat hanger, or a dowel. Select approximately five themed items or pictures to hang from the mobile. With string, yarn, or filament, tie one end to an item and the other to the support piece.
These basic art and craft projects can be adapted to a variety of topics. Instructors don’t have to rely on finding craft projects to complement their topics, nor do they have to spend a lot of money on purchased kits. As another bonus, open-ended projects challenge kids’ imaginations and creativity.