If you are just joining us, you can catch up on our Camp Quarantine Series here: DIY Summer Camp!
Arts & Crafts may not be the first image that comes to mind when we think of Summer Camp —after all, it’s pretty hard to compete with a lake . . . and smores— but art has a special relationship with camp and leaves a lasting impression on the campers. It did for me at least.
Coloring inside the lines has never been my strong suit. Growing up, this was quite literally the case. I took my scribbling struggles to mean that I wasn’t any good at “art” in general, and basically gave up entirely on the whole sketchy endeavor. But when I went to camp for the first time, something magical happened! There was no coloring or drawing or remaining within lines of any kind! Instead, there was stuff to pound and burn and smash and melt and puncture! They called it art and I was enchanted.
It turns out, I have always loved art . . . I have just never particularly cared for drawing. Growing up, art was celebrated every day in my home. But I didn’t realize it, because most of the time we didn’t call it art . . . we called it work! Making pasta and pies, sewing dresses and quilts, planting potatoes and peas, practicing scales and chords, writing plays and poems.
Oftentimes we view art through a narrow, specifically focused lens. But we need to use a wider focus. In the end, art is any creative work of the hands or mind. And to work holistically with our capable hands, creative minds, and inspired hearts is our ultimate human endeavor . . . we were created to create. We are all artists, formed by the master artist Himself.
So whatever you do, don’t skip art if you think it’s not your kid’s “thing.” In fact, if art isn’t their “thing” I suggest doing a whole week of just intensive art camp! Art is for every child, art is for every human. And the areas of art are inexhaustible. If your child finds pencils to be . . . dull, there are beads, clay, leather, wood, pastry, and if she really wants something sharp . . . there are nails, wires, knitting needles, and pottery shards.
If your child hasn’t fallen in love with art, it simply means they haven’t met the right medium(s) yet. Or perhaps your child is just prejudiced against paper! Maybe he wants to paint a pot, or the porch, or a rock, or his face, or the wall!
Or maybe your child hasn’t been exposed to quality art materials. The truth is, the majority of kids’ crafts actually wind up as . . . kids’ crap. And that comes down to the quality of the materials. Think back on the crafts you did at school, or clubs, or the ones your kids are constantly carting home . . . am I wrong? Styrofoam crowns, anyone? Reproducible cut and paste and color projects? Fake jewels, glitter glue, pom-poms? Suffice it to say, kids crafts usually focus a lot more on quantity than quality.
In all those teachers’ and club-leaders’ defense . . . there is always a budget to contend with. But at Summer Camp, at least the good ones, Arts & Crafts feature real, raw, quality materials that produce lasting, treasured keepsakes—leather bookmarks, fabric book cases, glass bead suncatchers. Beautiful art supplies are truly hard to resist.
All that to say, in planning our Arts & Crafts with our kids this summer (or in any season) let’s dump the junk and opt for materials that capture the senses! Provide your kids with wonderful raw materials they have never laid their hands on before—
~leather craft sets~
~sun-catching glass beads and crystals~
~nature-made materials from the park~
Summer is a time for kids to have out-of-the-ordinary experiences, so let’s keep that in mind as we get crafty! Put away the mundane coloring books, trash those cookie-cutter cut-and-paste crafts, and embrace sensory-rich, wild, larger than life, unforgettable arts and crafts! Even if your budget is small, one set of quality art materials is far more valuable to your child than a crate of . . . crap.
Speaking of crates —you know, the ones of a tinker variety, or a kiwi flavor— I’m really not a big fan. I realize this perspective is sacrilegious to our modern love affair with the ever convenient subscription box . . . sorry. But, pre-packaged, mass-produced, result-oriented kits, in my opinion, just don’t go with the free-spirit of Summer Camp or the artistic soul. An exception would be for an older child who has a specific interest, such as robots or model airplanes, in which case a prepackaged kit could be a good option. But in general, and especially for young kids, focus your attention on raw materials with loose, open-ended instructions. Give your kids the materials and let them bead, or bash, or burn outside the lines if they so choose!
If you must use *normal* art supplies like crayons and paint, use them in an out of the ordinary way! Melt those crayons on rocks (hot rocks)! And paint with nature-made stamps, water balloons and darts, fly swatters, salad spinners, squirt guns, or use your feet (happy feet)!
To help you out (what am I here for anyways?), I’ve searched out and compiled some great camp-worthy craftsman projects and supply kits. I’ve organized everything by age category:
- Littles (under 6)
- Middles (age 6-10)
- Bigs (10 and up)
Under each age category I’ve arranged the projects by budget, from pennies to “a pretty penny.” Looks for these symbols for quick reference:
- ¢ = cheap (less than $5)
- $ = inexpensive (less than $15)
- $$= moderately expensive ($15-$30)
- $$$= expensive ($30-$50)
- $$$$= “a pretty penny” ($50 and up)
Lastly, the art projects and materials below are just a sampling of what is available; art is a limitless topic and that fact is commercially realized in how many suppliers and options there are for you to choose from! Hopefully, my list can provide you with a little direction so that you don’t get overwhelmed—you know, like that feeling we all get when we walk into Michaels. Just go with what speaks to you in the moment, and what you can afford. Oh! And before buying anything at all, check and see what you have in the craft cupboard or even in the kitchen or bathroom that might be able to be used in a creative and unexpected way!
Let’s tap into the spirit of Summer Camp to bring back true artistic craftsmanship; teaching our kids practical, beautiful, and vocational arts.
~Arts & Crafts for LITTLES (under 6)~
1.) Nature-Made Stamps (¢)
Supplies needed: paint, paper, a paintbrush, and various fruits, veggies, or other organic stamps found in nature (great options include: bok choy bottoms, halved citrus fruits, corn on the cob, potato cut stamps, pine cones . . .)
2.) HAPPY FEET Art Project (¢)
Supplies needed: paint, large roll of parchment/butcher/poster paper, and . . . a pair of feet! Click the “Happy Feet” link above for more pictures and details.
3.) Hot Rocks (¢)
If you find the rocks (ooooh nature walk bonus!) and use old crayons you already have on hand, then the only expense for this activity is the pennies you will spend on a sheet of wax paper and heating your rocks in the oven. My son is not a fan of coloring with crayons (he takes after his mama) but he loves MELTING them. We’ve tried various blow-dryer crayon drip-art activities which have been fun (and super messy) but hot rocks is definitely our favorite crayon melting activity. The prep is easy, there is virtually no clean up, and my son LOVES it. If you don’t want brightly colored rocks laying around your house for months afterward, have your child find an area in the garden to display his or her hot rock art.
Supplies needed: smooth stones, crayons, a sheet of wax paper, heat-resistant gloves for your child (we use gardening gloves)
~Arts & Crafts for MIDDLES & BIGS (ages 6 and up)~
1.) Beautiful Bracelets & Suncatchers ($—$$)
Unfortunately the gorgeous glass and rock beads we used to make these stunning suncatchers are not from a set that I can share with you. These beads were personally hunted down by my son’s “Grammy” . . . some of which were even handmade by one of her friends! When purchasing or hunting for beads, quality is incredibly important. Beautiful bracelets, necklaces, and suncatchers can not be made from junky plastic bead kits. Rock, glass, crystal, wood . . .
Supplies needed: beautiful beads, twine, clasps, closures, and pliers.
2.) Pottery ($$$$)
Come on . . . haven’t you always wanted to do this?? I feel like this is one of the most memorable parts from “It Takes Two” and it’s only about two seconds long! Everyone remembers this pottery wheel snippet and has been secretly longing to do this since they were nine years old! We actually had a pottery wheel growing up, and it was super fun. But it was a kid’s plastic pottery wheel kit and not very sturdy. It sort of worked for a couple of years and my sister managed to make a few very impressive vases with it. My masterpieces were more like whimsical dirt clods. Impressionistic ones, of course.
A real, metal wheel, though . . . that’s what we’re after! I was hesitant when researching this because I was positive it was going incredibly pricey. Ok . . . so start to finish it IS the most expensive Arts & Crafts project on this list, as I anticipated. But it is actually far more affordable than I had guessed. You can get everything you need to get started making pottery for under 100 bucks and for future projects you will just need clay and paint. So, after the initial purchase of the wheel and tools, this is actually a pretty frugal craft! And . . . you get pots out of the deal! So, it’s really an investment, right? This pottery wheel and set of tools is definitely going on my (I mean my son’s) Christmas wish-list!
Supplies needed: a pottery wheel (a real one), clay, some shaping tools, acrylic or pottery paints
$33.99 for medium, $45.99 for large (above)
3.) Mosaics ($$)
I love mosaics. But I do not love mosaic kits. My son and I are spoiled by his very artistic grandma who sends him customized art projects . . . yup, that’s my mother-in-law! Score! She sent him all the pieces for this mosaic pot which she actually prepared all on her own . . . pretty flipping cool. This is something I’d love to get into myself. But if I didn’t have a mosaic-master mother-in-law to teach me how, I guess I’d start with a book.
Supplies needed: tile pieces, super glue, cement, a pot or other surface, gloves, and a sponge
4.) Weaving on a Loom ($$—$$$$)
I had a loom as a little girl. Or, my sister did . . . which is practically the same thing. When you weave, you become entranced in the repetitive motion of combing strands of yarn tightly together. The strands are simple and humble. But as they layer in and out, they take on an exquisite beauty in their unity. Weaving is a restful, mindless activity that pairs perfectly with daydreaming, chatting, or listening to music or an audiobook.
For me, whenever I would kneel and use that little playschool loom with the cotton-candy comb, I was transported back to an older, simpler time. I would pretend I was on the prairie—sometimes outside a homestead and sometimes outside a hogan—and that my American girl doll baby needed another shawl before the winter. So weaving is storytelling too. Perhaps that’s how I got my old soul.
Supplies needed: a loom, and yarn
$0 on Kindle, $21.55 paperback
~Arts & Crafts for BIGS (ages 10 and up)~
*Any of the projects listed for the previous age category are also great choices*
1.) Wood-Burning Kits ($$—$$$)
Ah . . . the smell of burning raw, untreated wood . . . now THAT is a sensory-rich art project. Burn coasters, wall plaques, ornaments, or just experiment on any raw piece of wood you can find! Below are some of the highest-rated wood burning kits I tracked down at varying prices, along with an example of wood disks for artistic projects. I’ve also included a link to a tutorial book in case your child wants to really pursue this craft as a true art form.
Supplies needed: wood burning kit, and some wood! Also, a pair of safety goggles and heat-resistant gloves may be a good idea.
2.) Leather Craft Sets
There is nothing quite like leaving your mallet-pounded mark on a slab of dampened leather. This craft is a true soul-soothing art form. I feel like every human on earth would enjoy this activity. Every great endeavor should begin with a book, so I’ve included that link first. Then I’ve included two kits of very different price points, followed up with a few leather options. The bracelets were my particular favorite growing up, but boys tend to love a good wallet or a pair of moccasins (which I will add if I come across a better-rated product).
Supplies needed: a leathercraft set, leather surface, and a book if you intend to refine this craft
Thanks for reading!
Love, ~Our Holistic Homeschool~