Today’s guest post is by Nikki McGonigal of Nikki, in Stitches.
As a stay-at-home mom / work-at-home craft blogger, crafting with my kids is what I do. In fact my job description would probably read something like this: create projects with the help of two assistants (currently ages 3 and 5), photograph said projects (afterwards, crop out smiling assistants from the background), then post project how-to’s and tutorials, while somehow keeping those same two assistants out of trouble.
Oh, and love every minute of it…because I do. I wouldn’t change a thing, and my “assistants” wouldn’t either. We spend time together every day, engaged and present, laughing, singing, and telling stories. I hope that I’m fostering a love for creativity in my children, and teaching them that there is no right or wrong when it comes to creating something that we make together.
But, things didn’t start out this way. The first time we sat down together to “work” (and of course there was a deadline involved!) we didn’t get much accomplished. I didn’t get my project completed, and the kiddos didn’t find themselves creating much of anything. I had to adjust what my crafting style looked like, how I worked, when I worked, and what supplies I used.
Whether you’re an occasional hobby crafter, or a work-at-home artisan, here are three (and a half!) tips for working side-by-side with your kids:
1. Reconsider how things are “supposed” to be used.
Sometimes the kids’ best projects happen when I just open up all the supplies and let them play while I work. I want them to be comfortable exploring. There is no right and wrong. As long as we’re happy and we’re crafting safely (because this is what I do for a living my kids are very respectful of things like scissors, pencil points, etc. but they still can sometimes get a little rowdy), it’s ok! That’s what we’re supposed to be doing.
(While working on the cupcake wrapper wreath project below, my little guy (age 5) had more fun stacking the buttons and knocking them over than helping me fold cupcake wrappers, and that was totally fine. We were both doing exactly what we wanted to be doing at that moment, and having fun together, too.)
2. Buy a little extra.
With kids and crafting come some “whoops!” some “whoa, you weren’t supposed to do that with that paper, silly!” and some “Mom, was it ok that I just did this?” – so buy a little extra. I usually pick one thing to stock up on.
(In my project below, it was an extra stack of cupcake wrappers – I knew they would love playing with them. I knew they would wind up being folded, ripped, stacked, dropped, tossed, drawn on…you get the idea…so I spent an extra $3 and bought them a stack of their own. I let them play and explore all of the things they could do with them, and this let me get to the actual project at hand. In my book, that’s $3 well spent.)
2*. Is this wasteful? Absolutely not and here’s why!
I love scraps and leftover-little-pieces-of-crafty-goodies, and my kiddos do, too. We gather all the unused (and sometimes gently used) supplies at the end of each project and toss them into the “leftover bin.” The beauty of this leftover bin is that I now have a stash of kid-safe craft supplies, that I can pull out when I need to cook dinner, fold a load of laundry, etc.
Special note: Don’t put glue in this bin! Remember, this is to keep the kids busy when you can’t be as close to them…so stick to no-mess supplies in the leftover bin!
3. Remember the goal.
Remember what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to teach your kids to feel free to experiment with their creativity. You want them to understand that there is no correct way to make something they love. And yes, you want to get a little crafty time in yourself. If all of these things are happening, who cares if your littlest one (for me, age 3) just glued 10 cupcake wrappers together with more glue than you probably have used in the last year? The few extra minutes you’ll spend cleaning up after your works of art are complete will be well worth the memories you and your children have made.
What it all comes down to is this: relax, enjoy the time together, and have an open mind…you never know what creative ideas your children can actually teach you.
And now I’ve prepared a simple project you can make with your own “assistants”! I’ve included a few tips for how they can help you along the way!
Happy Holidays from my family to yours!
Nikki, In Stitches
Cupcake Wrapper Wreath Tutorial
- 14″ styrofoam wreath form
- Approximately 200 mini cupcake wrappers
- Straight pins (You’ll need a lot of these! Grab a fresh box of about 200!)
- 5 large buttons
- Ribbon (I used a piece that was about 3′ long)
- Acetate snowflake stickers (The snowflakes I used are actually acetate stickers from Martha Stewart, but look around your craft store. There are so many simple embellishments you could use and most holiday supplies are on sale right now!)
- Chipboard letters (These can be hard to find. At least for me, I often times find a font I like, but they don’t have the color I need. I’ve learned to just buy a set whenever they’re on sale, and paint them to match whatever project I’m making! The letters I used in this project were actually hot pink when I bought them!)
- Rip cupcake wrappers from the edge to the “bottom” and then around. You should end up with two pieces: the ruffled sides of the wrapper, and the circular bottom. (You can use the picture provided as a guide for ripping, but really, you can’t do it wrong. In fact, this is the perfect assignment for the kids. Let them rip until their hearts are content, while you continue on with the project. You’ll be surprised at how well your little ones will do. And remember…you bought them a few extras so it’s ok if it takes them a time or two to get the hang of it!)
- Pin each ripped wrapper to the wreath form. Place one pin at each edge, then a pin in the center. (NOTE #1: The shape of the wrapper, when pinned down, will create a curve. The center of your wrapper will be above the edges. That’s what you want! NOTE #2: This isn’t the best step for your children to help with. Let them keep ripping those wrappers! You’re going to need them!) Continue all the way around the styrofoam wreath, pinning wrappers about 1/4″ apart.
- Cut a 1″ circle from heavy card stock or craft paper for each cupcake flower you’d like to make. For my wreath, we made five. (Tip for the kids: My 3 year old loves to use punches. I assigned her the task of punching the circles for us. Yes, I could have punched them myself (or even just cut them out with scissors) in much less time, but she loved having a job. It made her feel important! While she punched, we counted along. We ended up counting way past 5 because, like I said, she loves to use punches, but guess what happened to the extra circles? They got tossed into the leftover bin!)
- 4. Fold 6 cupcake wrappers in half to make semi-circles. (This is again a great assignment for the kids! Let them continue folding while you move on to the next step.)
- Glue folded cupcake wrappers to circle base, layering them a bit to create petal-like flowers. (Use the picture below for some help with placement.)
- Glue a button to the center of each cupcake wrapper flower.
- Glue flowers to wreath. (I wove a bit of ribbon through the flowers and just glued it in place as I went. It’s an added touch, but not necessary.)
- Glue chipboard letters to cupcake wrapper flowers.
- 9. Glue snowflakes to wreath around the cupcake wrapper flowers. (Again, these aren’t necessary but they’re a great finishing touch!)
One last note! If you’re not into making the whole wreath, the cupcake wrapper flowers would make adorable embellishments for your holiday packaging! Enjoy!
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Nikki McGonigal is owner of Nikki, In Stitches, author of Nikki, in Stitches – A Handmade Holiday, and veteran of TLC’s crafting competition show Craft Wars. Nikki started her crafting career as a blogger, encouraging and empowering others to experiment with their creativity, and today sells craft books, kits, patterns, and a few finished creative products. She continues to add inventory to her online shops, now teaches live online craft classes, and has a dream of turning her brand into a magazine and a line of books.