By providing hands-on experiences, DIY projects allow children to take risks and learn from their mistakes, boosting their confidence and giving them valuable practice with problem-solving skills, fine motor skills, and creative exploration. Whether it’s something as complex as putting together a birdhouse kit or as simple as a macaroni necklace, kids benefit from the chance to create!
Here are some tips to help give your kiddo a can-do attitude when it come to DIY projects at home:
Finding the Right DIY Project
Finding the right DIY project for kids can be a bit of a Goldilocks situation. You want it just difficult enough that your child is interested in the challenge but not so difficult that it causes them to give up… and triggers a meltdown in the process.
Choose projects that are age-appropriate, considering your child’s fine motor development, problem-solving skills, and emotional regulation. When in doubt, Start with simple projects. Starting with easier projects can help build your child's confidence and encourage them to keep going. Plus, it gives you an accurate idea of their current skill level, so you know exactly how much of a challenge they can handle next time.
That being said, don’t be afraid to pursue projects that might traditionally be considered too advanced for young kids. Kids get pretty stoked at the chance to use real tools like screwdrivers and hammers or to make a recipe on their own. Just be sure you’re supervising for safety whenever necessary!
Setting Up Your DIY Project Space
A child-friendly project space sets your kids up for success! But don’t overthink it. Just keep these basics in mind, and you should be good to go:
Make it ergonomic
Kids will have an easier time focusing on the project if they aren't struggling to stay in their chair or reach their tools. You can use a kid-sized craft table or desk, or just add a booster seat to the dining room table. Whatever you do, just make sure they are comfortable and can reach everything on the work surface.
Provide all the (child-sized) tools
Before you get started, make sure your kiddo has everything they need within reach. Ideally, those tools will be appropriate for tiny hands. Miniature kitchen tongs, child safety scissors, and child-sized gardening tools will be far easier for your child to handle than their full-size counterparts.
Keep it clutter-free
Tiny bodies come with tiny attention spans, and clutter does not help. Try to clear everything out of the workspace except for necessary project materials.
Executing the DIY Project
With the project chosen and the space setup, it’s time to get started on project perfection… or is it? Remember that for your kids, the process is way more important than the end product! As long as they’re having fun, getting creative, and staying safe, the project is a win.
Opt for open-ended
With that being said, we know kids sometimes have a perfectionist streak that can make enjoying the process hard if the project isn’t turning out as they’d hoped or if they need more help than they want. In these cases, it might be helpful to offer more open-ended DIY crafts for kids. For example, consider a project like making a “stained glass” suncatcher (using bits of colorful tissue paper and contact paper inside of a cutout construction paper frame) lets your child choose which colors to add and how to arrange them but doesn’t need to look a certain way to be a success.
You can keep things even more fluid by simply offering a range of craft supplies and seeing what your child does with them. Craft pom poms glued to popsicle sticks? Brilliant. Cutting up strips of construction paper to glue onto a paper plate? Sure, why not? Remember, process over product.
What happens when your child takes the project in a direction that’s not exactly by-the-book? As long as they’re staying safe and not destroying property, let them take the lead! So maybe instead of your cute idea to make animals out of toilet paper tubes, your child simply wants to make a magic telescope by gluing odds and ends to the tube? That is still a win!
Prepare your child for the challenges
When you do choose a more difficult project that will require some adult help, try to talk to your child beforehand about the challenges they may face and the areas they may need help in. They love the privilege of participating in “grown up” projects like painting the playhouse or planting a real garden. But since there’s less room for error here, just let them know that these are projects where you’ll have to work together as a team and follow instructions closely. Hopefully, this talk will help set their expectations and manage emotions when parts of the project are tricky.
Your words of encouragement and interest in your child’s creations mean the world to them. So no matter how those projects turn out, be sure to celebrate your child’s efforts. Try pointing out specific choices they made rather than offering general “good jobs!” And don’t forget to ask them to tell you about the project too – you’d be surprised at what they see in their own “abstract” creations!