Paper? Yes, Please!

Oona Baker
February 2, 2018

There is nothing children, big and small, love more than seeing their artistic masterpieces proudly displayed at home, or adorning their bedroom walls. The grin that accompanies "I made this!!" is priceless. As the weather continues to be extra cold this year, you and your kids may be spending more time indoors, and simple paper crafts are a entertaining and thrifty way to spend an afternoon! If you're not comfortable with artwork decorating your living room, carve out a special area to be an art wall or hang clips along a hallway so your child can see their work proudly displayed.
Each of these projects can be adapted for the smallest of artistes, just adjust your involvement level, and plan to work only as an assistant when needed for older preschoolers. None require special supplies, in fact, you probably have most of the items (with paper being the important factor) kicking around the house. Utilize your recycling bin as a clearing-house, and repurpose items to add embellishments. Comics from newspapers or brightly colored pages from magazines can be curled and glued on paper crafts for extra glitzy flair! Bust out a shaker of glitter or some rubber stamps, and you're all set for some DIY paper fun.

Paper Banner: Let your child come up with a theme all on their own. Maybe they'd like to make a Fall banner, one that celebrates their sister's birthday, or a wall hanging that sings the praises of Thomas the Tank. Gather construction paper and ribbon, twine, or yarn. Plot how many pieces of paper you will need (one per letter). Cut each piece of paper in half vertically and then cut the bottom edge into a V-shape. Your child can then decorate each letter as they wish--use buttons for a fun 3-D effect, scatter sequins and glue feathers, or keep it simple by cutting out contrasting colors to spell out the words. Using patterned scrapbooking paper is a cool way to achieve a funky, patchwork look for the banner. To attach each piece to the ribbon, just fold the top two inches over (form a flap) and let dry completely. Sure to be a holiday or seasonal decoration your family will pack away carefully and bring out each year to enjoy again and again!

Fan: Remember the paper fans you used to make in grade school (along with the infamous cootie catcher)? You can adapt this project to make a fun wall decoration that offers a larger work area for small hands. Use old bits of wrapping paper or scraps from wallpaper books and fold accordion style to craft fabulous fans. You can use big sheets that are already covered in finger paint, or artwork that has come home from preschool. Another idea is to use chalk to draw bright designs on large sheets of construction paper or even tissue paper for a delicate fan.

Mask: You can be as simple or as complicated as you want to get when making masks with young children. If the kids are going berserk and want to buy yourself 15 minutes to prep dinner, print out some storybook character masks to be colored in. If you have more time to devote to the task, gather paper plates, paper bags, a hole punch, and some string. Note: you can even use a scarf or a thin adult sock in a pinch to fasten the mask! Poster board is a sturdy surface for masks so you may want to keep a stash on hand for impromptu mask sessions. Your children will have their own game plan for just who they want to create. Maybe they'd like to make a whole zoo-full of animals, seven dwarfs, or the members of their family? When the masks aren't in use, they can be hung up on your child's wall. Smaller children may need assistance with eye and nose holes.

Fishbowl, complete with creatures: Big sheet of blue paper? Check. Paint, markers, and glue? Check. You're all set to help your child create a fun underwater scene that can be added to each day. Your child can draw creatures of the deep and then glue or tape them to their ocean. Crumple tissue paper to make three dimensional seaweed or jellyfish. Add sequins to sea urchins, fold paper accordion style to make eyes pop out, or pipe cleaners to form a forest of sea grasses. If you hang their ocean creation in a central place, children will have fun adding new sea life each day. When they tire of a current theme, brainstorm a new environment for them to populate: outer space, ancient Egypt, or their own city!

Other ways to get creative with paper include: paper lanterns, making mobiles (with paper cranes, photos of favorite things, relatives, animals, found objects) making a treasure map/map of your neighborhood, or simple board games (use tape or velcro for game play while board is displayed on the wall). Use your child's interests and favorite things to guide their paper pièces de résistance. The good thing about art that is displayed is that it can be easily stowed, cherished and reintroduced. Pull out some paper and see where your child's mind will take them!

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