Crafts and Activities with a Multi Age Group of Kids
Some simple preparations can make the difference between a fun multi-age activity and a disaster. Chelsey, of Buggy and Buddy is a mom and former teacher and she has a couple tricks to making activities go smoothly. ~Alissa
Crafting and doing activities with children of different ages can be loud and messy, but it can and should also be FUN! I have a soon to be 5 year old daughter, Lucy, and a 20 month old son, Theodore. Most of our crafts are done with both children at the same time, and often, since I’m in a babysitting co-op, we have other kids of various ages join us in the fun too!
It took us a while to get in the groove when doing crafts and activities together, but we finally have it working as smoothly as I think it can with a 20 month old in the mix!
A bit of planning
I almost treat doing our activities and crafts like creating a lesson plan from my old teaching days. I guess it’s a hard habit to kick! I go through what I’m going to do in my head, try to anticipate any challenges, and get the materials ready beforehand.
Getting Set-up for Activities
I usually set the work area up on our kitchen table. I can cover it with an art mat if I’m worried about a mess and our floor can be easily wiped up. But, the most important reason I choose this area for our crafting is because it allows me to set up a safe work space for all the kids. If Lucy and any other children visiting that day don’t have to worry about Theodore (toddler) grabbing their materials or sticking his hands onto their freshly painted paper (because he will- that boy loves a mess!), they can relax and focus more easily.
While the older kids are sitting at the table with materials and waiting for instructions, Theo is usually in his highchair right with us. I give him his morning or afternoon snack at this time. That way I can focus on the kids at the table, while Theo is content eating and can still observe what we are doing. Now that those curious 20 month old hands are busy, I can focus on the other kids. I usually give them instructions and model anything that needs demonstrating.
With the big kids we go over things like:
- “What should you do if you spill your water?” or
- “How could we make sure all the kids can reach the paint?”
It’s important to me that I am just facilitating, and that the kids are making their own decisions. I’ve found it really helps things run more smoothly when they don’t have to depend on the adult for each little thing.
What about the toddler?
Once Theo is done with his snack and the other kids are busily working, I focus on helping him do the activity as well. Depending on the activity, I either buckle him in his booster seat at the table with the other kids or set him up a little workspace of his own nearby on the floor with me.
When we are painting or drawing, sitting at the table is best for him. I usually give him his own set of art supplies because reaching the shared supplies is challenging. (And, really, a 20 month old does not having the concept of sharing down yet.) Theo having his own materials also allows the older kids freedom from worrying about him grabbing their things or constantly spilling their water (because he will spill it many times!)
If we’re doing something like a fine motor activity requiring small parts or glue, Theodore’s more successful if I set up his own workspace on the floor with me. He can then move around more easily to manipulate the materials. I will usually modify these projects for him. For example, a few weeks ago Lucy was at the table threading pasta onto string to make a necklace. The string was too hard for Theo to handle so I gave him a pipe cleaner instead of the string with some pasta. He loved it!
Like anything else, crafting with kids takes practice. After some trial and error I’ve figured out that what’s important for us to successfully craft together is providing a safe space for each child and having just enough structure while promoting independence. Our crafting times are now something I actually look forward to.
More on Multi-Age Activities and Crafts:
Setting up a Basic Kids Craft Kit – Organization becomes less of a problem when you have this basic kit set up.
Putting a Stop to Kid Arguments During Crafts – Tips for peaceful crafting with young kids
The Truth About Crafting with Kids – It doesn’t just happen.
Have you figured out ways to make it easier to craft with all of your kids, or does it work better to try and find one on one time in your family?
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Great post. I’m always crafting with multiple ages as there’s a 13 year age gap between my boys. I never thought about talking to them about how to help in regards the younger ones before though.
What a fabulous idea to give Theo a snack in the beginning of the activity! I’ve often began projects with a restless youngster while giving instructions to older siblings. As a nanny, I’ve learned through trial and error that the key is to find ways to challenge while at the same time provide an environment where they can be successful, which means modification whenever necessary, as you eloquently stated! 🙂
great topic..I found us dong multi-age crafts without even realizing it the other day….our daughter is really into beading jewelry…to make it a craft for a boy with less refined motor skills and a girl with highly refined skills, we picked out thick cord and large batman-colored beads with giant holes for him to make bracelets and belts. She got the more pearly, colorful beads with small holes and thin stretchy thread to build her ensemble. It worked out….but took a little bit of planning and resourcing to keep both engaged and happy. 🙂
Fabulous ideas! Thanks for showing how you tackled this challenge and made things fun for everyone!
Wow, if only I could get my 2 and 4 year olds to work together like that! Like Dianne, I usually find myself winging it and end up in the middle of a battle zone as a result.
I need to take a page out of your book and think more carefully about the planning and organization of our play time activities in the house. Love the pipe cleaner idea you thought of!
Can’t wait to hear more from you… I need all the help I can get LOL.
Chelsey~ Buggy and Buddy
I’m so thrilled to be guest posting on Creative with Kids today. Thank you so much for having me!
I’m amazed at how creative you are. You’ve really taken advantage of your time at home to provide a lot of opportunities for Lucy and Theo to create and express themselves through art! I often don’t plan ahead as well as you do–I need tips on getting as organized as you are. We just have a big basket filled with art supplies. I also love how you modify all crafts so Theo can join in too. Inspiring–thanks for all the crafting ideas! Can’t wait to see what you share next!
I love the idea of “having just enough structure while promoting independence”. I work at the Children’s Creativity Museum and we call that 20% inspiration, something we try to provide in all of our programming. It’s gives children a good starting point so things don’t seem overwhelming but still allows them to come up with their own ideas and develop their own creative confidence. Crafting with various ages is always a challenge but looks like you’ve figured out some ways to make it work. Looking forward to hearing more!
Chelsey~ Buggy and Buddy
Thanks, Jill~ I agree, I think providing a good starting point really helps things run more smoothly, while still not interfering with their creative thinking. Very important in instilling confidence in young children!
Wow this was very helpful. I usually try to just wing it, and wonder why I end up in the middle of a mess, all frustrated and vowing I will never do this again! I love how organized you are Chelsey! I never thought about making a “lesson plan,” but you and your kids seem to enjoy your time together so I guess you know what you’re doing! Thanks for the great ideas!
Chelsey~ Buggy and Buddy
For me it’s all about trial and error~ it took quite a while to get things running smoothly. I hope you find some of what has worked for me helpful for you!
Chelsey has such good ideas to keep everyone happy at the same time. She has a great balance between the activity being adult directed and child independent at the same time. I love reading about all of her ideas and follow her blog. I can tell that she was a fantastic teacher!
Chelsey~ Buggy and Buddy
Thanks, Mom! Always nice to have a proud parent even at 38 years old! 🙂