Over the years we've had the privilege to teach thousands of kids at our crafting studio in Cape Town.
And we've learned a couple of handy tricks on how to REALLY keep kids ages 2 to 12 engaged from the start until the very end of a 45 minute to 1 hour long arts and crafts class.
We’ve had countless flabbergasted parents come to us and say things like:
‘My son has never been able to engage in an activity for longer than 10 minutes and you had him totally zoned in for 45 minutes?!
How did you do that?!
What’s your secret?!’
We know how tough it is out there at the moment. Our hearts go our to parents worldwide who need to think outside the box to try and keep their kids stimulated and engaged at home.
That's why we’ve decided to divulge our secrets on how to keep kids engaged in a new blog post with you today.
We truly hope that you can benefit from our secret 5-step recipe to engage your kids at home during these trying times.
And here's the thing:
If you are a kids crafting club owner (or an aspiring crafting teacher), you can also use these 5 steps to make sure your classes are suuuper engaging (even if you're hosting them online at the moment).
Are you ready?
Okay, let's jump right in.
Nothing – and I mean nothing – will kill creativity quicker than doing a craft that is booooring.
It is so important to pick a craft lesson that is topical, age appropriate, cool and relevant for the kids.
Ask the kids what they like and what their interests are and create crafts around those topics.
Kids should know that if they come to your club or if you are going to craft together at home, they get to create super cool crafts.
Think about it like this: would a 5 year old enjoy more to knit a scarf (laaaame) or create a cool dinosaur that roarrrrs! :)
You are probably thinking “duuuh” that's not a secret, that is obvious.
Don't miss the important word here, individually, welcome everyone individually, make them feel important, call out their names, ask questions and ENGAGE with them!
Pause! And welcome them properly and ask them questions: "Hey John how was football today?... Hi Cindy, how was your birthday party last week?"…
With our two younger age groups, ages 2 to 3 and 4 to 6 we always follow our welcome discussion with our welcome song to the tune of Frère Jacques:
"Where is Henry? (<< insert kids name) Where is Henry?
There he is, there he is,
Ready for crafting club? Ready for crafting club?
YES I AM! YES I AM!"
Did you catch yourself sing along? :)
Get the kids to sing along and give you a high five when they say - YES I AM! YES I AM! Our students usually get so excited at this point they yell this part out!
Our kids know the song so well by now and they just LOVVVVE it when it's time to call out their name. It makes them feel SO important.
Now you may be thinking: "Surely I can’t start each class using the same song week after week? That's so boring."
Have you ever heard kids say “Let’s Do It Again . . . and Again, and Again!”?
Repetition is very important in early childhood development. It helps kids to increase confidence and strengthens the tini wini little connections in the brain that help children learn. Most importantly it makes them feel safe.
Think back to when you learned to ride a bike. You had to practice, practice and practice until you gained enough confidence, improved your speed and became skilled.
Apply this tip to all your crafting activities, it's a good thing to repeat games, songs and crafting skills.
Now that we have selected a cool craft, and we have welcomed everyone, the next secret is...
Don't just start handing out paintbrushes and expect them to jump in.
It's really important to take the time to introduce and discuss the theme, or the topic of the craft.
Since we already know that your craft theme is super cool and topical for the kids. Check! We know the kids are going to be excited to hear what they are making today.
Have a detailed discussion and dialogue around the theme.
Remember to get down onto their level. For instance if the craft for the day is a jellyfish and you are crafting with 3 year olds. Instead of calling out jellyfish facts, think how they understand jellyfish. Ask questions!! "Oooo, whose seen a jellyfish? What does a jellyfish look like? Who can tell me what a jellyfish feels like? You will see how they start engaging. Enter their world with them".
When a topic triggers curiosity in a child, and when you introduce the craft and create a dialogue and just do not a monologue, that is when inquiry-based learning, problem solving, creativity and….. ENGAGEMENT (Whoop whoop) happens!
We also know that crafting, creativity, and play all go hand in hand. To add more in depth fun to the theme;
Ages 2 to 6: Play a game that relates to the craft
Play is an integral part of learning, especially in early childhood development.
You may be familiar with the buzzword “play based learning”. When children play, they get to experiment and make choices they cannot otherwise make.
Sometimes, the more silly the game is, the more fun it is!
With this age group, it also helps to burn some energy so that they can later sit down, relax and craft. For busy toddlers, assess their engagement and attention throughout and alternate between crafting and games during the lesson.
Not sure what games to play? Grab one of our free lesson plans to get fun age-appropriate games to play as part of every craft.
Kids should have the freedom to have fun, make mistakes and try again.
Ages 7 to 12: Brainstorm ideas together
This age group won't necessarily get as excited if you start blowing bubbles, we rather focus on practising STEAM skills. The importance of STEAM education goes far beyond the current trend.
If you are new to this whatchamacallit STEAM scene…… lemme fill you in.
STEAM is the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths. This educational mindset integrates different disciplines that prepare our kids, the future leaders for a world for rapidly changing technology.
To get back to the point: Discuss the craft & brainstorm ideas together.
STEAM crafting mirrors the processes and thinking that scientists, engineers, architects, and innovators use in the REAL world.
The first step of any engineering process is to identify the problem, ask questions, evaluate and brainstorm solutions. Do this together at the beginning of every class.
Nurture curiosity in your kids and set them up for the future!
Let's do a quick recap.
Have a dialogue when introducing the theme.
>> Ages 2 to 6: Play a game that relates to the craft
>> Ages 7 to 12: Brainstorm ideas together
Celebrate the experience of discovery, the freedom of choice that kids have and let the craft be child-directed.
The final product should be unique and the magic lies in the creation of the work and skills developed.
Okay, so those are all very big words.
But what does this mean, practically?
Here's the trick: when a child struggles with a task, rather guide them by asking questions than take over.
When we step in to help a child when they cannot manage they never learn how to do it for themselves and their brain tells them that the craft is not theirs.
Ask questions, give gentle suggestions or possible options for the child to guide them.
What is more beautiful than the smile of a child with a craft in his hands, proud of all the effort, the choices, the failures, the challenges and finally his or her OWN work?
We love to end our crafting session with everyone saying together “I made this” creating a personal vocabulary that speaks of ownership, capability, confidence and joy.
Okay, let me get back to the first point.
Introduce the materials one after the other over time. Introduce a step and put a material out and see what the kids do with it.
Allow kids to discover materials, different textures, colors and smells, encourage exploration and respond to instructions.
As soon as they get bored with a task and start fidgeting you hand out the next material. Don't take the previous one away to allow for slow exploration.
By introducing materials slowly it also allows children to slow down and properly explore each material and step in the process.
During the process also allow for focus time.
It's always a good idea to introduce 10 minutes quiet time after instructions are given. This will make them stop chatting to their friends, give them time to think and plan before they start creating.
Let's do a quick recap:
Celebrate the Process
>> Do NOT craft for the child!
>> Introduce the materials one after the other over time
>> Allow for Focus Time
Last but not least:
This step is extremely important as this signals the end of the class.
Discuss what you learned.
After much excitement, start with basic stretching: reach for the sky, touch your toes, touch your nose and wiggle, wiggle, wiggle your bodies.
For the 2 to 5 year olds we also like to play the song “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”. Let everyone lay on their backs and wind down to the gentle music.
Take a moment to say thank you and what you appreciated in this class.
Do you know what happens then?! When you get to know your kids and their lovely quirky personalities and truly engage with them?
You get showered with LOVE rainbows! You get love rainbows in the forms of hugs, sweet whispers, little notes, adorable photos from moms showing how their kids are enjoying and playing with their crafts that they made all by themselves.
Now here is the most important thing:
No matter what your home crafting or business dreams are, I truly believe that these 5 principles will help you create something that really matters, something that lasts and most importantly something that stands apart, which will enable you to touch little and big lives in your community.
We would love to hear from you in the comments below.
Which one of these principles would you apply next time you craft with kids?
Need lessons to do with your kids at home?