Monday, December 16, 2013

crafting with a kid

Becoming a mom has been one of the most inspiring and profound things to happen to me and my creative process. I cannot say enough about how wonderful it is to be able to sit down and create with my daughter. This time of year is my favorite because I spend a lot of time crafting for our home and for gifts. It is something I have doing since I was a kid (thanks to my mom) and is an important tradition in our home. Lucy has been part of my art and crafting process since she was born and now that she is 2 we are having so much fun creating holiday projects that she can make her own. 

Since I get asked all kinds of questions about our art and crafting process I have put together a post sharing a few of my favorite "crafting with kids tips", some of our holiday projects and inspiration to get creative with your kids! (please note that I am not a childhood development expert or a kids' art teacher- I am simply a mom who is an artist!)

video by Alisa Burke
music: All My Bells Are Ringing by Lenke

As I have mentioned in the past it is important for both my husband and I to incorporate Lucy into as many creative projects as possible. And while it makes no difference to us if Lucy grows up to be an artist, we do want her to be a creative thinker. 

We feel that including her in our daily art and craft-making process is one the best ways we can teach her to do this!  Part of including her in this process means letting her explore and find her own voice which. This means I typically let her take the lead when we are creating. If she uses her hands- I use my hands, if she scribbles- I scribble, if she mixes all the colors together to make mud- so do I. Often I have to fight the urge to correct her or make something for her and I always limit showing her the "right ways" to draw something. As an artist, I know all too well that there is only one time your life that you are truly free from expectations and rules in creativity and that is when you are kid.

Crafting with a kid, especially a toddler can get tricky and messy fast! While making art can be confined to a pad of paper and pens, crafting can incorporate so many random supplies that it can feel like a big giant messy challenge! Here are a few tips that work for us:

  • I try to keep the supplies simple and limited. Lucy is only 2 and while she is really advanced in her art and crafting skills, she is still a toddler who has a short attention span, she is a bit destructive and often gets overwhelmed with tons of supplies. Working on one project at a time or picking one project per day seems to work best for us.
  • Cover your surfaces! I have found that even if we are not painting, it is handy to cover our work surface. Crafting with a kid is so crazy messy that it helps to have your mess contained and easy to clean up. 
  • Limit the color choices. While I love giving Lucy a huge box of paint in every color, I have found that limiting the colors choices to 3-4 at a time makes life a lot easier for her and I. She gets to choose her colors and use them however she wants. Once she has used up the color, we select 3 new ones.
  • Don't invest lots of money in supplies. While it is tempting to grab every kid's art supply out there, often it is the everyday things that end up being the most fun and creative. Lucy's favorite things to create with right now- a roll of masking tape, a black pen, a recycled cereal box and ruled notebook paper. It is amazing just how creative you can get with simple things!

Nature is a big part of our lives and I love finding ways to incorporate natural elements or things we have found into our crafting projects. One of Lucy's favorite projects is painting the shells we have found on the beach. This year we added ribbon and turned them into toddler proof ornaments that she can take on and off the tree without worry.


Make hunting for treasure part of the creative process. Spend time outside collecting objects and then work together to find ways to alter those things. 

Just about anything can be painted and hung on the tree- small rocks, shells, twigs, pinecones and leaves!

We spent over 1 hour (thats a record) painting pine cones that we collected in our yard. Then we transformed them into mini wreaths by gluing the pine cones to tiny embroidery hoops.

One of my favorite holiday projects as a kid was making toilet paper roll angels for the tree- I am pretty sure this is when my passion for upcycling began! (You can see my grown up version HERERecycled materials or even things that would get tossed in the trash make such great crafting supplies for a toddler. A little bit of paint and you have a fresh surface that can be transformed into anything! We transformed some raisin boxes into Lucy's favorite thing right now- robots for the Christmas tree! 

She primed the boxes with white paint and I added a simple robot face (with her directing me!) and then she continued to add more paint and her own embellishments.


Save anything made of cardboard. Cardboard can be painted, glued, altered and cut up into just about anything!

Make recycling or an awareness of recycling a part of the process. If something needs to be tossed, pause and make it an opportunity to have a creative conversation about what it could be transformed into.

Kids are great at painting in colorful and expressive ways and I always try to embrace and encourage this when Lucy and I are crafting together. We do a lot of painting on all kinds of surfaces and the best process for creating colorful projects is to work in layers. I let Lucy go wild with her four colors then we set everything aside to dry. Once it is dry we pick 4 more colors and keep painting- while mixing color and making mud is great sometimes it is also nice to hold onto all those wonderful expressive brushstrokes.

We used cheap plastic ball ornaments and Lucy painted all over them with lots of colorful and messy brushstrokes.


Waiting for paint to dry, especially when you are working with a toddler can take up a lot of time! To speed up the process use a hair dryer, a heat tool or even the oven.

Try working on one layer a day for a couple of days.

Once you add paint to the mix, there WILL be a mess. The best advice I can give is to embrace the mess and think about clean up when it is over with. 

Let your kid explore and experiment with the paint and different ways to make marks (typically this means hands in paint).

In the last few weeks we have been putting all of our ideas and creativity to use to create a fun little collection of handmade ornaments that are ALL LUCY! 

She has the entire bottom half of the tree where she has our blessing to decorate, redecorate and play with all of the little goodies that she made. 

What about all you mamas out there? Do you have favorite crafting projects or tips that have worked for getting crafty with your kids?

For more of my tips on creating and collaborating with a kids you can visit HERE, HERE, HERE.To follow my entire journey as a mom and read more about our creative collaborations you can visit the Life With Lucy link in the right hand column.

photos and video by Alisa Burke


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