Summertime. The kids are out of school and they have the long lazy days of July and August ahead. They could spend their days in front of the TV or they could be using their imaginations to create projects that are a reflection of their own unique talents.
Does it matter what kids do on their summer vacation? After all, they are in school 10 months of the year and most do take some art classes. Don’t they get enough art lessons in school?
Creative and artistic are not the same thing. Creativity is an approach to life. Creative thinkers know that problems have many different solutions. When they encounter an obstacle, they find a way around rather than giving up. They have to be willing to take risks as they learn new skills. These are important life skills that need to be encouraged in children.
Crafts and creative projects give children the opportunity to learn and practice these skills. Even if they follow a project guide exactly, they will still to make decisions about shades of colours and where to place items. Once they are familiar with the project, most children will want to make it again. That is when they get really creative. First the colours change, then the shapes, and suddenly it is a new project from their own imagination.
Creative projects encourage children to find the resources to make what they want, rather than opening up a box that has all the supplies in one place. The first project in the weekly project list (see below) uses an old knee-hi or pair of pantyhose. What if none are available? Should the children wait until someone else finds all the ‘right’ materials. No, have them start thinking about what they could substitute. Would an old sock work? How about a dish cloth? It is fun to sit back and watch children solve their own problems.
These Summer Projects encourage children to work with a wide variety of materials. One of the best things about summer projects is that they can be done outside. Less mess to clean up!
Week 1 - Hairy Heads (old knee hi or cut off panty hose, grass seed, dirt, 2 small elastics, and decorations)
Put 2 tsp of grass seed in the bottom of toe of the panty hose. Add 1-2 cups of dirt. Make sure the seeds stay in the top of the head, otherwise you’ll have hair sprouting from under the eyes. Use the small elastic to pinch off a nose about half way up the head. Use the second elastic to tie off the bottom. Decorate by pasting on eyes, mouth, ears, or what ever else intrigues the kids. Use paper, felt, colored plastic, markers, pipe cleaners, any materials you have on hand.
Keep the Hairy Head in a small dish with water in the bottom. The ‘hair’ should sprout in less than a week. Kids can style the hair with elastics, clips and scissors. (Warning: My daughter decided to cut her own hair after giving her Hairy Head a trim!)
Week 2 - Fabric Paint on T-shirts (plain shirts, fabric paint, card board, brushes, and sponges) Have the kids start with an old T-shirt or piece of fabric in the beginning. Put a piece of cardboard under the first layer of fabric to make sure there is no leaking. Some fabric paint comes in squeeze bottles which is good for lines, or they can use a paint brush or sponge. Designs from handprints are interesting and make a great present for grandma. If they need pattern ideas, use the pictures in a child’s coloring book for line drawings.
Week 3 - Pet Rocks (rocks, acrylic paint, glue, brushes)
Collect a lots of rocks. Be sure there are different sizes and shapes. Start by choosing the rocks that will make up the pet (head, ears, maybe a nose, body, arms and legs). Paint the entire rock, top and bottom in one color. When the first coat of paint dries, start adding the details, eyes, whiskers, fur. When everything is dry, glue the pieces together.
If the kids get tired of the pet, it can become a door stop, book end, garden ornament, or paper weight.
Week 4 - Make your own Fossils (clay, items to imprint - leaves, coins, bugs)
Make a rock or plaque shape from the clay or use the dough recipe (included below). Use water to make a smooth surface. Make imprints with different objects. Try leaves, coins, shells, or even a small toy. When it dries, rub on a bit shoe polish and acrylic sealer to make it last for months and months. Bury them in sand or dirt and have a expedition to dig up fossils like an archeologist. Combine with a treasure hunt (week 8), and use as clues to a treasure.
Dough Recipe (1 cup flour, 1/2 cup salt, 1 cup water, 1 tbsp oil, 2 tsp cream of tartar) mix all ingredients in a pot and stir over medium heat. Mixture will be soupy with lumps, suddenly it will form into a ball. Remove from heat, and knead on a non-stick surface. Useful for many types of projects. Store in fridge, or allow creations to air dry.
Week 5 - Start a Journal (notebook and pen or pencil)
Find a interesting blank note book and have the kids write in it each day. A great time to start a journal is on the first day of a trip. Then, there will be lots of new things to write about and it can become a habit.
Adults can help ideas for topics. Ask is the first thing the child can remember? Was there a birthday that was his or her favorite? What does he or she like about their best friend? What is the best thing they have ever done? Keep a list of these questions on the last page of the journal for quiet days.
Week 6 - Rain Sticks (long tubes from gift wrap or paper towel, strips of cardboard, paper, tape, seeds or rice)
Cut out two 4 inch circles out of the paper (trace a cereal bowl for the shape). Put one over the end of the tube, and fold the sides down, and tape around the tube. Make sure the cardboard strips are narrower than the tube (about 1 inch wide should work). Fold them back and forth like a fan. Put the strips into the tube. The first one should fall to the bottom of the tube. Keep adding strips until they reach the top of the tube. Pour in 1/4 cup of rice and 2 tbsp of seeds (dried peas, popcorn, or lentils). Tape the other circle over the open end of the tube and tape in place. Decorate the tube with markers, paints or by glueing on paper or ribbon.
Week 7 - Memory Board (Matt board, exacto knife, photos and objects)
While on vacation, take photos and have the kids collect objects to remind them of their trip (shells from the seashore, ticket stubs from a fair, pine cones from a walk in a forest, brochure from a hotel or attraction). When the photos are developed, have the kids select 2-3 to have enlarged into 5x7 or 8x10. The photos should be a mix of sizes. Get a large piece of matt board (Art Supply stores, or framing shops). Have the kids try different arrangements of photos and objects until they decide on the one they like best. Trace lightly in pencil where each of the objects is placed. An adult should use an craft knife to cut out the holes for the photos (slightly smaller than the pictures). Tape the photos on from the back, and glue the objects on from the front. If you have a frame the same size, but it in a frame with a cardboard backing (no glass on front) or just hang it on the wall without a frame. The kids have all their mementoes in one place.
Week 8 - Treasure Hunt
There are many different ways to plan a treasure hunt. For younger children, an adult can hide clues in different locations. Each clue can lead the child to the next clue (picture of shovel and pail would lead to a clue hidden in the sand box). The final clue would lead to the treasure (plate of cookies, invitation to go to the water slides, movie pass, lemonade). For older children, the clues could be riddles they need to solve. Or have one of the kids make a treasure map (or list of directions) that would lead to the treasure. In the beginning, limit the number of clues to the age of the child ( 7year old could follow seven clues to the treasure).
Check the website (http://www.ckah.com) for more pictures and hints on completing each of the projects. By the end of the summer, the kids will have completed lots of great projects. More importantly they will have spent time thinking creatively.
Christine Nicholls lives in Victoria, BC, and loves being mommy to Katherine (9y) and Duncan (6y). She has developed a home-based business that lets her combine her skills and business background with full-time parenting. Her company, Creative Kids at Home, encourages children to have fun while being creative. (1-877-853-6788 or http://www.ckah.com )