BIG DREAMS, SMALL FISH Written and illustrated by Paula Cohen (Levine Querido; $17.99, Ages…
175 Projects for kids of all ages to create, build, design, explore and share.
We love to see our kids doing crafts. In theory, a craft project keeps the young ones busy and quiet for an extended time, and may produce something worth giving to grandma for her birthday. But coming up with fun, un-lame projects that utilize inexpensive, easily procured items can be challenging. Martha Stewart to the rescue!
In Martha Stewart’s Favorite Crafts for Kids, the domestic guru has produced an impeccable collection of crafts with kids in mind. While not every one is a winner, the book has enough good ideas to be worthwhile, and the fresh, modern volume is a delight to look at.
Be warned: almost all of the crafts listed in the book require adult help and supervision, for most kids under 10 or so. Some precocious, crafty or older kids might be able to figure things out on their own, but most of these projects will involve planning and hands-on monitoring. The instructions are straightforward and minimal, which is fine when showing how to make Paper Bag Puppets, but the Tin Can Toys look like they would require an engineer with a good tool chest to complete. Buy this book knowing that your presence will be required.
The book is divided into categories of craft types, which also cover a variety of age ranges and interests. There is a section for making animals and characters out of various materials; designs and embellishments; and science-type experiments. The book also delves into all kinds of little boxes and organizers, as well as gifts to make. It’s nice that there are a number of activities that would appeal to boys, particularly building projects (Peg Board Marble Run and the Toy Service Station) and physical games like Elephant Stilts. There are plenty of cute girl-oriented items, like barrettes, purses, dolls and jewelry. My favorite projects included a Scented Scrub for the bath, and the Snow Globes. I do wish though that there was an index of craft projects at the front of the book, and that some of the how-to explanations (like for sewing projects) were a bit more thorough.
I would be happy to own this book just for its fun, creative aesthetic, and some of the ideas would be good jumping-off points for my own interpretations of the projects. Many of the activities look too challenging for most young children, however. You know how you sit a kid down with a project but you end up doing most of it yourself? Also, many of the crafts involve the adult making something that the kid then plays with, like the Beach Board Games or the Map Puzzle. Some of the activities require found objects from nature – bark, twigs, leaves, rocks – that may not be available in some urban areas or dry climates. There is also a precious, “Martha-Stewart-Perfect” quality to the book that may intimidate the parent who lacks craft confidence. My (oops, I mean my kids’) Pom-Pom Animals will never look like that! Out of 175 crafts, however, you’re sure to find enough project ideas to inspire creativity in you and your kids for many happy hours.
Today’s reviewer, Mary Brown, is a scriptreader for Hollywood film studios, putting her bookworm childhood to professional use. Her favorite place is her sewing studio, where she designs and creates quilts, functional items and garments. You can see photos and thoughts on her work at www.arroyoquilts.com. She has managed to get two of her kids through college; her youngest is still in high school and has autism. His challenges keep her sitting up and paying attention to life.