Sustainable Children's Craft Activities
Written by Clare Caro
"Crafternoons" came about as a way of offering crafts for children that don't end up in the bin! We wanted to give children something meaningful to make and for their creations to be use-full with a real-life purpose.
On top of that, we noticed that many children's craft activities were using materials harmful to the environment, such as glitter, foam board, synthetic fabrics and many forms of plastic. The list could go on.
This combination of bin-destined 'makes' and toxic-materials raises concern, at a time when we need to be teaching eco-literacy and raising eco-consciousness.
These sustainable children's craft sessions are designed to meet this need, working with three key components: Nature-Friendly Materials, Meaningful Purpose and Open-Age-Appropriate. Creating craft sessions that stick to eco-literacy principles, raise eco-conscious and are sustainable.
Watch out for plastics and anything with synthetic fibres; these often breakdown over time and are the source of micro-plastics that pollute our water and soil systems.
If we are 'recycling' materials by using them in children's craft activities, ask, "What is the next part in the cycle?". Many crafts that 'recycle' plastics and synthetic fibres end up in the bin. The bin is the ‘end of a cycle’ not ‘part of a cycle'.
If we use food products in our craft, are they used wisely? We see too many children's-crafts using good food that ends up in the bin.
When choosing materials and tools, we also consider where our resources are coming from (buy local if possible), what kind of packaging products come in, and whether we are using long-lasting and repairable tools. These considerations take us closer toward 'circular economy thinking', where we look at our actions holistically and work sustainability.
Then there is the craft for children, where the purpose is often to fill their time and provide something to take home as a product-for-proof.
Giving children's craft activity a real-life purpose holds a deep underpinning message. When crafts are worthy of use and valuable enough to keep, it shows value and worthiness in the maker's time, effort, creativity, and hard work. To put it another way, what message of their value and worthiness are we sending, when we give children use-less makes that will later end up in the bin?
To find meaning and purpose in the craft sessions we hold, we look to seasonal celebrations, items for everyday use, and things we can use personally, as a family, or give to loved ones. Children have made festive wreaths for front doors in December, lanterns for Martinmas processions, and multi-use items such as rhubarb string, oak gall ink, and calendula balm. All the 'makes' have a purpose, and all use materials that aid a nature connection and are not harmful to the environment.
By open-age-appropriate, we mean providing activities that work for both younger and older children and all levels of ability. This open and mixed age-group approach celebrates everyone's unique style, pace, expression and fosters an inclusive atmosphere.
Providing for all levels of ability means, offering activities that engage early and more experienced hand development, and giving children the opportunity to develop their hand working skills.
The three-dimensional handwork done in childhood happens to be vital for child development, specifically with the development of cognitive problem-solving skills. To the extent that when NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory looks for a research and development problem solver, they specifically seek applicants who worked with their hands in childhood. Because we see the value in handwork, we are careful when offering crafters a 'helping hand' so as not to rob children of this important developmental handwork.
Why not give it a try? Sustainable craft sessions are fun and exciting, empowering the children and also work for groups of adults too. By designing activities that tick all three boxes (Nature-Friendly Materials, Meaningful Purpose and Open-Age-Appropriate), we promote values that nurture individuals, communities, and the environment.
Crafternoon sustainable children's craft sessions were initially designed for the Rutland Home Education Group in 2019. We currently run Crafternoons through Root-and-Branch Out CIC, with sessions for both home educated and school children.