For more than 20 years, artist Andrea Mulder-Slater has helped parents to create art with their kids through her website Kinder ART. With many of us thinking about creating with our kids at this time of year, and perhaps aspiring to gift a few handmade treasures, we asked Mulder-Slater for advice on how to best get started. Whether a do-it-yourself novice or an experienced maker, creating with kids can be deeply satisfying for all involved, and is definitely an experience most kids love.
Can we all be crafty moms?
Oh, absolutely. You can start with anything, you don’t have to know how to paint perfect pictures, you can do really simple things just with colour and pattern and that kind of thing.
Why bother making gifts with our kids?
When you make a gift it seems a little more from the heart than just going out and buying it. I mean in a perfect world we’d all have lots and lots of time to sit there and do that. Obviously that’s not possible. And even for me, somebody who does create art, it’s not like I have tonnes of time to sit down and go through my list and say, “Oh I’ll make this for Molly and I’ll make that for Jackie,” it’s just not reality. But if you can just sit down and do a couple little things, especially for your child’s friends, it’s kind of nice. It’s a little keepsake that their friends can hold onto and it’s a nice memory for your children too.
Also, there’s something kind of neat about sitting down and just making something just for the sake of it. Especially at this busy time of year. Time flies, and your worries are gone, and just for that brief moment you’re just submersed in what you’re doing. And I think that for children that is really important. Because really they’re stressed out too, there’s a lot of stuff going on in their lives. And to just sit down and not think about all that other stuff, it just kind of centers you on one thing, so you can’t focus on all the stuff that’s going on in your life.
I think maybe some of us are scared at failing at crafting, especially as so many people seem so good at it!
Well, you don’t want to sit down and go on Pinterest and find the most complicated project that you’ve seen and try to do that because that’s just going to create a lot of frustration for everybody, and the memories aren’t going to be so great. You want to really start simple and small.
But you know, everyone fails at this stuff sometimes. I create art all the time and I still fail. That’s part of just being somebody who creates things. If you’re not failing then you’re not doing much. And in the online world when everybody is just posting all the perfect results it’s hard to kind of believe that artists are sitting there throwing out their work, repainting over stuff, but it happens all the time.
Here are some suggestions for easy projects that you can make for gifts with your kids:
When do you think kids are old enough to start making gifts?
I think as soon as they’re interested. I mean you don’t want to force it, but if you’ve got a child that’s interested they can start when they’re two years old. They can make marks on, little boxes from the dollar store, they can put little designs and things like that, or handprints. You can do things with pretty young kids — as long as they’re interested. The younger they are obviously the shorter the attention span, so the project kind of has to be geared to their interest level.
I’ve got some really cute ornaments that I made with with my daughter when she was barely able to sit at the table [now age nine]. I just put some paper in front of her and we cut it into shapes, and i still hang them on the tree. There like crumpled up pieces of construction paper with glitter on them, but they’re still there. She has no memory of it but it’s something kind of nice to hold onto.
How can you get your kids to be more interested in this kind of activity?
There’s good days and bad days. You can’t tie your kid to the chair and say, “You’re going to enjoy this so sit there and do it.” I think you just have to go with the flow, and generally with my daughter I’ve just found that if I’m sitting down making something she’ll just walk over and say, “What are you doing and can I do it too?”
I’ve learned that I always have to have enough supplies available because she wants to use what I’m working with. It’s not okay to be like here’s your stuff over here and here’s mine, so. And that was something that was hard for me when she was younger and I was a new mom, I thought this is my stuff, these are my art supplies, but now she kind of shares in everything I’ve got and then it makes it a lot nicer. And for her it’s just kind of an organic thing, it’s not, “Okay, now it’s going to be crafting time,” it’s just if you feel like it you sit down and you do it.
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