Crafting is hailed as one of the most essential activities to do with a toddler. Their lives are incomplete without at least one nappy with a higher proportion of glitter than poop and a fringe created with safety scissors.
Oh wait, that’s not what’s supposed to happen. I’ve read a crapload of blogs about crafting with kids, so I know that the end result is always a beautiful work of art full of sequins and happiness. Always.
Maybe that happens in other households. Certainly not mine.
I know you just gasped with surprise. Surely it’s a scientific impossibility that anything could ever go other than according to plan in the Awesome abode?
Yeah, it’s a shocker.
Before I had children, I always thought that I would do a lot more crafting with them than I actually do. I’m quite a creative person, and love making things, drawing and writing (duh). But it has not exactly turned out that way. Some of it’s thanks to the juggling of needs between babies and big kids. It’s hard to set up a fun craft activity with a baby hell-bent on either destroying it, climbing the curtains or clinging to my legs.
That’s happened twice. Little Girl, after screaming, vomiting and screaming some more for her first year of life, developed a horrifyingly good talent for climbing. I’m talking Spiderman style. And she could sense when I was even a bit distracted, and took full advantage of it. I did try and include her in the things I organised for Big Girl, but with an attention span of a half-asleep tarantula, she never lasted long. It ended up being more stressful than it was worth at times.
Add Squeak into the mix and organising anything has been a right bloody faff. The only table we have is in the kitchen, where her chances of ending her life prematurely increase tenfold as she crosses the threshold. Having the audacity to restrain her in the highchair with crayons and papers result in a meltdown at a volume equivalent to that of God in the scene at the end of Dogma.
That’s not pleasant.
We also have a kids’ Ikea table in the playroom, which I thought would be ideal for drawing and colouring. And it was, until Squeak became vertically mobile. Now all I hear is a constant refrain of, “Muuuuum! Squeak took my picture!” And I turn to see her scrunching it up in her squidgy baby fists, with an evil grin on her face.
I’m not saying that she is definitely doing it with malicious intent. But let’s face it, she probably is.
Then there’s the whole mess situation. Don’t get me wrong, I am no neat freak. But throw paint into the mix and even I take a step back. It’s just so bloody messy! I know it must be tricky, coordinating yourself to apply brush to paper when you’re not even tall enough to flush the toilet. But that’s so not the problem. These are:
- The irresistible urge to run at speed towards a cream wall when you’ve spent the last ten minutes studiously covered your hands in paint.
- The magnetic force which attracts a loaded paintbrush towards any piece of available bare skin. Which is their entire bodies, in my case. I’d rather throw them in the bath and hose the paint off than do battle with so-called ‘washable paint.’
- The ratio of time preparing to time spent doing the activity. Which (in minutes) appears to be approximately 15:0.2. And that’s being optimistic.
- Toddler colour mixing. It doesn’t matter where they begin, it is guaranteed that they will always end with brown. Different shades of brown if you’re lucky, but still, every picture’s going to resemble a muddy puddle.
It’s safe to say there are a lot of barriers in the way of a rewarding crafting experience. But I was determined to figure it out. So I pondered it for about six months or so.
Which I think definitely confirms that I have far too much thinking time on my hands. I’m not even sure how that’s possible when I struggle to remember what I’m making for dinner, or exactly what time it is I should leave the house to pick up the kids. But there you go.
(Oh the irony. Just after finishing that paragraph, I glanced at the clock and thought, Shit, I should have left to pick up Little Girl five minutes ago! Whoops.)
Anyway, I knew that I really wanted the big kids to have a safe space to get creative, but where I could still keep an eye on and play with Squeak. So it definitely had to be in the playroom, where they spend most of their time. But I also wanted it to be compact, so that they still had space to throw themselves around around the room.
Oh sorry, I mean dance.
It took a while but, ladies and gentlemen, I have found the solution. We now have a completely awesome crafting station.
The first thing we needed was a set of drawers. We’ve had a cupboard to store the multitudes of crafting equipment for ages now, but it doesn’t work at all. The very nature of a cupboard (at least in my case) is that when you’re in a hurry you can throw everything in at top speed and close the door really fast before it all falls out again. Then you can happily trot off, until next time.
The side effect is that you can’t find a fucking thing.
So the other night I sat down and built a shiny white set of office drawers from Ikea. Although I was successful in the end, I didn’t start out well. The box weighed at least seven tons. Or something like that. I hefted it across the room and eased it down gently onto the floor.
Oh no, I didn’t. I dropped it onto three toes. And it wasn’t eased all that gently, either. Yowser! All I could do was collapse on top of the box, clutching my toes and moaning loudly. Which freaked Mark out a bit. Still, I’m glad to say that all toes appear to be intact.
Aside from the tantrum I threw when I couldn’t get the drawers to go in (snug is not even the word!), I nailed it. I filled the drawers with lots and lots of fun and colourful materials.
I even bought glitter. And people who know me know that is a big fucking deal. I just hate the stuff. I hate the way it sticks to you and pretty much everything in the surrounding area. Grrr.
Next was a place to work which was up and out of the way of Squeak, without taking up the whole room. Enter, folding table! The assembly of that went a lot better than the drawers, thankfully. Add in a pair of folding chairs and we’re good to go!
Now I can put my guilt about the lack of crafting opportunities to rest. Yes, I felt guilty. And yes, I know it’s rather trivial. But what would parenting be if you didn’t have something to feel guilty about?
It’d be fucking fantastic, actually. But it’s not going to happen.
The kids were so excited watching it come together. They can’t wait to fill their sketchbooks with eleventy-six drawings of queens and Batman, and cover their hands in PVA glue and peel it off. We actually put up the table as a surprise last night while they were sleeping. Astonishingly, none of them woke up!
Although Little Girl was found fast asleep on the floor, wrapped up like a sausage roll in her duvet. But I don’t think that was linked.
I can’t wait to see the different things they come up with. They’ve already tested out some of the different new things I bought. A firm favourite is the soft pastels. Little Girl in particular got her hands absolutely covered in it the other day. This turned up a surprise disadvantage for her.
It’s impossible to deny nose-picking (bright blue nostrils, anyone?)
Little Girl is sat at the table right now, with a doll-shaped cutout and some art supplies. I’m sure she’s going to make something fantastic, which will be great to decorate the wall above my new crafting area. It’s lovely to see her focussing so intently on the task at hand, frowning as she…
Oh wait, she totally just chopped the doll’s head off. Fuck.
Ah well, there has to be some allowance for artistic licence, right?
I’m still putting my protective armour on. Better safe than sorry, after all.