Crafts for kids

Sunday, November 22, 2009
Holly Hotop works on holiday cards with 2-year-olds Connor Moore and Courtney Tatum on Thursday at the University Child Enrichment Center in Cape Girardeau. (Kit Doyle)

For many families Thanksgiving means visiting relatives and lots of extra children underfoot. Holly Hotop, director of the University Child Enrichment Center in Cape Girardeau, said there are many fun activities that get children engaged and keep them from asking, "When is dinner going to be ready?"

"Buy cardstock and supplies for your child to create your family Christmas or holiday cards. Young ones can use crayons, older ones could cut and paste and use stickers and add photos," Hotop said. She said wrapping paper is a fairly cheap option for crafts.

Other craft suggestions include making homemade presents and creating name cards for the Thanksgiving meal. Hotop said asking a child to interview guests and create a "thankful book" is a great way to illustrate the importance of the holiday.

Sometimes, younger guests cannot participate in events with older children, but Hotop said there are still fun things for them to do.

"Cut extra family photos into appropriate sizes for your children and let them put them back together like puzzles. Make four- to five-piece puzzles for toddlers and six- to 10-piece puzzles for preschoolers," Hotop said.

Connor Moore, 2, reaches for a crayon while making a holiday card Thursday, November 19, 2009, at the University Child Enrichment Center in Cape Girardeau. (Kit Doyle)

An old favorite, creating pictures with dried noodles and glue, also works well with the younger set.

Carol Poat, a Jackson mother of two, said when she travels home to Paducah, Ky., for the holidays, her family has a Thanksgiving scavenger hunt.

"My dad will take my girls and nieces on a 'safari' on his golf cart. This lets the kids get outside while they look for clues," Poat said.

Hotop agreed scavenger hunts are a great way to entertain guests and offered an indoor alternative.

"Have an alphabet scavenger hunt -- find something in the house that begins with A, begins with B, etc. Your child could even draw what they find and create an alphabet book," she said.

Poat said she and her mother always make sure there are lots of projects to keep the children busy during the holidays.

"Coloring sheets, word searches and puzzles were great when the kids were younger. Now that they are older, they enjoy making things -- steppingstones, bead jewelry and tie-dye shirts," Poat said.

Amy Hume, an early childhood educator with the Jackson school district, said keep things simple when planning.

"Kids love to do what you are doing," she said. "Pick up inexpensive child-sized aprons and get your kids to work. Give your toddler or preschooler a piece of dough to mold and shape while you are cooking. Older kids can be helpful to stir, crack eggs and grease and flour pans."

She said to give a damp towel or baby wipe to a child and let them "clean." Many adults would be surprised by how long a child will work wiping household surfaces.

While Hume said there was no easy way to make shy children separate from their parents, taking a few minutes to have fun together may help.

"Turn on music, count items picked up and see how much work is finished before a timer dings. Keep it light and fun," she said. After a little bit of time, you can often move to independent activities. Keeping sight of the bigger picture is what is most important, Hume said. The memories you make with games and keepsakes will last much longer than the food on the table.

"Your child, nor your kind relatives, will remember how clean your floor wasn't, but everyone will remember how much fun you had tackling Uncle Scott, making bracelets with Grandma Peggy or drawing pictures with cousin Jack," Hume said.

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