Building a Budgeted Arts & Crafts Curriculum for Children
Kids have fun with "Slime"
What makes a Successful Curriculum?
I faced many challenges when creating a curriculum for school-aged children. Here are a few things to think about when creating your curriculum.
1. What is the age group you are working with?
I have had the pleasure of working with children from 5-17 years of age. I have learned that not all younger children have the technical capability of participating in certain projects, and older children are underwhelmed by other projects. Finding a balance can be tricky. If you work with a wide range of ages it could be useful to set up multiple stations with different activities. In addition to regularly scheduled activities make sure to provide alternative methods of entertainment such as books, paper to doodle on, string to braid, or board games to play.
2. How much preparation and time do you need to set up activities?
It may not seem like a big deal at first, but preparing activities for 20 children, 40 children or more, and for multiple groups of children, it is very important to know your limitations and how to manage your time. Knowing how to prepare for cleaning up after projects is just as important. I believe that children should help clean up their own messes, but there are many circumstances in which you can ensure a quick, easy cleanup.
3. How long will these activities entertain the children?
Some activities only take children a few minutes to complete. I would hardly consider these acceptable activities especially if you are required to fill a half-hour or hour-long period with the children in your care. If the activities you choose take up very little time, it is important to be prepared with additional activities for your children to do. Consider a multiple-day project for children to finish after the regularly scheduled activity has been completed.
4. Do these activities captivate the children's interest?
The quality of the time spent on activities is just as important as the quantity. A project may not take long if the child is simply disinterested in the activity. Choose activities that are useful, creative, colorful, and can entertain boys, girls, and different age groups and interests. Choosing activities which give children freedom to do what they want will keep everyone happy. Let their creativity shine!
5. What is your budget?
With a $300 budget I can plan an 8-week (40-day) summer day camp curriculum which children enjoy averaging out at $7.50 per day to provide activities for approximately 25 to 30 children.
Child care facilities (day care, after care, summer camp, or babysitting) all differ in what kind of budget is allowed for activity supplies. Make sure you know what your budget is when planning your curriculum. Once you know your budget, make a list of all your activities and the supplies you will need, including any additional supplies for clean-up if necessary. Be sure to leave yourself some wiggle room in case you find yourself short on supplies. If you are an employer, consider having a space where left-over supplies can be stored for next year, such as paint and paper. Reducing waste will save money and provide more wiggle room in next year's budget for new, refreshing activities.
6. How do you find activities to please everyone?
Each child is an individual with different interests and hobbies. Even at specialized camps such as a horse camp, music camp, or sports camp, children have different ideas of what is fun and what is not. Having a variety of planned activities as well as alternative activities to keep each child occupied, will keep them happy. This should be the primary aim for any child care provider. Many child care providers want their activities to be strictly educational and forget to keep the activities fresh and fun.
7. How do you schedule activities for a curriculum?
When creating your curriculum, try to change activities throughout your calendar so that the children are able to do something new each week. Schedule a painting project one day, a 3-D project the next, or teach a new game! Some camps may have multiple sessions, for example a 2 week, 4 week, 6 week, and 8 week session. Consider repeating the children's favorite activities later in the curriculum.
For short-term child care such as a day camp, create a spreadsheet or calendar and plan your activities ahead of time. If you are trying to organize a longer curriculum such as an after care program throughout the school year, consider planning your activities one month at a time. This will allow you to research new ideas and get feedback from the children about what they would like to do. If there are multiple staff members for this type of program, ask them for their input and assign them days to teach different crafts or activities.
Tissue-paper window decoration
Successful Crafts & Activities for Children
It's rewarding when children are proud of their creations and can enjoy the time they spend in arts & crafts class. I have had many children who were opposed to the idea of arts & crafts but over time learned to enjoy and participate in different activities. Finding something for everyone is extremely challenging. Here are my favorite, successful activity choices.
1. Tissue paper window decorations (stain glass effect)
Tissue paper window decorations can have a stained-glass effect when placed against the window. I buy construction paper from the dollar store which comes in assorted colors including black. I was thinking of what to do with these black pieces and came up with this.
Create a stencil cut-out for the children to trace. They should have two identical cut-outs. Younger children may need help cutting the inner sections where the tissue paper will be seen. Older children have the opportunity to create their own unique, more complex designs. Glue a fitted piece of tissue paper between the two cut-out pieces of construction paper. You may choose to tape the decoration to the window, or with a whole punch and string you can hang the decoration instead.
2. Magazine collages
Children love creating magazine collages. They can pick out pictures which they like and glue them together in an organized or abstract way on a piece of paper. I prefer construction paper to printer paper because it is heavier and more durable for glue and image material. Make sure that the magazines you provide are appropriate. Another tip is to find magazines which are child-friendly and similar to their interests. For example, when I worked at a horse camp we had old horse magazines. The children had a blast cutting out beautiful equine images. Some campers would fill up the page while others used images to make a border around a drawing they made.
3. Abstract mosaic-style drawings
Divide a piece of paper into many squares, for example 5 columns and 8 rows on a vertical piece of printer paper. It can be any size square, however 1 to 1-1/2 inches would be my recommendation. Have the child create a drawing and fill in each part with a different color. An example can be found in the image below.
4. Tissue Paper collage
Have different colors of tissue paper set out on the table for the children. Have them tear off small pieces and crumple them up. Instruct the children to glue these small, crumpled pieces onto a larger piece of paper to create an image or pattern.
5. Construction paper name stands
After making a fold and two supporting folds as shown in the below image, the children can cut out from colored construction paper the letters of their name, and decorations such as flowers, shapes, animals, and so-forth. If they don't want to cut and glue they can always use markers. To make the name stand sturdier, put two staples at each end to help the middle section of the paper stand up.
Folds for Name Stand
6. Watercolor Paintings
Watercolor seems like an easy task for many, however it can be complex. Many children treat watercolor as if it is acrylic and scoop out all of the paint from the kit rather than first dipping the brush in water. Take the time to demonstrate to children how to use water color. Show techniques such as first wetting the paper and then adding color creating abstract, colorful designs. Once the paper is dry, children may have the option of using mixed media such as creating a drawing on top of their water color painting. We are not looking for professional-level style of painting, but we can teach children how to properly use different types of materials and different creative techniques.
7. Painted sea shells
Painting seashells is not time consuming for older children, but is a popular activity nonetheless! Younger children love this project and will take time to detail their work. Older children may be able to find creative ways to use the shells such as in a collage or for later use on a hand-made picture frame. It is likely that you may not have the time or ability to collect shells from the beach. Fortunately for all of us, seashells can be bought at most local dollar stores and craft stores.
8. Painted flower pots
You may be able to collect flower pots or you can buy small ones at local dollar and craft stores. Any material will do. Tempera and acrylic paints are perfectly suitable for this type of project. If you have the resources to take this project a step further, after the flower pots dry, help children fill their pots from a fresh bag of potting soil or surrounding dirt, and buy a packet or two of seeds for them to plant in their pots before taking them home.
9. Colored coffee filter flowers
Provide water color for children to paint coffee filters. Then, cut a creative edge around the outside of the coffee filter and place it over top of a cup of some type to give it shape. If you don't have many places to mold these filters into a flower shape, consider buying small, cheap dixie cups found in dollar stores and grocery stores. They can be disposed of after the filters have dried and taken their new shape. Afterwards, children can do a variety of things with their coffee filter flowers. They can add to them or use them in an abstract, 3-D work of art.
10. Sponge paintings
Have some fun with sponges! This is a great project for experiencing different textures on paper. Tempera and acrylic are fine for this type of project. Provide the children with stencils or make stencils for them if they want to experiment with positive and negative spaces. Younger children may enjoy using the sponges for making dots and forming their names. This is a project which requires creativity on the child's part. It is always good to create a demonstration for children before they begin the project. Show them some options in case they are not confident about what they want to make.
11. Home-made butter
An easy home-made butter recipe involves heavy cream and a mason jar. Have a few of these jars available and let the children take turns shaking the heavy cream until it starts to become thicker. Put the butter in the fridge overnight to solidify and enjoy a snack the next day! I like to bring in saltines and jelly and prepare snacks for the children. Make trays of saltines with just jelly and just butter. They can choose to eat them separate or together. I love this craft because there is minimal risk with food allergies. Make sure you know if any of the children have food allergies before pursuing any food-related activity.
12. Pudding art
This is a project which I like to prepare, mainly for sanitary reasons. Buy vanilla pudding mix which is quick and does not require cooking. After it is prepared, separate the content into different mixing bowls and add a different food dye coloring to each bowl. Mix thoroughly. Each child should receive a paper plate with about a tablespoon of each color (I would recommend having 3 or 4 colors for simplicity) around the edge of the plate. In the center, ask them to create an image using a plastic spoon or popsicle sticks and have fun with it before eating it. Some children would rather just eat the pudding, and that's okay. As always, be aware of any food allergies. Some children may be allergic to food dye or be lactose-intolerant. If this is the case, be prepared before hand to make sure no child is left out.
Pudding Art- horse and rider
Home-made ice cream
13. Graham Cracker houses (icing, small candies)
Graham cracker houses is a small-scale version of gingerbread houses. Use regular cake frosting from a can as "glue" for a variety of small candies for decoration purposes. M&Ms, skittles, gummy bears, you name it. It's creative, fun, and delicious!
14.Home-made Ice cream
Here is a video with the specific steps for how to make home-made ice cream. From personal experience I will warn that it can be extremely messy especially if you have children who shake the bags too hard during the mixing process. It may result into water leaks or the internal bag opening up and mixing with the salt and ice making it inedible. I also recommend, for fun, having toppings available for when the project is complete.
Because this project takes so much preparation, I recommend filling all the large bags with ice and storing them in the freezer. On the day of the project, help the kids prepare their small bags before adding salt to the large bag, since it will cause the ice to eventually melt. Make sure that if you do not have an outdoor space that you do this project over a table or trash can.
15. Mason Jar Lanterns
Mason jar lantern supplies are easy to obtain. You could bring in saved jars from your home after cleaning them. These jars don't have to be mason jars specifically. Salsa jars, jelly jars, you name it. If you cannot collect enough of these jars, they can be found in some dollar stores, grocery stores, and craft stores. You will also need sand and gravel which can be found at some hardware stores. You can also get colored gravel use in fish tanks from pet stores. It is more expensive but the children love having a small handful to add color to their creations.
Tea lights can be purchased from dollar stores and craft stores to put inside the mason jar. Wire can be found at crafting stores or even in crafting sections of general stores such as Walmart. Find a way to securely wrap the wire around the lip of the jar and loop it to create a handle.
You should do this part of the preparation for the child since it can be dangerous. Wire typically requires wire cutters to snip and should be done by an adult. It is better if the jars come with lids to make sure the wire doesn't accidentally slip off. It is a quick project but it's something I find that children love to take home and show their parents and hang in their rooms.
Bird House opening
16. Bird Feeders
Collecting and cleaning large 2-liter soda bottles or plastic milk and juice cartons is great for making home-made bird feeders. You should be the one to cut the hole for bird seed so the child doesn't accidentally cut themselves while making this difficult cut. The hole should be fairly large so feed can be added and so a bird can enter the feeder. I like to provide the children with a snack-sized ziploc bag full of bird seed to take home to get them started.
This image shows a dotted line approximately where and how big of a hole I cut on bird feed containers. Wire can be wrapped around the lip of the container to hang from a branch. Once prepared, children can paint their bird feeders using tempera or acrylic paint. I would recommend acrylic paint for this project because tempera paint seems to flake off of these containers fairly quickly.
17. Tissue paper candle jars (stain glass effect)
Like mason jars, small jars can be collected, cleaned, and re-used for artistic purposes. Using a minimal amount of glue, children can take pieces of tissue paper and glue them onto the jar. It will dry and create a stained-glass effect. Some children may glue larger, more abstract pieces. Older children may prefer to create an image out of the tissue paper to make the project more meaningful. Don't assume they will know how to do this project on their own. Take the initiative to demonstrate on different sides of the jar what they can experiment with.
18. Collaborative Mural
Some places will have a wall which children can do a mural on and work together to create their own masterpiece. Make sure you have permission before proceeding. If not, get a large piece of cheap wood, particle board, or large piece of thick, durable poster board. As with any painting project, put different colors of paint on a paper plate and make several of these palates available to children at the table. Discourage color mixing. School-age children do not always understand the fundamentals of color-mixing, and a beautiful color can quickly turn into a mess. If you have a large group of children, get several pieces and split them up into teams.
Children should team up based on what they want to make and learn how to work with each other. It is important to supervise these projects closely in case there are disagreements on what to do for the project. Encourage children to make their groups the day before and start brainstorming ideas together to reduce potential conflict. Part of a team project is learning how to share with one another.
19. Collaborative short-story/poetry book
When I started a short-story/poetry book for my art students I was met with resistance. After sitting down and writing about things they enjoyed, most of the children started to enjoy the project. When they saw the combined booklet of their contributions they were pleased with the results. Not all children have the focus or skills to write stories. Try helping them think of ideas or if they cannot write well, have them tell you their ideas and write it down for them. If they do not want to write at all, suggest that they make a picture for the book.
It is important to only accept stories and poems that are appropriate and are not written to taunt or make fun of other children. Make this well-known prior to starting the project to prevent bullying. Keep the content PG-rated and encourage creativity.
20. Team challenge: popsicle stick fortress
This is a popular teamwork activity. Children team up and think of something to make with popsicles. You, as a judge, should rate each project based on creativity, aesthetics, stability of the structure, and team effort. I recommend giving a prize only to the winning team, however if you believe everyone should receive something, make sure the reward for the winning team is of higher value than the losing teams. It is important to recognize the achievements of those who put forth the biggest effort. I would compare rewarding every to team to giving everyone presents at one child's birthday party. It just isn't fair.
CLOTHING AND ACCESSORIES
Jewelry-making is self-explanatory. Have different types of string and yarn available as well as gimp and beads. Even boys can enjoy participating by making cool key chains with beads. Have different types of beads separated into different bowls and make sure to re-fill bowls if needed. I highly suggest staying away from small beads because they are harder to find when they fall on the floor, and they are harder to put string through. Stick with larger beads. Letter beads are very popular. Jewelry in general is a very popular craft for older children.
Tie-Dye is perhaps the most popular activity of all children I have worked with, at schools and camps alike. Encourage children to bring in their own piece of clothing ahead of time. It could be a t-shirt, a pillowcase, and so forth. With a black permanent marker make sure you write the child's name clearly on the inside of their white piece. Kits are available at places like Walmart or your local craft store. Individual dye packets are also available if there is a popular color. I find that blue, purple, and yellow are extremely popular colors, but that all comes down to the children's personal preferences. Make sure you have extra rubber bands and an outdoor spot to do the tie-dying. After wetting the material and using rubber bands to twirl the shirt into a specific design, have the children dye their material. I recommend the squirt bottles for more controlled patterns. This way the child will not get dye on their hands, either, which takes a long time to come off and can be irritating to the skin.
If you have time constraints, I would suggest making only a few basic designs available to the children so you can help them if necessary. If some children are more experienced tie-dyers that is fine if they can work more independently, as long as they finish before time is up. Allow time for the end of the session for children to wash their hands in case they came in contact with any dye.
You as an instructor should wear gloves. When children are finished, set the material out in a sunny spot to dry a little bit. If you are able, hang them up on a clothesline to dry. If there is no opportunity to let the material dry overnight, put them in plastic grocery bags or ziploc bags for the children to take home and wash. Make sure they have instructions for washing the material.
23. Custom T-Shirt, Fabric paint
Fabric paint is another way to decorate T-shirts. Like tie-dye, if children can bring their own clothing that's great! If not, craft stores can sell white t-shirts for a reasonable price. Look for discounts and if you plan on doing this type of project make sure it's in the budget. This project is pretty straight forward. Children design their t-shirt, let it dry, take it home, and have special instructions for washing it.
24. Clothespin Butterflies / Caterpillars
Using construction paper, children can cut out a butterfly, ladybug, or other shape and glue it to a clothespin. They can decorate with crayon, marker, sequins, and more. Alternatively, you can provide colored puff-balls found in craft stores and have the children make a caterpillar along the clothespin instead. Googly-eyes are a great addition to this project. This craft may need to sit overnight for the glue to solidify, or else it will fall apart.
HOME DÉCOR CRAFTS
25. Foam Magnets
You can purchase large sheets of foam from dollar stores and places like Walmart for a very low price. To conserve foam you can cut pieces into half or quarters and give a small piece to each child. They can use scissors and markers to cut and design their magnet. It can be anything they want it to be. Younger children may need help with cutting. Encourage them to draw their design first before you cut it out. From there they can color it in. You can buy a magnet strip or sheets of magnet material to glue on to the back of the foam pieces to create a custom magnet. I prefer sheets of magnet which will have pre-perforated circles or squares to pop out and stick to the back. Rolls of magnet are not flexible and will frequently stay curved. Even with the adhesive on the back, they tend to pop off and are a real hassle to deal with.
Door Knob Hanger
26. Felt banners
Sheets of felt can be bought for a low price. Give each child a sheet of felt and they can use craft glue to glue on cut up pieces of different-colored felt to make designs on their banner. Make sure the child leaves about an inch at the top to roll over a wooden dowel or a coat hanger. Coat hangers are relatively inexpensive and you may have extras sitting in your closet at home taking up space. Either way, this project is relatively inexpensive. Some people try to roll the felt over the hanger and glue it to stay together. I find this to be ineffective and instead use staples instead to make sure it doesn't fall apart.
27. Foam door knob hangers
With a half piece of foam cut vertically, cut a hole in the top without cutting any sides of the foam, so it can fit over a door knob. Letter stickers and markers are great for decorating these foam door knob hangers. It's a great way for children to personalize their space. Many children to like to put their names on the hangers accompanied by a meaningful phrase.
28. Picture Frames
There are 2 types of frames you can make with the kids. I like foam frames because the kids can customize the shape and decorations they make. After cutting out the frame for the picture, sandwich a picture between the frame and a solid, fitted piece of foam to keep the picture in place. If you want you can add a magnet to the back so the children can put them on their fridge at home!
Another type of frame is a popsicle stick frame. it takes more materials and does not have a customized shape, but the children can use marker or paint to color the frames and add sequins, sea shells, and all sorts of things to the frame since it is more stable than a foam frame. It can also be crafted to stand up on its own by making a stand out of the back from more popsicle sticks.
Children like to play with icky, messy, odd-colored substances. With flour and water there is a safe way to make such a thing! At the very beginning of my article I posted a picture of children playing with slime! From their faces you can see how much fun they had doing this project. Before getting started, make sure you lay out garbage bags for easy clean-up, which I recommend for any messy project. Have a few bowls of flour, and slowly add warm water. Have the kids help mix with a large spoon. You can add food coloring for added effect. Keep adding water until there is a slimy, gooey consistency.
Make sure you set boundaries with the children. There should be no goo-flinging and they should not smear it all over each other unless they consent to it. Fun with slime or goo can easily get out of control without boundaries. Allow the children to make a big mess on the garbage bag surface and get the energy out of their systems. Make sure there is a place available for them to wash their hands afterwards. Allow plenty of time for clean-up before the next activity.
30. Quick-dry Clay sculptures (with pain, 2-day project)
Quick-dry white modeling clay can be found in craft stores and places like Walmart for a reasonable price. If you work with a lot of children you will likely need a few buckets of it. Give each child a small handful of clay to sculpt with. When they are finished have them set it aside to dry. I like to break this up into a 2-day project. The following day when the clay is dry, let them paint it with acrylic. It will take another night to dry but when it is time to take their masterpieces home they will have enjoyed the experience. This is a popular project which I typically repeat throughout the curriculum if it is within the allotted budget. Quick-dry clay is less messy than other clay, however children should still wash their hands afterwards. If the clay starts to dry up, put out a small dixie cup of water for them to dab at and re-hydrate the clay. Only a small amount of water should be needed, if at all.
31. Home-made chalk
Each child should receive a dixie cup. With one part water and two parts of plaster of paris the child can start mixing with a spoon. Add acrylic paint in a color of their choice to add color to what will become chalk. Have the child mix very well but without sloshing the mixture and making a mess. Let it harden overnight. If it is dry the next day, you can tear or cut off the dixie cut and the children can take home their home-made chalk. It is a relatively quick project which will allow time for clean-up.
32. Dyed sand drawings
If you are going to make colored sand, I recommend that you buy sand pre-bagged to start out with. This will prevent any possibility of coming across broken glass or other hazardous material which would otherwise come from the beach. It also saves the hassle of sifting sand into an even consistency and to remove debris.
Put some sand in a plastic bag and lightly wet it. Add food coloring or fabric dye for more vibrant colors, and mix well. The sand has to sit for about an hour to soak up the dye. I would suggest doing these preparations yourself while wearing gloves. Preparing this project the day before will help with managing your time for preparations. After soaking up the dye, allow the sand to dry by emptying the bag onto a paper plate and letting it sit out. It will need to dry overnight in order to be used the next day.
For sand drawings, have the children make a drawing on a piece of paper and spread out a thin layer of glue with a cotton swab before sprinkling the colored sand onto their drawings. Having multiple colors prepared will enhance the child's experience with this project.
33. Dyed sand Mason jar patterns
Another way to use dyed sand is with mason jars or smaller containers that can be closed. Make layers with the different colored sand to make bold, bright, patterns.
34. Shaving Cream Art
This is a great project if you have a couple of tables with easy-to-clean surfaces. Have children stand around the table, spray the table with shaving cream, and encourage them to smear the shaving cream on the entire surface. The children can then use their fingers to create doodles in the shaving cream. It sounds like a pointless, messy project, but it's an activity which many children enjoy. Plus, it sanitizes your tables! I would advise that you have some towels available to wipe the tables off in the end, or use a garden hose to rinse them off, if one is available to you.
Summer Holiday Projects
35. 4th of July- cards for Veterans
Some child care facilities like to have activities themed for the 4th of July week. One activity is to have children volunteer their time to make cards for veterans to thank them for serving the country. Of course, you need to make sure each card is appropriate, and as long as cards are made according to certain hospital's standards, they will hand out the cards from the children. To become involved in a project like this, ask local hospitals about opportunities like this one. There will be likely be regulations on what types of materials can be used on these cards and what things children can write in their cards.
36. RWB chain link decoration
Red, White, and Blue chain link decorations are a great way to decorate the art room! Have the children work together to cut and connect these links. If you want, make a competition out of it and divide groups into teams to see who can make the longest links in the shortest amount of time.
GAMES AND PHYSICAL ACTIVITIES
38. Waterballoon Fight
If you are interested in doing a yoga class for the children, stick to safe postures such as child pose and tree pose. Yoga is great for stretching and working certain muscles as well as improving balance. Unless you are certified and approved by the child care facility you work for, you should not attempt to teach any dangerous positions which may involve falling or head injuries. Even assisted headstands should be avoided. Stick to safe postures and teach children about controlled breathing. Make it fun! Did you know that a lot of yoga postures were created by children to mimic animals in the wild? If you don't know much about yoga postures, there are plenty of videos made for yoga with children.
40. Mummy-wrap competition
The mummy-wrap competition is a Halloween favorite but it's a great activity all year round. Children team up in 3's and with a roll of toilet paper see who can wrap one of the team members the best and the quickest. Of course, be sure to supervise carefully and make it clear to not cover the nose or mouth with the toilet paper. It's a great activity that can be done indoors or outdoors.
41. Musical Chairs
42. Red-Light, Green-Light
If you have decided to teach your children yoga, consider incorporating yoga postures into the red-light portion of this game! Tell children that when they have to stop they have to strike a pose! Some balancing poses can make the game a lot more challenging!
43. Freeze Dance
44. Scavenger Hunt
Make sure to supervise children during scavenger hunts and to give them boundaries. For safety reasons they shouldn't wander too far away from you or you should have other adults to help you supervise the group. Provide fun clues and don't make the treasure items impossible to find. Allow children to work together in groups and whoever finds the most treasure in an allotted time, wins. Make sure you know how many items you put out and how many still need to be retrieved at the end of the game.
Campers Bathing the horses...sort of!
I worked at a horse camp for two summers before moving out of state. Because it had a specific focus I made sure to incorporate specific activities.
45. Horse Treats Recipe
Making home-made horse treats was a favorite at the horse camp. This project allows children to spoil their favorite horses. Below is a recipe and instructions for horse treats! For more recipes go to AboutYourHorse.com
"Sweet Horse Treats"
- 1 cup Rolled Oats
- 1/4 cup Water
- 1 pinch Honey, (more if substituting peanut butter)
- 1 pinch Peanut Butter, (can be substituted by honey)
- 1 Small Carrot
- 1/4 cup Horse's favorite grain, (make sure what you feed the horses is okay with the barn manager)
- Mix rolled oats and water. They should be moist but not too soggy. Add Honey and peanut butter.
- Add the horse's favorite grain and stir. If not sticky enough, add more honey.
- Cut up a baby carrot into pieces and roll the mixture around the piece into a ball.
- Put the treats in the refrigerator overnight to harden. They can be placed on a baking sheet. For camp purposes I give each child a snack baggy and they can fit about 4 treats in their baggies. I write their names on their baggies with a permanent marker before putting them in the refrigerator.
46. Construction paper or Foam horse ribbons
Like other foam projects, campers can cut from a piece of foam a custom-made ribbon for a horse they like at the stable and write award titles on them such as "cutest horse", or "best friend", or simply write the horse's name on it. It's a cute activity which these campers take pride in.
47. Painted horse shoes
Painting old horse shoes is a great way to recycle and it gives campers a sentimental reminder of their time at camp. You can attach cut hay twine to the shoes so campers can hang them on their walls!
48. Paint your horse with non-toxic, home-made paint
If you have permission from the barn manager, have the children create a water and flour mixture until it has a pasty consistency similar to paint. This is a non-toxic form of paint and it can easily be washed off. Food coloring can be used to make different colors. It's a fun way to dress up the lesson horses and afterwards they can get a bath!
49. Movie Day
Find a PG Movie and host a movie and popcorn day! This would be great for a rainy day or as a way to celebrate an accomplishment by the children or a special day.
50. Pearler Beads
I did not consider pearler beads to be a good use of the budget. It is a time-consuming project which many children enjoy, but it can be quite expensive. If you have a generous budget to work with, it wouldn't hurt to buy a bucket of pearler beads and templates. If you have budget restrictions, I would not recommend making this a high priority on your list. If you pursue this as an option, make sure to keep the iron far away from the children so they do not get hurt when you melt the beads together.
51. Pipe Cleaner Crafts (beads, shapes)
Pipe cleaners are cheap and can be used for various types of crafts. They are not the most entertaining selection of materials but children can be quite creative with them. I would limit the amount of time you use pipe cleaners in your activities since their uses are limited and not exactly thrilling to work with, especially for older children.
Tips & Tricks
I have several rules for hosting arts & crafts with school-aged children. These tips and tricks will make your role as an instructor and responsibilities to supervise activities much easier!
1. Stay away from glitter! The stuff is awful and gets all over the place. It's nearly impossible to fully clean up and can be dangerous. It's not difficult for a child to accidentally rub shards of glitter in their eyes. Use glitter glue as an alternative.
2. Teach children how to use glue. It may seem like common sense, but apparently it can be a big issue in the classroom. Too many children do not know how to use glue properly. They use overly-generous amounts which not only makes a big mess, but makes the function of the glue itself ineffective when holding things together. When it comes to glue, less is more!
3. Think prevention first! Tape down cheap trash bags to the tables for messy projects as an easy throw-away.
4. Discourage color mixing! Unless you are prepared to give the children a seminar on proper color mixing, make sure that there are plenty of paintbrushes for each child and for various colors. For example, if I have 8 children at the table I might have 3 paper plates with 5 different colors on each place with at least 2 paint brushes per color to make the need for sharing minimal. Color mixing will lead to a messy plate, waste of resources, and frustrated children.
My pet peeve is rinsing brushes in water. This does not work with acrylic very well, especially when children over-load their brushes with globs of paint. Teach children to take pride in their work by teaching them to think about their color choices and be more strategic about how they use the materials to minimize waste and maximize the quality of their paintings.
5. If you find activities that the majority of the children enjoy, consider repeating it within your curriculum if the budget allows it.
6. Create examples and provide demonstrations to the children for each project. Be available to assist children who need it and who may be too shy to ask for help. Above all, encourage creativity.
7. Set up stations for picky children who are not interested in the regularly scheduled activity. For example, many older girls that I have worked with would rather create jewelry or just talk for the entire art session. I have some campers who would rather sit quietly in a corner and read a book, especially after a long day. Some campers enjoy intellectual board games, and there are others who would prefer to doodle all day.
8. Take care of your supplies! When I first worked as a camp art instructor I had to throw away all of the paint brushes and budget for new ones. They were in horrific condition. I also find that if children have the opportunity to use newer supplies they appreciate it a lot more. Wash brushes after they have been used to make them last longer.
There are many successful crafts you can do within a budget which are entertaining and enriching for children. Remember to listen to the children's feedback and make their experiences memorable. Encourage creativity and have some fun with it!
I hope you enjoyed reading my article. Feel free to comment and share your experiences! Your feedback is always appreciated.