Crafty Gifts for Pre-Teen Boys
My husband's 13 and 16yo sons love craft projects. Traditionally a girl thing, the boys, and their 9yo sister, enjoy painting, paper crafts, card making, photography, plastic canvas needlework, and even knitting and crocheting!
With Christmas fast approaching and an ever present need to keep them entertained, craft projects are an inexpensive gift that will give them a way to pass the time on road trips, express their creativity, and learn important fine motor skills.
Image courtesy of msmornington and a Creative Commons license.
Have you tried crafting with your boys yet?
Why is it that boys seem to grow out of craft projects around the age 10-12? Is it because we put emphasis on how crafts are for girls? Or do we just not have enough boy related projects? Either way, if you have pre-teen or teen boys, tell us - have you successfully gotten them engaged in craft projects?
Pouty picture courtesy of clairity and a Creative Commons license.
Do your pre-teen/teen boys like crafts?
Painting wooden toys
One of the first crafts I bought for my boyfriend's kids was a set of wooden items from the dollar store. Wouldn't you know it, they made me an instant hero! The kids spent hours painting miniature wooden birdhouse ornaments, photo frames, tiny boxes with a latch, scarecrow hangings, refrigerator magnets, mail slots, and popsicle sticks. We've also tried clay flowerpots and balsa wood snap-together airplanes, which were a big hit!
Painting is an art that anyone can enjoy, so you won't see much resistance from the boys on this one, especially if they can use the toys to stack and crash into with a wind-up car.
In the image above, the then 12-year-old intently paints a clay flowerpot in patriotic colors.
Choose Acrylic Paints and Brushes
My best success has been to use the 2-ounce acrylic paint bottles for all our wooden painting projects. The paints come in hundreds of colors, clean up easily, mix well, and have a long storage life when tightly sealed. A little bit of paint goes a long way!
Best places to buy wooden toys
Pre-made kits for wooden toys with paint and stickers can get expensive, so I've always purchased my supplies separately. Paint and brushes are easiest to come by, and finding the toys can be a bit trickier. Here are the shops I rely on for activity parts.
- Dollar stores
True dollar stores often have great craft supplies at a low cost. I've found wooden birdhouses, holiday ornaments, picture frames, treasure boxes,
- Resale shops
I've found really great wooden odds and ends at resale and consignment shops like St. Vincent de Paul and GoodWill.
- Garage sales
If you keep your eyes open, you can find great leftover craft parts at garage sales.
- Craft stores
My favorite place to buy inexpensive kids' crafts is Michaels Craft Store. They always have great general and seasonal craft supplies and kits for $1-2.
Wooden Toys to Give
It's easy to collect small wooden cutouts and toys throughout the year and give them in a basket with acrylic paints and brushes. If you know you'll go through a lot of parts, eBay is the best place to find these craft parts in bulk. It will take a little time to get them in the mail, but you'll save a lot of money and get a great selection of unique shapes and parts. Instant entertainment!
What can you do with plastic canvas?
Popular in the 80's, plastic canvas crafts have recently gotten a bad reputation for being scary. It's true, I've seen my share of scary plastic canvas art in the past. But as far as crafts go, it's one of the easiest, least messy things to try, and can be incredibly versatile.
At first glance, my pre-teen boys didn't want anything to do with plastic canvas. But as soon as they saw how it worked, and how they could use it create soft-covered products that still had strength and form, they were all over it. Cell phone trays and covers, coasters, remote boats, camera cases, even a remote-controlled helicopter landing pad. You'd be amazed at what kind of interesting things they'll want to create using "scary" plastic canvas.
Image courtesy of Mountainside Crochet and a Creative Commons license.
Plastic Canvas Shapes can turn into ANYTHING!
You can find plastic canvas project kits at craft stores, or make your own with a few simple supplies. The easiest way to get started with projects for kids is to buy the plastic canvas shapes. Try stars and circles - you can stitch any pattern or color you want. Shapes can be more challenging since the holes aren't evenly spaced, but there aren't any hard rules for filling in the stitches. Once kids get the hang of the in and out, up and down motion of the needle (and aren't wrapping the yarn around the outside of the canvas), they'll quickly come up with their own designs and uses for the plastic canvas projects.
Books will also teach crafters how to stitch yarn ends into stitches on the back of the finished piece so it lays flat and knots don't pull through. You can create tree decorations, coasters, and wall hangings by hot gluing a piece of felt onto the back of finished projects, and trimming the edges once the glue has dried. Turn smaller pieces into magnets and paper clips by hot gluing a ceramic button magnet or wooden clothespin on the back.
Plastic Needlecraft Kits
If you're not sure your kids will be into plastic canvas needlecraft, small kits are the perfect place to start. They're inexpensive, include most or all of the parts, and are designed for short, easy projects. When you're first starting to learn a craft, it's nice to have some instant gratification that what you're doing is working. While pros may find kits too small, kids and teens appreciate being able to show off their work in short order.
Knitting Looms Produce Perfect Hats and Scarves
I've crocheted for over 20 years but never learned how to knit. If wielding a crochet hook or knitting needles proves too difficult for your pre-teen, try a knitting loom.
It only takes a few minutes to catch on to the wrapping and hooking technique needed to create a scarf, hat, or sock on these simple hoops. I introduced these to my boyfriend's kids two years ago. The then 6 and 9 year olds (a girl and boy) caught on quickly and made their own hats in a weekend!
The kits come with 1-2 hooks, but with more hooks, more kids can use the looms at the same time. Plus plan on losing a few.
Crocheting is a skill best mastered with a mentor. I learned when I was 5 or 6, and two years ago I successfully taught my boyfriend's 12 year old son how to chain a basic scarf. He's created 3 or 4 since, then and even gave his step-sister one as a birthday gift! The younger kids became easily frustrated, so we're not attempting crocheting for now.
Below is my #1 recommendation for a how-to book for a beginner of any age.
THE Crocheting Book for Beginners
Of course your kid isn't an idiot, but as far as illustrated books go, this one takes the cake for teaching kids basic crochet skills. I bought this for my boyfriend's son and within weeks he was cranking out scarves and coasters like nobody's business.
TIP: Test Projects with Scrap Yarn
It's tempting to go out right away and start a project using the coolest multi-colored, fluffy, jeweled yarn out there, but if something goes amiss in the learning process, you could end up wasting some very expensive yarn. Use scrap yarn to test the waters. If they decide knitting or crocheting isn't for them, you've only invested a few dollars.
For beginners, I recommend regular weight yarn, not the decorative fluffy or stringy yarns. Regular weight yarn has a consistent texture and is smoother, so you can easily see where your stitches are. Once you move into the fluffy and stringy yarns, it's much more difficult to find stitches and holes in your finished piece, and unraveling your work to fix mistakes is nearly impossible.
You never know what you can find on eBay! You could end up finding some very cool AND inexpensive yarn to get started with. If you're interested in trying some of the yarn-related arts below, find some scrap yarn first.
Paper and Foam Cards
If you have kids you know how they can turn paper into anything. Markers and crayons are out. Foam stickers are in.
I bought a box of foam letter stickers for a project and I could barely get the lid off before all of the kids, boys included, were arguing over the card forms and claiming their phrases. We've used simple construction paper and foam stickers to create cards for every occasion - birthday, Mother's Day, Easter, Christmas.
It doesn't take much encouraging to get even the boys to play with these stickers. One of the first things the oldest did was label my compound bow case with my name!
Card and Sticker Kits
Foam stickers are easy to find in drug stores, department stores, craft stores, and discount stores. They make them in such cute shapes and colors! Many come in holiday and project kits, and there are plenty of foam backings to use them on, such as visors, doorknob hangers, photo frames, and placemats.
If you're trying to get your pre-teen and teen boys interested in craft projects, the easiest thing to do is tempt them by working on one yourself! Let them ask about it, and nonchalantly give them some parts to work with. You know how well this works on things you DON'T want them messing with. ;)