There comes a stage, when children can do a craft without help. They’ve been taught how to handle craft material. They know the techniques. They’ve probably lost count of projects completed, or half completed. Now, it’s their turn.
Up to this point, they’ve learnt to copy the example provided. Be it a painting or a model, they’ve attempted to emulate it. A carbon copy. The focus has been on following the leader, which is great as they gain confidence in their abilities, but at some point it changes. They take a leap.
No longer do they need to copy. They can take the skills, and be creative in their own right. The image they are copying may only be visible to their own mind’s eye. They can fly. Anything is possible.
Also, everything can go wrong. Darn. Why does every coin have to have two sides?
If it doesn’t work, then the hiccup can put them off. Confidence in themselves lost. It’s easy to see why sitting in front of a screen becomes more attractive, whilst declaring that they are useless at making anything.
They are not.
As a parent of two teens and an almost teen, I don’t want them to give up. It is a time to pick themselves up and dust themselves down. Find another route, maybe, but do try again. Resilience doesn’t always come naturally.
What do I do? First up, my mantra is that there is no right or wrong way when craft projects are concerned. I start every project saying it. So it may not end up as you first imagined, but you have gained. Maybe it is better. Maybe a new way has been found. Maybe a personal style is growing. There is no such thing as a mistake.
The summer holiday is a great time to set up craft materials and let them flex their creative muscle. Away from the time restrictions of school, the judgement of peers and the fear of their grades being dented.
Here are my five favourite crafts for teens to do outside, because they can make as much mess as they like. I supply the materials and act as the support team.
1 Object to decorate.
One year, I bought a blank wooden clock. Anything goes. Splatter paint was perfect. No two splatter clocks are ever going to look the same. No right or wrong. This project was perfect for building a wilting confidence. There is a skill in knowing when to stop. It still proudly hangs in his bedroom.
We went to a country fair, where they learnt the basic skills of carving. Ended up lugging three stone blanks home, which if you know our home, is really quite hilarious, but that’s not the point. The stones were theirs. That summer, they chiselled away at the stones and produced pictures they were happy with. I loved popping out into the garden and hearing the tap-tap sounds coming from the shed.
The next year. Same fair. Picked up another three stones for them. Over the years since, every now and again, they have taken themselves off to carve a little bit more. There is no hurry in this project. They are doing their own thing.
3 Tie dye.
Straight up, I do like crafts that are practical. Something that they make and then use. When they were younger, most of our projects were about making toys they could play with. Now they are older, it’s more about something they can use. The tie dyed duvet and pillowcases project, last summer, is a really good example.
This was a real hit and something they want to do again this summer. It is messy. A project for outside, and with the added bonus of rainbow grass until the next downpour washes it away.
Each piece was different. It’s difficult to attempt a carbon copy with this project. Experiment is the key. There was no right or wrong. They went back and added more dye to some of the pieces, until they were happy with it. The duvet covers and pillowcases are on their beds now and they still love them, which, to me, spells success. We’ve also dyed t-shirts.
4 This is another practical craft. Felted soap.
We added a rope to hang it up with, but it is good without too. I love wet felting projects. It is very hands on, colourful and they all come out differently. It is a great project for blending colours. There is no standard felted soap, so creativity is wide open.
Here again, the felted soaps are in regular use and, I can assure you, work a dream. Especially on bare feet that have been outside all day.
5 Wasn’t sure if I should include this one, as there is a set way of doing them, but it does cover another aspect of crafting. Lavender wands.
Nimble fingers and concentration are needed to weave. The satisfaction of containing the lavender, into a natural cage, is worth the time. Working with nature can be unpredictable. No fighting it sometimes, but finding the rhythm helps, and it’s a skill everyone should have to help appreciate the natural world.
It is also a wonderful project for a group to sit in the garden and craft together. Surrounded by nature. By the end, they have a sweet scented wand to put in their cupboards.
6. Last one, and an experience this time, although captured forever on film. A night light show.
The children each have their first initial shaped in wood with led lights decorating it. Looks great in their rooms lit up, but even more fun if you add a camera, with a slow setting, and a dark evening into the mix. They created letters, shapes and pictures. They worked together to make bigger more complicated displays. Until they saw the captured image on the camera, they had no idea how it would turn out.
This summer, we have more craft projects lined up. I’ve already organized the materials, but I’m all ears to ideas as they come up with them. I love seeing where their creativity takes them. With open ended projects, like these, I’m never quite sure what will come next. Another interesting summer, I think. I’ll be reminding them that there is no right or wrong way of doing it. They just need to follow their ideas.
Have you got a favourite teen craft?