Nurturing your child’s creative side can be just as important as outdoor play and reading, with just as many benefits, explains Tara Dennis www.taradennis.com.au, creative connoisseur and host on TV’s Better Homes and Gardens.
“Creative projects help develop your child’s sensory stimulation, imagination and fine and gross motor skills,” explains Tara. “Not to mention the sense of pride they have creating something themselves.” Check out Tara’s top tips and DIY projects for toddlers and teens and everyone in between…
Craft projects: why are they so important for children?
“Craft has amazing benefits for kids,” explains Tara. “Aside from learning patience and concentration, it encourages free thinking and problem solving. When done in a group situation, craft can be incredibly relaxing, fun and social. It’s a great way to work ‘together’ and share ideas.”
DIY toddlers: any good projects?
“Toddlers respond to sensory experiences,” explains Tara. “Rather than focusing on making ‘actual’ projects, I think it’s more about them learning by exploring materials. A craft box is a great way to go. Fill it with safe things from the recycling such as boxes, cardboard rolls, plastic bottles and large lids. Cellophane makes great scrunching noises and they can see through it. A ball of string or wool can be glued or used to thread things. Keep adding to it and they’ll love digging through. I used to make tubs of home-made ‘goo’ for my daughter who loved squishing her hands in it. She also loved home-made play dough and would get involved making it too.”
And fussy 5-10 year-olds…?
“Kids love to build and create,” Tara explains. “My five year-old son loves a cardboard box, a torch, a few plastic plumbing pipes and connectors, a water atomiser and dirt! Girls often have more patience with fiddly activities and between ages of five to 10 it’s the perfect time to get them into sewing, knitting and doing crochet. Boys are very good at handcrafts too but are often reluctant to sit still for long! Cooking is also great for this age group. Start with pizzas, cookies, pastry and fruity ice-pops and give them the freedom to decorate and create their own unique flavours, shapes and combinations.”
Tween time! How do you nurture their creative minds?
Gifting is a favourite idea for this age group. “Not only is it convenient but these days ‘hand-made’ is very cool,” she explains. “I often work with teens who love doing their own art on a canvas, be it street art or just something bold and bright. It’s a real confidence booster to be able to give something you have made yourself.
For boys, model building may seem a bit old fashioned, but it’s still a great thing for them to do. It teaches them how to follow instructions and complete a task with something to show at the end. If you can ever drag them away from the computer for long enough, I think it’s great!”
For girls, Tara loves the idea of them embellishing their clothes. “Adding decorative accents are a great way to make their things unique and can be as simple as changing the colour of their shirt buttons to adding ribbon, trim or rhinestones,” she suggests. “They can even make jewellery to match. It not only saves money but helps them to feel confident and individual.”
Crafty teenagers… Any suggestions?
“As teens get older, they often feel the need to own and personalise their individual space. Encourage them to decorate a corner of their bedroom or create a study area. It doesn’t have to be expensive and often they can simply update what they already have. Smaller projects could include a pin board, painting their desk and chair, updating a lamp or mirror or framing photos of their friends. It can really give a sense of pride an ownership and who knows, it may even encourage them to tidy their rooms more!”
“Constantly encourage your kids to be creative no matter what age. Many parents get put off because of mess but that simply comes down to choosing the right crafts. Get involved yourself too, kids love it when they can work ‘together’ and spend time with you. It’s so much more fun for them than working solo.
Be aware of what your kids gravitate towards and encourage them to actively pursue their interests. If they love cars, help them to turn a box into a garage or car wash. If they’re into fashion dolls or decorating, give them a few tools and materials to get them started. It could even encourage a career!”
What about creatively-challenged parents? What advice do you have?
“The internet is a parents’ best friend when it comes to craft,” suggests Tara. “There isn’t anything you can’t learn or gain inspiration from online and the resource is endless. Give it a go, who knows, you may end up resurrecting your love for craft and hobbies too!”
Tara is one of television’s most recognised faces and has been presenting decorating, style and craft segments for over fifteen years. Tara has graced our TV screens on Our House, Changing Rooms, Burkes Backyard, DIY Rescue, Renovation Rescue, and for the past seven years she has presented as a part of the team on Better Homes & Gardens.
Tara also runs a busy design studio and, along with her team, has just launched her second homewares collection, available at David Jones stores nationally and independent retailers, and is the author of Home, where she shares her styling secrets and tips on colour and decorating.