When it comes to making art with kids I stick to two schools: the “no right or wrong way” kind and the “let’s keep it simple and inexpensive.” Especially when I’m feeling bold enough to set out a crafts project during a kids party, I want it to be fun and generalized enough that no one is frustrated or solely dependent on needing grown up assistance. I also try to come up with ideas using materials that are simply found and can be gathered into piles, giving the kids a chance to dig for treasure and find their own vision and in turn, version of the project.
Born from pure folly, we started making annual Thanksgiving Float centerpieces a few years back with our kids. Each fall, we collect found objects and build a simple platform together to decorate. Its one of these projects the kids really look forward to and one that is so fun to do with a a big group.
Here are the basics:
Cover a table with newsprint!
Gather a large pile of materials in the center of the table, along with several bottles of glue.
This project is best made from things in your pantry or crafts stash. You might use things like dried noodles, beans, acorns, pine cones, cork, nuts in shells, cut up citrus nets, toothpicks, beads, pebbles, pom poms, cut up straws, stickers, miniature baskets, millinery flowers or fruit, things found walking in nature, knick-knacks from yard sales and so on.
We take scraps of wood, cardboard, or inexpensive supplies from the woodcraft aisle of an art or hobby shop (such as wooden spools), to make a platform or vehicle with wheels. Set these materials in a circle around the supply pile and closer to the edge of the table.
We ask the kids to gather around the table and make some semblance of a car which can be colored with markers or left natural. Assure them, that there is no right or wrong here.
(If you’re just making this with a few children, you might have them paint it one day and then decorate the next.)
Using glue they can then attach their selected treasures to decorate their float.
It’s a great ice breaker for the start of a kids party, and thus gives the craft enough time to set for transportation home when the party ends.
At our recent fall potluck, our kids loved making up stories about their floats, and hearing those of their friends. We gave some kids small bags of unused treasure to take home and keep working on their projects, while others mentioned having things at home they might add on. We like building ours little by little through the season and enjoy it as our Thanksgiving holiday centerpiece.
Jaime Rugh is an artist and author of the blog Found While Walking.