A good day is when my daughter, Cedar, and I can spend an afternoon immersed in the activity of making stuff. I might be knitting while she works on an intricate bracelet with pipe cleaners and glow-in-the-dark beads. Or, I might be crocheting in the round while she practices chain stitching. These moments are some of the happiest we have: simply sitting on the couch, side by side, not talking much, and helping each other with the work — both with encouragement and technique. Just being together.
The crafts in my book center on this ideal — working side by side with your child and enjoying each other’s company. At the end of an afternoon, you may emerge with something beautiful to cherish, or you may simply have pleasant memories of making stuff. Either way, the projects that follow can help get you to that magical place where you and your kids are happy and engrossed in the now.
Most child-parent craft projects I have encountered fall into two categories: either you must do everything together, and if your child gets distracted, the project fails; or else you set up an activity for your child to do so you can walk away and do something else, something more “important.” These crafts advocate a third way.
Giant Newspaper Snowflake
Sure, you already know how to make a paper snowflake. But when you change the scale from small to gigantic, something magical happens. The humble paper snowflake, a beloved, simple craft, becomes heroic. It draws everyone in and turns an intimate, singular activity into a chatty, fun group play date. Since these giant snowflakes take longer to fold and cut than their smaller cousins, the grand reveal becomes an event.
Potato Print Milky Way
Potato prints are an old standby of children’s craft projects, perhaps because they are easy to do and use readily available materials. This approach to potato prints focuses the project on an astronomical theme, which reduces the variety of shapes, colors, and mediums used. The star-shaped stamps and light-colored paints allow kids the freedom to explore composition, rather than materials.
My friend Diane gave my daughter a handmade stuffed monster for her birthday. While Diane’s projects are always ingenious and exemplary, I was particularly blown away by this softie.
All photographs by Meredith Heuer. From Side by Side, by Tsia Carson, © 2012 by Tsia Carson. Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, Boston, MA. www.roostbooks.com.