Crafts Most Camps Have Never Done

As summer approaches, camps across the country start to gather supplies for the inevitable craft classes, such as Popsicle stick picture frames, painted rocks and apple prints. Now there's nothing wrong with traditional crafts, but how about trying something a bit out of the ordinary? Ever decorated Styrofoam mannequin heads or gotten campers involved in making artistic trading cards? How about some super-gross papier-mache creatures? The following are some ideas designed to add an element of fun and creativity to your camp craft programs.


Artistic Trading Cards
This craft trend is spreading around the world with multiple Web sites and many Yahoo groups. The concept couldn't be easier--decorate ordinary playing cards with a variety of items and trade them. That's right. Artistic trading cards are designed to be created and shared with others. The decorated cards become individual pieces of miniature art.

Best of all, this craft trend is ideal for camps because the supplies are available in every camp craft closet. Need directions? Here goes: Give campers playing cards and tell them to decorate the cards. End of directions! That's it!

Set out a variety of crafting supplies that can include:

  • Watercolors

  • Ribbon scraps

  • Buttons

  • Beads

  • Artificial flowers

  • Lace

  • Leftover scrapbooking supplies

  • Rubber stamps

  • Glue

  • Scissors

Trying to get boys interested in crafts? Set out old baseball trading cards and ask the boys to decorate those. Before campers start trading cards, display them on a bulletin board. You'll be amazed by the variety of miniature art masterpieces created on simple playing cards. Be sure to have "camper artists" sign and date the back of their cards.

Marvelous Mannequin Heads
It can be difficult to find crafts tweens and teens enjoy making. Solve that problem by rolling out the mannequin heads. The hardest part of this project is finding the Styrofoam mannequin heads. They can be purchased at beauty supply stores or online. Ask your local beauty college if they have extra heads laying around. (That's a request you don't hear too often.) Once again, the directions are pretty simple:

Step #1: Set out Styrofoam mannequin head.

Step #2: Let campers decorate heads with paint, permanent markers, yarn, beads, sequins, buttons, old jewelry and anything else you can find to embellish this unique craft.

Step #3: Admire and display the Marvelous Mannequin Heads! Some girls use the heads as a creative way to store their earrings. They simply poke the posts into the Styrofoam to keep their earrings in a semi-organized place.

Splatter Drip T-Shirts
Sure, you could tie-dye shirts, but why not try a twist on that idea? Have campers bring white T-shirts to make their own multi-colored T-shirts.

  • Have campers wet shirts and wring out excess water.

  • Hang shirt on a coat hanger.

  • Put coat hanger on a tree branch or clothes line so shirt hangs freely.

  • Fill 2-3 spray bottles with water.

  • Add 4-5 teaspoons of fabric paint to the water and shake well.

  • Now simply spray the wet shirts with the colored water.

  • The colors run and bleed together, creating a very abstract design.

  • Let the shirt dry.

Easy Tie-Dye Tennis Shoes (or other items)
If you like the tie-dye effect, here's a way to get that "hippie" look on tennis shoes, bandanas or T-shirts:

  • Check your craft closet for "inexpensive" tissue paper or crepe paper. (If you buy quality tissue paper, this won't work. You want to use cheap paper that losses it's color when wet.)

  • Lay out the item you want to tie-dye.

  • Tear off a piece of tissue paper or crepe paper about the size of a piece of bread.

  • Wad up the paper and dab it in a bowl of water.

  • Now dab the wet, wadded up paper on your shoe or bandana. The color will "bleed" off the paper and onto your shoes. (It also gets on your fingers!)

  • Simply use different colors of dampened tissue paper to create a tie-dye effect on whatever item you have. The color from cheap tissue paper and crepe paper will permanently stain those items.

Looking for more unusual craft ideas? Check out Make Something Ugly For A Change! by Dan Reeder. This book gives directions for some very atypical craft projects made from papier-mache. Suitable for older campers!

Another resource, Wearable Art With Sondra: Over 75 Fun and Easy Craft Projects to Make and Wear, is available to Camp Business readers for $7.00 shipping included. Normally, it retails for $12.95. You'll get plenty of ideas for additional craft projects to keep campers creatively occupied. To place an order, e-mail Clark at silvanac@msn.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Silvana Clark has over 20 years experience helping thousands of children create arts and crafts projects. She presents keynotes and workshops on a variety of recreation-related subjects. She can be reached at (615) 662-7432 or via e-mail at