New research from Michigan State University (Go Green!) suggests that children who actively participate in the arts—from painting and drawing to music and photography—are more likely to grow up to be successful engineers as well as entrepreneurs in the fields. The study says that there’s a close correlation with kids who engage in all form of arts and crafts and adults who start their own companies or go on to produce patent-able inventions.
The take away message? Arts and crafts stimulate creativity. Creativity fuels innovation.
With the cold winter weather on its way, now’s a great time to start thinking about some ideas for creative indoor activities. But when you’re a mom stuck at home with toddler and school-age twins, it can be hard to get motivated. Here are a few low-cost but fun ideas to get you started.
Baker’s Delight—Make Your Own Dough
This is a cheap and easy project, one that my kids loved to do! Mix up your own dough with flour and water and plop it onto your kitchen counter. Pull out rolling pins (we had a few mini rolling pins but it’s not necessary for a good time), cookie cutters (small round shot glass will do in a pinch), pizza cutters, butter knives, and even some baking sheets. (Being the good, little Italian-American, I would set up my pasta machine too so the kids could crank out long sheets of dough until their hearts’ content.) We never turned on the oven to bake the boys’ creations, however, it was all done with their imaginations.
Toilet Paper Roll Art
Start saving the cardboard from your toilet paper and paper towel rolls as they make a great base for arts and crafts projects. Think about it—those little tubes can be made into binoculars, telescopes, swords, buildings, castles, even animals. (Want more inspiration? Just Google “art projects with toilet paper rolls” for some ingenious ideas.) Once you have a decent collection, spread them out on the table along with some everyday accouterments from around the house—crayons, paint, glitter, slickers, ribbon, yarn, buttons, cotton balls, and so on. Then set the kids loose. You’ll be amazed at what they come up with. (Forget white glue—too messy and frustrating for kids—and instead opt for a glue gun. Adult supervision required to use, however.)
Make a Stop-Action Movie
When my twins were in fourth grade, they spent more than a week fully engrossed in creating a Star Wars stop-action movie. First, they brainstormed an idea and storyboarded the main plot points (individual scenes/shots, however, were created on the fly as they went along). Next, they got to work building a small set out of LEGO bricks using the plates as floor and walls (no ceiling needed). Then they borrowed my simple point-and-shoot digital camera which they set up on a tripod. They lit their “set” with their desk lights, then they got to work setting up their first shot. After a single click of the camera (and then a quick preview to see if it looked right), they moved the LEGO pieces just a smidgen and took their next shot. This went on for hundreds of shots (yes, it kept them very busy but fully entertained). When the last shot was complete, they uploaded their digital photos to iMovie and spent the next week editing their creation.
I can’t find their original Star Wars movie but here’s another movie about a ping-pong game that goes horribly wrong created by my youngest son when he was in third grade!
Create an Old-Time Radio Soap Opera
This was my absolute favorite rainy-day project when I was a kid. We’d grab a simple tape recorder (an iPod Touch or iPhone has a recording device that will do) and some props, anything that made a distinct sound such as a telephone, high-heel shoes, a solid-core door, dry leaves, door bell, and so on. Next, we’d come up with a simple plot and assign characters.
My friends and I called our radio drama, To Live Or Die. To start, we’d simply hit the little red button and record our opening: “Welcome to To Live or Die. Tonight’s thrilling episode is [insert fun but mysterious title here].” Then we’d stop and regroup, discussing what the first scene should be. We’d hit record again, and improvise a short scene using as many sound effects as we could. After 10 or so scenes, we’d try to come to a satisfying conclusion. Then we’d play it back, laughing at all our line flubs and bust-ups.
OK, so it may be a stretch for today’s twins to imagine what life was like without computers or even TVs but look at this as a history lesson and an art project. Just explain to the kids that in the “old days” people got their entertainment from the radio.