The Art of Arts & Crafts

Advice on creating and maintaining a dynamic arts and crafts program.

Related Article: Project Sampling

Crafting an arts and crafts program for your camp may not be brain surgery, but the subtle precision and patience of a surgeon is often needed for a healthy program to take root.

A well-organized plan of action, a cache of ideas and finding the resources that spark the ideas are the key components of a successful and dynamic arts and crafts program.

Start at the Beginning

Before the camp session begins, take inventory. In the usual sense of the word inventory means keeping track of the material items you need to stock for any number of programs.

Though keeping an eye on what materials you do or do not have on hand is important, it’s equally important to inventory the needs of the campers. Constantly evaluate what activities the campers like, and those they don’t like.

Have them fill out evaluations after they’ve completed a craft activity. Ask craft-interest questions on registration forms to gauge interest. Look for trends and common threads to help make choices about which activities to add and drop.

“Before camp, flip through magazines geared toward that age group, because it will give you a better idea of what their trends and colors are,” says Maria Nerius, Palm Bay, Fla., craft expert for CreateForLess, Beaverton, Ore.

Once you’ve decided which activities will be part of your arts and crafts program, organize the activities in such a way that will benefit both the counselors teaching the craft and the campers learning it.

“When I have helped people get ready for camp we would figure out the age group of the children, and break them down into levels,” says Jamie Rothschild, vice president of Sunshine Discount Crafts in Largo, Fla.

An important concept to keep in mind is that independence levels fluctuate from younger to older age groups. Younger children should be given fewer choices and fewer steps to do in the process, and vice versa.

“Normally with younger crafters you want to have some direct one-on-one with them, some of the steps will already be done.

You allow the older crafters to have more decisions or color choices,” says Nerius. “The worst possible thing you can do, especially with younger crafters, is to do something where there might be failure — that’s frustrating for them and they tend to walk away from it. For example, if you have crafters under the age of 10, most of the items should be cut out for them, because they tend to get frustrated with that.”

Keep class sizes down to facilitate better one-on-one interaction, and to allow easier viewing of the demonstration before the kids do it themselves.

“Crafts are usually best done in groups of 10-15 kids,” says Karen Holbrook, director of product development for Janlynn Corp., Indian Orchard, Mass. “With anything over 20 it’s hard to make sure everyone gets to see what’s going on and that everyone gets attention, unless there are more teachers.”

Rothschild adds that a good guideline for gauging the amount of time you’ll need for a craft is for every five minutes it takes you to do it, it will take about 30 minutes for a group of children to learn and complete the project.

Another way to get things moving and moving more smoothly is to involve the kids in setup and cleanup. This helps serve the organizational purpose, plus increases the campers’ involvement.

“In group crafting, make kits, so that everything you need is in a zip-lock bag,” says Nerius. “Another way to do that is to say, ‘Here’s a zip-lock bag and a paper plate; put everything from the zip-lock bag onto the paper plate.’ That way you don’t have people losing pieces.”

Nerius also says it’s a good idea to keep a running inventory of what you’re using as you go along. Have a master list of the items and check them off as they’re used.

Something New, Something Old…

There are literally thousands of crafts to choose from to arm your program with, and narrowing the field can be difficult. However, there are those that are in vogue with kids, for one reason or another, and others that are simply timeless, transcending generations and tastes.

Take scrap booking, for instance. The art of capturing memories in unique and creative ways is nothing new, but people are coming up with new twists on an old genre.

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