A grab bag of crafts

To go along with the release of my book in May, I'm trying to come up with something cool kids can do at book events.

So I started testing out an idea on Emme and her friend.

It definitely didn't yield the results I expected, but it was no less fun for the kids. I was surprised at where they took the project, actually.

Still, I think the idea needs refining, and I'd love some input.

Here's the deal.

Dad's Book of Awesome Projects comes out in May, and I want to create a fun craft that kids can do at book events.

Normally at book events, there's some wine, some food, a microphone, a boozy introduction and a reading you keep wondering whether will ever end. (I've given said readings. Fun times!)

With a family crafting book at the heart of the event and many families with young kids expected, I'm expecting fewer readings and a lot more wine.

I'm also expecting some serious craft time.

Ideally, I want to hand out craft bags to any visiting kids, but what, exactly, to put in the bags?

I can't stand those ready-made "crafts" you can find at Target or Joanne Fabrics -- those little foamish things you open and assemble into a finished craft in 5 seconds before moving on. With those, there's only one thing you can do, one direction you're supposed to go. That's not crafty or imaginative.

For these craft bags, I want them to be very open-ended. The sky's the limit. You don't have to create one thing and there are no correct answers.

And yet ... it would be cool if they could create something.

When Emme hosted a playdate the other day, I wrapped up some crafting items in a bag and made the bag look like a present.

They were so excited to open them.

Here's what was inside:

Butcher's twine, tape, popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, screws, nails, dowels, glue, you name it.

When all these materials came tumbling out, they asked: "What do you we do with all this?"

I shrugged and said I had no idea.

Then I left the room.

I expected them to just create something separately, using each bag to make something different. Instead, they pooled their resources, crafted the weirdest looking turtle I have ever seen and then, a half hour later, came back with a crafty "habitat" for the turtle as well. They spent more than an hour playing with their turtle and populating its home with weird-looking friends.

Seriously, I expected them to make a building or a plane or something, I don't know, different. But they had fun conjuring up their own world. Pretty cool.

But that said ... I wondered if I put too many materials in the bag, or not enough. If it was too open ended.

If you were creating craft bags, what would you put in them? Keep in mind, you'll have to create hundreds of them, so the materials can't be too expensive, and yet, at the same time, they can't suck.

What would be inside your craft bag?

I'll be posting this over at my new Facebook site as well.


  1. Glitter and confetti. because what parent doesn't love it when the kid comes home with a goodie bag full of glitter and confetti? Oh,wait, you actually want them to buy your book and like you?

    Carry on. For what its worth, Charlotte would die happy if someone gave her a bag with the above stuff in it. It covers all of her major craft groups: scissors, structural elements, things that stick, and crayons. maybe you should put in some modeling clay or playdough or something to stick those pipecleaners/popsicle sticks into.

  2. Well, more pipe cleaners!
    plastic beads
    some kind of styrofoam shape (not necessarily regularly shaped)- although that gets pretty expensive
    large multi color sequins (scratch that, you'd need pins also and they are just too small and foot puncturing)
    no, I guess you got it! except for needing the beads and more pipecleaners.
    Oh, and for the crafty little boys - a source of fire (just kdding).

  3. Ha! Erica, glitter it is! Seriously, I would kill me for including that ....

    Play doh is a great idea -- thanks!

    Christie, love the idea of pyro-bags! Fun party for all indeed.

  4. My mom is VERY fond of those foamy craft-by-numbers things from Michael's, and they drive me batty for a number of reasons. (Number one: they don't stay together and I pick up little foamy bits for weeks. Number two: she insists on getting them for every holiday, so we can use them as decorations, and I find them horribly boring.)

    That said, I do think a theme is a nice idea. Themes offer a challenge to be original within constraints, and that's a great way to get them thinking. "Springtime" or "space travel" or "rainy day" or "under the sea" or whatever.

  5. I like the idea of everyone starting with a basic shape, like a foam sphere or a cardboard shape (crown, tree, lidded box?) and using their supplies to embellish and add to it. Everyone ends up with the same kind of item, but each one is unique. Either that, or you could stick with the general stuff, but have a few different examples on the table of the potential crafts...a mobile with dowels and string; paper dolls with paper and crayons; jewelry with string, pipe cleaners and beads, etc.

    Would it be really expensive to include sheets of that craft foam with/instead of construction paper?

  6. So many great ideas! This is such a good idea for any event really: birthday parties, family gatherings, etc.
    Would glitter glue be too messy? I agree with Erica that you need something sticky for those Popsicle sticks.

  7. Themes! Genius! I love it. I am loving all your ideas, everyone -- thanks!

    Melissa, the idea of examples on hand is so great. You could build them or you could just use them as ideas. Perfect.

    Probably no glitter glue or anything remotely sticky and messy, as I don't want to get stuff all over the rest of the books at the stores.

  8. I don't have any craft suggestions, as I am hopeless with them. I wanted to cheer on the idea of themes and of examples (assuming they are really different and demonstrate that one can go in amazingly different directions). As a kid I avoided blocks & crafts exactly because I could never form a mental picture of what to make. (And as a parent, I struggle to model creative use of materials for my child.)

    Oh, and I also wanted to say that ai was intrigued by your upcoming book, but most likely it would have languished in my Amazon wish list. However! This gift bag idea makes me determined to go to one of your readings, where we will definitely pick up a copy of the book. :-)

  9. So good to know -- thanks for the insights. Dana is a big backer of the example or model idea, so I think we'll be doing that.

    And thanks for the insight into why some people buy and others don't! I do like the idea of a fun crafty party -- hope you can make it to one!

  10. Googley Eyes! Everything looks better with eyes!

  11. Keyrings.

  12. As someone said above, having themes like spring or space could make it less open-ended/overwhelming. It doesn't need to be too complicated to do this tho. You could just offer a small variety of bags w/ a small pic or whatever to suggest different themes & let the stuff inside be all the same. Kids will gravitate to whichever theme they like & craftiness will ensue.

  13. Theme night it is! I think you're dead on with keeping it less complicated.