It’s not a popular thing to say, but I hate when my kids get dirty. I know — they need to make messes and get dirty to learn and grow, enjoy childhood, etc. And I do let them get dirty, in the summer, when I can spray them down with the hose before those mud-covered feet leave a path through my house.
I struggle with OCD tendencies, which basically means that while I don’t wash my hands four times or scrub holes in the floor, even small messes are like a twitch in my eye; I can’t unsee them, I can’t leave them be, I must fix them immediately or I begin to get anxious and feel like I’m on the verge of a panic attack.
So, naturally, I have two rambunctious and mess-prone boys who challenge my sanity on a daily basis.
This makes craft time on those rainy, windy, cold indoor days a wee bit difficult for me. Add to the mix a 19-month-old who still loves shoving everything in his mouth and ears, and my anxiety is through the roof. Play-Doh is great, until you scrape it out of the carpet and finger-swoop it out of the baby’s mouth, as he grabbed a handful in the 4.3 seconds you were helping the older brother make an orange snowman.
Thankfully, I’ve found some great crafts that take the stress out of art hour and allow my little crazies to get creative. Here are some of my favorites:
1. Melissa and Doug Beginning Painters
We just got this for Christmas and my four year old is a tad advanced for it. He’s already pretty good with a paintbrush, with the dipping and the swirling, and makes some great abstract pieces. But my youngest, the Play-Doh muncher, constantly tries to tip over the little paint tubs. With this little art pack, the paint is on the page. Kids simply wet the included paint brush, dab it on the dried paint, and paint on the same page. It’s a great concept, but hard to pull off. The paint dries darker than it paints on, and if they wet the same paint spot too much, the paper will tear. But it’s still cleaner than traditional paint. Unfortunately, baby brother tried it too, and mostly just attempted to stab himself in the ear with the paintbrush. He’s sworn off painting until he’s a little older.
2. Sticker Art
Whether you’ve got a stash of leftover Frozen stickers, garage sale price dots, or even Target stickers, give your kids a blank sheet of paper and all the stickers and let them go to town! They can form letters, make a caterpillar, or follow their imagination wherever it leads them.
3. Safety Scissors Skills
We also got a safety scissors skills book, but if you’ve got a color printer and an imagination you could easily make your own. Simply grid off a paper, add clip art or images of fruit/animals/anything, and let your child cut along the gridlines. The book we got is also by Melissa and Doug, and gradually increases difficulty (from straight lines to curved) as the child progresses. My older son adores his safety scissors, and we put everything he cuts out in a Ziplock bag (a train, a ‘puzzle’ they can take apart and put back together) because he can’t bear to throw away something he just cut out. That was hard work!
4. Magic Coloring
Y’all, these magic coloring books have saved my life. There are two main kinds: magic paper with one marker for all colors or markers that only color on special paper. I love both! The MagicInk brand has the color already in the paper, and coloring on it with the special marker reveals the image. This is great for younger kids who feel like they’re doing a magic trick. Crayola makes for a more traditional coloring experience, with markers of varying colors that only color on special paper.
5. Paint in a Bag
Mix water-soluble paint, baby oil, and glitter in a gallon-sized Ziplock bag (of a brand that you really, really trust!), seal the top with packing tape, and let your kids ‘finger’ paint without any mess. They can move the paint around, create different patterns, and the baby oil should keep the paint from mixing and being a big mess. All the fun of paint without the mess!