Arts and Crafts

Art and Craft is always a popular option at youth clubs, and you might be surprised at who not only is interested, but shows quite a talent for it. The knack however is to leave it optional. It is never fun if you are forced to do it! Art and craft also becomes interesting when there is a new technique or style to explore rather than just drawing or painting. So here are a few suggestions. It's also worth looking at some of the Fun Science ideas where there is often a cross over between art and science!

Personalised Mugs

Art idea supplied by Ewan McDougal

mugOne of the problems often found with children’s craft activities is what to do with the art work after it’s done. My favourite craft activities are always the ones that leave you with something that you can use afterwards. After all how many drawings and colouring-ins can you really pin to your fridge.  One solution could be to create personalised mugs that proudly display your child’s art work for years to come.  One way you could do this is by photographing your child’s creation and using a mug printing company to have it transferred on to a mug. Having the mug printed can produce great results, however with a little extra effort you could consider having your child paint directly onto the mug. This needs a little more preparation than some craft activities but the results are a lot of fun.


Porcelain paints:

For this activity you’ll need to get some special paints. You can find porcelain paints at most craft shops or online. You can also buy porcelain pens if you think your child might find these easier. When choosing your paints, make sure you find the variety that can be fired at low temperatures in an oven rather than a kiln.

Tracing and transfer paper (for older children):

Not essential, but if you have older children who want to paint a more complicated design, using tracing and transfer paper will allow them to perfect their drawing on paper first then copy the outline of this onto the mug for colouring in.

Masking tape and a sponge:

To cover the areas that shouldn’t be painted (more important for young children)

A Home Oven:

When your mug is painted you’ll need to fire it in an oven, if you’ve got the right paints any home kitchen oven should do.

A Mug:

Last but certainly not least, the mug you want to paint. Any plain porcelain mug will be fine, you can probably find one at your local pound shop or other cheap discount shop.

What to do:

Now you know what equipment you need the activity really becomes quite self explanatory.  Pour out the paints on to a plate for your child, give them a brush and the mug then see what their imagination comes up with. The only real rule you need to make sure your child follows when mug painting is not to paint the inside or rim of the mug. This is because although most porcelain paints are non toxic, when they come in to contact with acidic foods there is a slim chance this could change, so it’s best not to let the mug user’s mouth or drink come into contact with the paints. If you think your child might struggle with understanding this rule or just doesn’t have the hand eye coordination then you can fill the mug with a sponge and wrap the rim in masking tape to prevent these areas from accidently being painted.

If you have an older child who wants to practice and perfect there design first, let them draw it on paper.  Once they have done this either you or they can trace it onto the tracing paper. Then stick the transfer paper onto the mug under the tracing paper, use a pencil to go over the design one more time.  After this removing the tracing and transfer paper should reveal the outline of your child’s design faintly on the mug ready to be coloured in with the porcelain paints.

Once the mug is fully painted, you need to fire it. Read the instructions that come with your paints for the exact details, but you will need to bake your mug in an oven for about 30 minutes at 150°C (300°F).  It is generally preheating the oven the temperature of the mug should increase slowly. You should of course also remove the sponge and any tape from the mug before baking it.

With some luck and practice you should now be able to create beautiful personalised mugs with very personal designs on them, great for identifying a mug as your child’s own personal one, or giving to friends and family as a gift. 


Painting Roller Blinds

Art idea supplied by Ewan McDougal

When it comes time to redecorate your child’s bedroom they are bound to want to get involved and help, this is great it really helps make a child’s room feel like it’s their home and own private space.  Finding a little job for them to do however is not always that easy. One finishing touch you could let them get creative with is painting a roller blind.

If you’ve decided to dress your child’s window with roller blinds you are left with a large space for decorating that’s only visible at night. This, at least at first, can make bed times more exciting and means that of the whole project does go horribly wrong the blinds will not always be on display (With enough preparation any disasters should be avoidable).

What you’ll need:

There are a number of ways you can go about this and the exact equipment you need will vary accordingly.
The first thing you’ll need of course is the blind, most roller blinds come are made from either stiffened fabric or a plastic that feels quite papery.  Either of these are suitable for decorating but you need to choose your paints accordingly.

A good all round variety of paints for this task are stencil paints.  They are great for painting most surfaces and tend to be a little thicker so are less likely to run and shouldn’t crack so readily when the blind is rolled up.

If your blind is made from fabric then an obvious choice would be fabric paints, however bear in mind that many blinds are treated with stiffeners that may repel fabric paints.  If this is the case you may have to wash the blinds first to remove this agent.

You may also find it easier to use a large table or board to spread your blind out on and weigh it down so it stays flat.

Choose your style:

Free paint
Those of you who have older more artistic kids, or are simply brave may wish to just present your children with paints brushes and the blind and let them have at it creating there master piece from scratch.  If you select this option, just pour out the paints, roll out the blind and let your children have at it.

Stencilled designs look great on blinds and most arts and crafts shops will sell a wide variety that you can choose from, or if you’re feeling creative you could make your own.   Print out, or cut from magazines  silhouettes of pictures mount these onto cardboard then cut out with a craft knife.  Then just use sponges to paint over the stencils onto the blinds leaving fantastic results.

An alternative to stencils is printing, you can either make or buy stamps, or just let your children use their hands and feet to make stamps. The hands and feet option is great for young children as they can add to it over the years and trace how their hands and feet have grown.

You could also let your child design the picture on paper first, or even find one in a magazine and trace this onto tracing paper then use carbon paper to transfer this outline onto the blinds, it’s then just your child’s job to colour in the picture. If you have younger children with a less steady hand, and you your self are more artistic you can easily fix there errors by re out lining the designs with black paint.

Caring for the blinds
If you used fabric paints the blinds should survive the washing machine (assuming they were already machine washable) nut the more you do this the more the colours will fade so it’s perhaps advisable to only wash the blinds when they really need it. If you used stencil paint then the best way to wash your blinds is with a moist soapy sponge taking care to avoid the painted areas where possible.

Whether your redecorating your child’s whole bedroom  or just looking for a fun way to spruce it up a little I hope you find this creative project useful, and are left with exciting colourful bedrooms for your children.

Alphabet Book

Adapted from suggestion by Pat Adams

You may have had a book like this when you were very young, a book where each letter of the alphabet had an object beginning with that letter beside it. Well as an activity why not produce one based on a theme, drawing something that relates to each letter of the alphabet. Categories need to be quite broad, such as a country, nature, water, etc or it'll be too hard to come with something for every letter. Before starting this activity it might useful to brainstorm ideas.

Blow Pens

Small scale airbrush technique using normal fibre tip pens. Several types are available on the market at the moment with stencils or make your own by blowing down straws at the tip of a felt tip pen. Use the stencils to help create shapes and designs. Practice different techniques and patterns that can be obtained from changing the distance you airbrush on the ink from the pen.

Blow Art

Using water soluble paint and drinking straws. Put small puddles of water based paint on the paper and use the straws to blow it around.


Calligraphy is the art of beautiful writing and can very much be artwork by itself or the ideal accompaniment to a piece or artwork. 

You don't however need expensive pens, inks and paper to produce nice pieces of work. Getting used to writing the letters neatly and the effects you get as you move your pen or brush are the main thing so anybody can have a go. 

Making your own brushes and pens (even ink!) and then trying them out can be just as much fun... There are some traditional calligraphic styles but no hard and fast rule. Try dipping the flat end of piece of card or the end of a pointed stick in some ink and seeing what effects you can get when you draw it across some paper. 

Ink - Make your own

Modern inks have the advantage of intensity, colour fastness and flow, but don't let that stop you making and trying out your own from natural materials. Think about using crushed berries or walnut husk (not the nut, but the green) mixed with a little water or vegetable oil. If a pestle and mortar is handy you might be able to use this to grind your ingredients down finely and you may need to strain any results to get rid of fine particles. 

If you are experimenting with your own inks, don't  try them with modern pens as you are likely to damage the pen or at the very least clog it up.

Gift Box

Thumbnail of gift-box.gif Template for gift box follow the link for a full size image of a template designed to fit on an A4 sheet of card. A simple but effective gift box that can be made and decorated to take small gifts of sweets or items to sell or give away...

Top view of assembled gift box

Create a cardboard template the same shape as above and use this to draw around on a piece of craft card. 

Cut out the shape and score along the dashed lines in the centre. The box is assembled by folding each of the 4 'leaves' inwards at the score lines so that they interlock with its neighbours at the notches in a four leaf clover pattern. You'll probably find it easier if you bend two leaves opposite each other in first so they interlock at the notches at the top and then bend the remaining two leaves in. 

You might find decorating the boxes easier before folding them while they are flat.



ori_shrimp.gif (43435 bytes)Origami is the art of folding paper to produce boxes, decorations, toys, models or just art! There's a huge following out there and you do not need special paper or necessarily to be nimble fingered to give it a go. Try the Lobster /Shrimp below... its easy (ish) and the end result is worthwhile. Click on the thumbnail of the image for a printable version of the instructions.

Use a square piece of paper or cut a piece to shape. Proper origami paper is quite fine and usually coloured on one side (as with the origami shrimp above). If using plain paper and you want to colour what you've made, do it afterwards as paint may effect the paper's ability to be folded making it harder to fold or easier to rip.

  1. Fold once corner to corner and then open out flat the piece of paper again as in fig 1.  Now fold the paper so that the right hand and bottom edge of the square meet along the diagonal fold you created at the start.
  2. Turn the paper so that the diagonal fold now runs vertically and fold the sides in again to the middle.
  3. Now fold the sides at the top inwards so that they also meet in the middle.
  4. This is known as a 'step fold'. Fold the tip so it meets at the centre of the shape and then fold it back again, BUT by creating new fold a little bit further along. 
  5. Carefully cut a small piece out of the centre of this last fold.
  6. Open out the piece of paper up to where you were in fig 2. Carefully cut from the bottom along the long sides only and stopping before you reach the edge of the folded piece. These bits become the antennae and the finer you make these cuts the more realistic they look.
  7. Fold the figure back up the stage you got to in fig 5, then thread the antennae through the hole you cut. Make a series of 'step folds' down the body of the lobster.
  8. Make a series of 'step folds' down the body of the lobster.
  9. Fold the lobster length wise in half using the original diagonal fold made in fig 1. Grasping the body at the step fold/segment nearest to the head, carefully pull the fold out at the top but so as to leave the bottom part of it still folded. Repeat this to each step fold along the body and it will cause the tail to curl around and create the lobsters curled shape.

Quill Pens - Make your own

Quill pens are traditional and have been supplanted by metal nibbed pens because they are longer lasting. But some will say there is no beating the feel and effect of a traditional quill pen.

Information on how to cut a quill pen can be found here:

Anglo Saxon and Viking Crafts how to cut a quill pen


If you don't know what quilling is, its that craft where varying lengths of fine strips of coloured paper are rolled into tight spirals, molded into the required shape and then the shape stuck onto card or paper as the design or part of it. When its done well it looks brilliant and nice results can be obtained with only a little practice. Another of those easy, but looks better if you put some effort and skill into it things which defines a craft.

Quilling paper can be bought pre cut and most strips are about 3mm across. If you are not confident of being able cutting your own sheets of paper this way then its probably worth buying the precut packs. Winding can be done on a pencil, but a toothpick or cocktail stick is better as it creates a much smaller. However interesting effects can be obtained by winding around the point of a pencil so its worth experimenting to see what produces the effect you need. To get the basic shape the paper strip is wound tightly to create a clockwork spring effect as opposed to the elongated spiral of normal springs. 

As you make your first turn you may find putting a dab of glue at the point where the paper meets helps to keep the spiral tight and less prone to unwind. Once you have finished winding allow the spiral to unwind a little so that you can form it in to the shape you want and then use another dab of glue to hold the end in place against. When this is dry you can stick it down on the piece of card or paper you are creating the design on.

Try making a simple flower or sun using a central spiral with surrounding spirals pinched to create a leaf, tear drop shape.

Want more ideas? Then try out these other great sites...

Links to art and craft suppliers and other sites.

Craft some music!

How about actually making some music, not just playing it!

Just about anything canbe used to make music or create rythm and if you want to have an idea of just how little you need watch STOMP in action and if they are playing in a town near you why not arrange a trip to inspire some people.

Junk Music 

Given a pile of scrap material, cardboard, paper, plastic, rubber bands, wood, glue, peas, etc...  challenge individuals or groups to make various musical instruments and then take it a stage further and produce a tune... 

Trash rhythm 

Similar concept to 'junk music' but concentrating on just producing percussion instruments and tune. Suggestions include beating on large metal bins and lids (discover the range of sound that this can produce) and rhythms by using long wooden staves.

Boom Whackers

This the trade name for long tubes of plastic cut to various lengths. When you hold one end and whack these against a solid object like the floor or wall, they produce note depending on the length of pipe. Have a look out for them in toy or educational stores. You can make these yourself out of any old pipe or have fun with the group to see what works best. When using these they are great for getting groups to work in unison and develop group co-ordination to produce tunes or rhythms.

Vessel Flutes / Ocarina's

Included here for their simplicity to learn, but versatility and complexity of music that can be played. You can buy kits to make them out of card (or possibly have a go at making them yourself out of clay) If you've not come across this ancient instrument, they come in many shapes, but the most common is a bellied oval shape usually with four finger holes and  mouthpiece at one end.