Sunday, 3 November 2013

The Magical Arts & Crafts Box

This one is perhaps my favourite of the gifts I have given to children over the years. It allows for spontaneity, creativity, and organized chaos. It lets child-artists take charge and invent their own projects. It also provides the basics and some extras needed for more conventional projects that may arise. It is entirely gender-neutral; although there is a parental bias towards this being a "girls' gift", never underestimate the enthusiasm that boys will have with art when their imaginations are unleashed. Variety of materials and attention to personal preferences are key.

The concept: a wide variety of art and craft materials are assembled in a large bin, with smaller items organized in labeled smaller bins and/or freezer bags. A list of contents is taped inside the lid and can be crossed off as supplies are used in order to make a convenient list for replenishing.

Some of the items we've included in our various iterations of the craft box:
- construction paper
- freezer paper and/or finger painting paper
- a sketch book
- origami paper
- various colours of printer paper
- card stock, various colours
- tissue paper, various colours
- scissors
- glue
- string
- yarn
- ribbon
- small pieces of assorted fabric
- large felt squares of various colours
- watercolour paints
- tempera paints
- finger paints
- acrylic paints
- paint brushes of various thicknesses
- crayons
- pastels
- pencil crayons
- markers (age-appropriate)
- stencils
- glitter
- glitter glue
- cotton balls
- Styrofoam balls
- stickers, esp. plain, coloured geometric shapes
- play dough
- plasticene
- clay (air-dry)
- slime/goop
- beads
- googly eyes
- pom-poms
- small bells
- craft sticks (aka popsicle sticks) and other wooden shapes
- drinking straws
- texture tools for use with thicker paints and clays such as combs, extruders, plastic outline-style cookie cutters, a rolling dowel, a cutting tool, a play mat, etc.
- glitter sequins
- assorted buttons
- small sponges
- rubber stamps
- fun foam
- calligraphy marker or pen
- sketching pencils
- sticky tape
- double-sided tape
- magnetic strips
- pin backings
- jewellery cord and fastenings
- safety pins
- brass fasteners
- paper clips
- needle and thread
- balloons
- chenille stems (aka pipe cleaners)
- natural items such as polished rocks, shells and clean twigs
- craft wire
- knitting needles and/or crochet hook
- embroidery thread
- empty spools
- corks and cork sheets
- chalk and/or sidewalk chalk
- wooden clothes pegs
- velcro fasteners and/or snaps

The list could go on and on.
As important as the contents perhaps is the container in which you present the gift. Be sure to find one that is easy to open, holds a little more than you plan to give, and also isn't so deep that things are easily lost. Smaller, labeled bins holding the tinier pieces can fit inside the larger bin. Sectioned containers work well for this project.
For a preschooler, sticking to playdough with playdough tools, fingerpaints and paper, construction paper, over-sized beads, sidewalk chalk, safety scissors and washable crayons with large drawing paper might be a good choice; older children may wish for more specific items.

Recipes for homemade playdough, slime, goop, paper mache paste, fingerpaints and more can be found at the link below, and are a nice addition to the box.

Some craft ideas to get you started can be found here (but remember, the beauty of this box is the freedom to explore with the materials, so it's probably best to use this list sparingly!)

If you have the opportunity to be there while the recipient uses his/her box, try and resist the urge to guide him/her. You may find you need a box of your own--and, well, why not?! Enjoy!