Children love to create, and craft time gives them the perfect opportunity to develop fine motor skills and use their imaginations. Crafting with preschoolers can be fun, and not too messy, if you plan ahead. These seven simple tips will help you to have successful craft adventures with your little ones.

1. Create a crafting zone

If you don't have a dedicated space in your home for crafts, clear off a table or counter and make sure anything breakable or important is out of the way. I keep an old vinyl tablecloth on hand for covering up our dining room table if we are painting. You may need to protect your floor as well. I also keep old t-shirts for smocks, or ask children to change into old clothes. Crafting should be done in a well-lit area.

2. Gather a craft supplies

You don't need to spend a lot of money to get supplies for crafts, although there are kits and books available at craft stores that make crafting a cinch. Household items like cotton balls, paper, cardboard tubes, cardboard boxes, paper plates, buttons, glue and crayons are good supplies for crafts. As we complete crafts, we save the leftovers in a special bin for future crafts. Outdoor objects can also contribute to your supply. Add in pinecones, branches, acorns, leaves and rocks on a seasonal basis.

3. Choose craft projects wisely

Consider your own child's ability when choosing a project. Preschoolers may lose interest or feel frustrated if the craft is too difficult. If you are not directly supervising, don't choose crafts that need hot glue or super glue. Preschoolers can begin to cut with scissors, but many are not proficient. I like foam sticker sets for easy, no-clean up crafts. There are also many fun crafts involving household items like the ones listed above. For project ideas, search sites like or Pinterest.

4. Offer help sparingly

Don't be tempted to take over if the craft isn't turning out just how you expected it. Let your children create their own masterpieces. Feel free to abandon the instructions altogether if your child is more interested in spontaneous creation. Your recycling pile could be a little crafter's treasure stash.

5. Expect a mess

Crafting is a messy business. Don't sweat the mess as it's happening. I do try to keep like items together, and keep the mess contained to the craft zone, but worrying about the mess spoils the fun. Instead, enlist the help of your children when craft time is over. They will learn to make smaller messes if they know they are responsible for cleaning up.

6. Join in

Sometimes I set up a craft to keep the kids busy as I do something else nearby. Other times, I sit down with them and join in the fun. The children love it when we all work together. It's fun to make decorations for upcoming holidays or seasons. Don't worry about outdoing the kids, but make sure not to take over.

7. Encourage effort

Children love receiving praise for a job well done; however, it is also helpful for them to be praised for the effort they put forth. Crafting provides a good opportunity for both to occur. As children present their finished projects for approval, ask them what they like best, which part was hardest to do, and which step was easiest. Then find a prominent place to display their creations.

Put these seven tips to the test and get ready to have some creative fun with your preschooler. After you give them a try, don't be surprised if you find yourself eagerly planning your next crafting project, as well as displaying and saving some of your favorite kid creations.

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