Arts and Crafts

Essential supplies for children's art projects

As an after-school arts and crafts instructor, I cannot overstate their importance in the development of critical thinking and self-esteem for children. One major element that is necessary for building this self-esteem is to have one or more interested adults who will proudly display the finished work. The age, maturity and interests of the child will be crucial in determining what items they will need to create their art, but every crafter first needs a place to store their tools. Your child's storage system can be as simple as a shoebox or as elaborate as a plastic drawer system on wheels or an under-the-bed chest, but it must have a lid. If it has more than one compartment, it should also have labels.

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Almost every type of craft involves measurement. From rulers to protractors to craft-specific gauges, your child's interests will determine what you need. If she's into scrapbooking, decoupage, card making, paper dolls, sewing, needlecrafts or origami, you'll also want a square and scissors or rotary cutting tools (with mat) appropriate to her age. If he's into modeling, woodworking or puzzle making you'll need small coping saws in addition to measuring tools.

Another set of materials common to many crafts are adhesives. Don't just buy school glue and construction paper, unless all your child's projects are temporary and not meant to be treasured for years to come. If your child is talented, you'll want to use project-specific adhesives. For example if your child loves collage, use tacky glue or rubber cement.

Regardless of your child's interest in arts and crafts, you'll need paper for planning and instructions. This doesn't mean you have to buy books. I recommend the use of the public library, and not just for books and videos – many public libraries offer free children's craft instruction. Many hobbyists are welcome in local guilds and clubs, and if your child is well behaved and you are willing to attend for the first few sessions, they will be a welcome participant. The Internet is a wonderful source of free craft instruction. Just search for your topic with the phrase "free patterns," "free instructions" or "free project guides," and you'll be happily surprised. There are even a lot of creative ideas that can be found on YouTube. Some of these videos will provide files that can be downloaded with detailed instructions or crafts that can be printed out.

If your child is working with volatile adhesives, you'll need more than soap and water for the clean-up. Each adhesive will give specific clean-up instructions on the label. If you have a young painter, try non-toxic water-based paints that clean up with soap and water and use clothing that can be laundered. Better yet, train your child to use an apron or a smock. If they work with wood or metal, you'll need safety glasses. The most important safety item is common sense. Have your child work in a well-ventilated area free from distractions if they are cutting, gluing or sawing. Never let children use heat sources unsupervised.

By Claudia Grayson