Have your craft instructors ever planned a 45-minute craft project for a group of campers… and half the group exclaims, "I'm done!" after 15 minutes?
In any craft program there are always a few speedy crafters who complete their project and look for something else to do. Unfortunately that something else usually means bugging another camper.
Here are a few quick and easy ideas to keep your entire group occupied until craft time is over. If children finish their designated project early, try these suggestions:
• Appoint a few children to be Marker Detectives. Ask them to test all the markers in your supply box and toss out the dried ones. Not only does this keep campers busy, it saves you from having to be a Marker Detective yourself.
• Keep a roll of newsprint handy. Many newspapers give away the end rolls of newsprint they use to print the daily newspaper. Ask children to draw a picture of their favorite camp activity. If a counselor or child has a birthday, ask campers to make a giant birthday card. Hang the newsprint masterpiece where it can be seen by all campers.
• Most camp crafts are cute, with smiling butterflies and colorful flower pots. Be different. Set out an assortment of craft odds and ends. Check your supply closet for scraps of fabric, yarn, old boxes, paint stirrers, chenille stems, and so on. Ask kids to "make something ugly for a change." There's actually a book written by Dan Reeder with that same title. Campers enjoy making strange monster puppets or weird sculptures. Some camps incorporate the Make Something Ugly theme into their regular craft program. Campers go home proudly displaying grotesque paper mache monsters with bulging eyes and numerous appendages. Come on, this is camp! Dare to let kids make something they'd never make in Sunday school.
• Give campers a crayon and paper. Ask them to go around the room and make rubbings from various items. Afterwards, see if the rest of the group can identify the rubbings from the crayon marks on the paper.
• Keep a jar of lemon juice handy. Let children draw pictures using a cotton swab dipped in lemon juice. Let dry briefly. Hold paper up to a light bulb and watch the picture appear.
• Make thinking caps. Cut construction paper into strips 3" wide that fit around campers' heads. Use a variety of leftover glitter and sequins to decorate the thinking cap. Staple or tape ends so campers can wear these colorful headbands.
• Everyone has painted rocks. Go a step further by having children create rock sculptures. Simply give children scrap pieces of wood and an assortment of small smooth stones. Glue the stones on the wood in the shape of a person, bug or space creature. Add detail to the sculpture with paint to create an extra heavy craft project.
• Campers can make edible sculptures. After washing their hands, pass out toothpicks and miniature marshmallow. Simply poke the toothpicks into the marshmallows and connect them in various places. You'll be surprised at the creative shapes formed with these two items. Give children the option of eating their sculpture or taking it home.
• Have a batch of homemade Play Dough available. (Or is it "campmade"?) Bring it out when you have restless crafters. Add great color and smell to the dough by mixing in unsweetened Kool Aid to the mixture. Mix 1 cup sifted flour, 1/2 cup salt, 3 tablespoons oil and one small package of Kool Aid. Have an adult add one cup boiling water. Stir and knead until mixture is smooth. Store in the refrigerator in a covered container.
• Next time you are at the hardware store, pick up a batch of plastic light switch covers (they only cost around 10 cents each). When your speedy crafters are looking for something to do, let them decorate the covers with permanent markers and stickers. This is a long-lasting craft project that will be in the camper's bedrooms room all year long. If you want to get fancy, use glow-in-the-dark paint to decorate the light switch cover. When children put the switch cover in their room, the glowing paint acts as a night-light.
• Speaking of glow-in-the-dark paint, have campers use it to help you prepare for an upcoming activity. Give them hundreds of small smooth stones to use for an evening rock hunt. Ask campers to decorate rocks with glow-in-the-dark paint. After the paint dries, hide the rocks throughout camp and have children look for them in the evening with flashlights.
• Make colorful storage boxes. Ask the families of campers to save cancelled stamps from old letters and bills. Trim around the edge of stamps and glue onto a small box. It's fine to overlap the stamps in a random design. Cover the entire box with a coat of glue to give some shine to the box. You can do the same thing by gluing candy wrappers on a box and giving it as a gift to someone who loves to snack.
• Collect an assortment of plastic soda bottles. Set out old magazines, scissors and glue. Encourage campers to create mosaic faces on the bottles, using cut-out eyes, nose and mouth from the magazines. Add strips of paper for hair to create a charming three dimensional self-portrait. Wait! Here's the fun part. Add some un-popped popcorn or dried beans inside the bottle. Replace the lid and you now have a noisy three dimensional self portrait!
So the next time craft instructors hear, "I'm done!" they can quickly say "Great! Here's another project you might want to try!"
Silvana Clark has over 20 years experience helping thousands of children create arts and crafts projects. (She thinks the dried paint under her fingernails might start a new beauty trend.) A frequent speaker at camp and recreation conferences, Silvana is also a spokesperson for S&S Worldwide (www.ssww.com).