[To go directly to the MJMnL hands-on Craftybits pages, click here]
The lead up! … :
So the MJMnL household may well be in Germany, but you would not believe it from our apartment. Germans are traditionally minimalist and meticulously tidy irrespective of number of children. Nothing is “out” which doesn’t have to be and they are masters at storage. Everything is squirreled away in cupboards disguised as walls, or in fold down/up drawers and IKEA filing boxes … all the same colour and up on shelves ‘away!’ in beautifully tidy rows. This is lovely, but you see … it just isn’t us. Doesn’t work, can’t work, don’t actually want it to work. I always was a hoarder – I like to have things around me to remind me of my life thus far … things that bring back memories of the fabulous people I have chanced to meet and of the amazing places I have been. Plus, many things I keep, because, ahem, ‘you just never know when you might need it, right?’. And you invariably do … the minute you realise you have sold it or given it away!
So I guess this set me up perfectly for the point when my son started to want to dabble with paint and glue and scissors and ‘making’ things as I’m finally finding a use for many of the ‘useless’ things I stashed in the cellar and then Yay! any old excuse to hoard more!!
I’m lucky, I have a reasonably sized dining kitchen which morphs very obligingly into a perfectly good workshop. The walls and surfaces are a monument to just that. No monochrome colour-scheme here and to be honest, this is the way we love it.
We paint, we cut, we stick, we build, we create …. and the best thing about it is … that no-one tells us off for making a mess. Oh, apart from when the 3yo puts his brown painty hands on the white wall, but hey, I chucked a bottle of red at it 2 days after moving in, so I’m staying stumm on that one.
The best and actually most fulfilling part about doing crafts at home is that it can be ridiculously cheap fun. Potential costs are in paper, glue, paint and sticky-tape, but there are cheap alternatives to each of those if you look around and in a later blog, I will show you some of the ones I use plus how to make fabulous glue in as large or small quantities as you actually need for just a couple of pence / cents …
The best and most interesting materials, however, are actually the things we discard every day: packets, containers, bottle caps and tops, foils, wrapping and packaging materials, boxesboxesboxes! and tubes … we throw an inordinate amount of all this product packaging away each week, so why not recycle! … as long as it’s clean, use it again for something which will entertain the kids for an hour or so and give them a wonderful sense of fulfillment when they see the product of their labours.
Very young children need a simple structure and careful supervision, but actually learn quickly about ‘creating’ by just playing with boxes and containers, moving them around, stacking and slotting, sorting, bending, then later, painting anything and everything and from 2 onwards wanting to cut it all up!
I have a storage cylinder into which I chuck any decent throw-aways:
and, in fact, even when we’re not doing crafty stuff, my 3yo loves to forage in there for ‘interesting things’ and will spend ages just slotting things into other things, or building ‘structures’. He wanted to play my clarinet the other day and when I said no as I was cooking and couldn’t supervise, he set to and made himself one out of a discarded cling-film tube and some bits of aluminium foil. I sometimes wonder why folk spend such a fortune on toys … it really is the simple things :-)
I also collect small, random bits of ‘stuff’ for crafting. Margarine tubs or tins are great for storing these – I snaffled a pallet of left-over gimmicks by a famous coffee company last week – ‘a free tin with each jar’ of coffee. I was stocking up anyway as it was on offer and the tins are just fabulous for storing all our bits (and they were free! Yay!!). I keep these on the bottom shelf of the store cupboard, accessible to the 3yo, so even when we’re not crafting, he often goes in and hauls out all the tins to simply empty them and ‘sort’ the contents into different containers … sometimes by type, sometimes by colour or size … random ‘stuff’ is always fascinating to little ones and mine can’t get enough of the bits of wire, metal, plastic, things that have fallen off other things etc ..
Paint and glue etc I do keep away in a drawer however, and he knows this is a no-go zone for him unless we have a prearranged date for getting messy!
Another fabulous and endless source of free materials is, of course, the outdoors. Walks with MJM are a combination of fresh air and exercise, plus using our senses as much as possible – opening eyes, ears, noses to what is around us and, where appropriate, touching, feeling and perhaps bringing home any presents which nature has chosen to drop on the ground. Our law is that we don’t pick flowers, we don’t break bits off things and we don’t disturb anything which currently has a purpose to fulfil. But there are invariably enough ‘interesting things’ on the ground to fill a small bag and depending on the season, nature’s presents can be excitingly varied.
So this little piece is just a little bit of background to a few posts which are in my head and which I will put down over the next few weeks. I was always rubbish at art and craft at school and hated what I produced, but with L coming along, it is like I have entered a second childhood and I have discovered a real love of making something fun out of rubbish! I am even quite proud of some of the results! :-)
I know many of you are already hardened crafters, but maybe, just maybe there will be something new for you here, or if you haven’t quite plucked up the courage yet to have a go, get collecting! and watch this space … the stuff we make is not complicated … in fact it’s dead easy really – but huge fun and puts a smile on everyone’s face!