As the pace of life continues to change, shift and re-orientate over and over this year with transitions into and out of lockdowns, and different phases of the pandemic, I was thinking once again about simple go-to family crafts that can be easily kept to hand and don’t require too much organisation to curate. Paper crafts came to mind! So many of the crafts that we played around with when the children were small would be based around a simple sheet of paper or card, some paper plates or old toilet roll tubes. Paper crafts are also portable and easily transported on family outings or holidays, and I would often use them for quick craft activities in groups too.
Many types of paper craft can also be great for developing fine motor skills – think of paper folding, something as simple as a paper aeroplane or a ‘fortune teller’ – a degree of coordination is involved. Using scissors with paper too requires some concentration, control and skill – helping younger children to develop this skill by giving them a pair of scissors and some paper and sitting with them whilst they practice can in fact be the basis of entire craft sessions!
Paper crafts can often be simple – at least in the preparation and planning – there is often at least some paper to hand, can be quick to get out and put away, but they can also be more complex and intricate it you want them to be – for example, paper cutting where the designs are deeply intricate and detailed, or origami where some shapes can require hundreds of folding steps. Many paper crafts are also often quite meditative, requiring a degree of focus and slowing down and on this note, I personally also find that some paper crafts fall well into the category of things that can be done with the hands to keep them busy whilst the mind is free to roam – for example – decorating an object with tissue paper and PVA and water; it is simple and repetitive, requires some colour and design choice but with minimal thinking involved, it is possible to settle into it and be free to daydream whilst working.
Paper craft ideas
I’ve put together a list of simple and accessible paper crafts to explore should you feel called or when in need of an easy family craft activity. Needless to say, it is not an exhaustive list, as paper forms the basis of so many creative activities! I’ve also put together a paper-based craft tutorial Make Your Own Puzzle in a Box and ‘Fancy’ Picture Frame Edges and may create some more for future creative corner tutorials as there is so much to explore when it comes to paper crafts!
Make a ‘Spring Window’ full of colourful paper flowers – You could take some plain white sheets of paper or card if that is all you have to hand, paint them with watercolours or other paints of your choice, cut out in varying sizes and flower shapes, fill a window and watch them glow in the light of spring (as in the picture accompanying this blog). You could also use tissue paper for a sun-catching, see through/stained glass effect, or if you have a ream of multicoloured or origami paper to hand, make your flowers from this instead.
Make boxes – great for little trinkets and treasures, maybe nature treasures you have collected at the park, or making into little gift boxes for family or friends. I like the free printable templates on this website and have used them a lot over the years. They are easy to print and make up. Why not have a go at making your own template and box design using your maths and geometry skills if you fancy!? This ‘doodle cube’ craft on the Artful Parent website is also a fun way of exploring 3-dimensional paper shapes from a simple sheet of A4 paper!
Paper aeroplanes & ‘fortune tellers’ – have some fun decorating paper beforehand to fold into aeroplanes and spend a sunny afternoon in the garden flying them. We have found this book 200 Paper Planes to Fold & Fly to be very popular over the years too, in groups as well as at home. Making fortune tellers is something many of us enjoyed as children and is a fun thing to pass onto our own children. Have a look at this tutorial How to Make a Fortune Teller or Cootie Catcher to get started.
Toilet-roll characters & friends – a popular craft activity for young children and not to be underestimated! There are so very many possibilities and tapping this into Pinterest will testify to that, and it seems that discarded toilet roll tubes can be turned into just about anything!! Needless to say, we have experimented with many such crafts over the years, both at home and in the groups that I ran. One of our all-time favourites when my daughter was little was this Unicorn craft from the Artful Parent website. We also love Red Ted Art for these kinds of quirky character crafts popular with young children.
A useful tip for character crafts – the simple power of the googly eye to bestow almost any object with instant character and charm is well known to many parents! I admit to using the googly eyes that came in kids’ craft sets a fair bit when the children were young, but in recent years, I haven’t felt so good about these tiny bits of plastic floating about – there are always more than we need, and invariably in any craft session some can get left behind and end up in the bin if not careful. So as an alternative, I now try to make my own, using white card and a black sharpie. Admittedly they are not “googly” as such – but it’s entirely possible to still create great character and diverse expressions by making a batch of eyes of different sizes and with the black dot (pupil) in different positions of the eye. To make these “eco friendly googly eyes”, simply cut white circles of thick paper or card, and use a black sharpie or other marker to make a smaller “googly eye” circle, somewhere within the white circle. You can experiment with the size and position of your black circle, and to make the white circle, you could draw around some small coins, and again experiment with sizes. When you use the eyes, you can combine the different sizes/designs to create an array of different expressions!
Bookmarks – if you have some little bookworms in your house, no matter how young or old, consider making your own bookmarks – The tutorial Make your own Beautiful Bookmarks – 7 Ideas to explore in the PowerWood creative corner can get you started, and you really only need some paper and pens 😊.
Crowns – this could be a seasonal activity (for any season!) or linked to any kind of imaginary play. Thicker paper or card is best for this and it can be useful to have some coloured tissue paper to hand. You could make a crown with bunny ears, flower crowns, birthday crowns, or simply crowns for any kind of imaginary play. Younger children especially can create hours or days of imaginary games with one simple hand-made crown. You can embellish with jewels or old buttons and colour with felt-tips/different colour papers, but I have found that even the simplest crown with minimal features can spark the imagination.
Tissue paper projects – tissue paper flowers spring to mind! You could make a host of tissue paper flowers and turn them into a spring or summer flower wreath to hang in your home. You could make a vase of flowers as an alternative for long-lasting plastic flowers, or use tissue paper and a water & PVA solution to cover jars, vases, or other items as a form of decopatch. It really is the most simple of crafts but jars decorated with tissue paper and PVA can be extremely beautiful, and can be easily repurposed for pretty storage, or something like a gratitude jar, where you place small notes inside containing anything you are grateful for that day.
Home Decorations – bright and colourful paper-chains come to mind! They are wonderful for celebrations of all kinds, but a celebration doesn’t have to be the only reason to make some and pop them around your home or child’s bedroom. They are a good easy family craft – and why not make some rainbow colours for extra cheer. Watercolour-painting paper doilies is another craft we enjoyed – and again, easily turned into a rainbow garland if you paint a number of them in rainbow colours and attach to some beautiful ribbon or yarn using the small holes in the doilies to thread through.
Painting, drawing – experiment with different types of paper, and with size and scale too. Take a piece of A4 cartridge paper or card and cut into different size rectangles and squares to paint on. This simple re-framing can have a big impact on what you decide to paint! And sometimes, starting with a smaller space can feel a lot less intimidating than a whole blank A4 page! Perhaps you can even make a small series of related images out of the pieces you have prepared by cutting up your A4 paper.
Paper cutting & folding – paper cutting and some more complex folding projects are probably more suitable for teenagers and adults, but can be something for older children to work towards. For paper cutting, a cutting tool & cutting mat are required – these can be bought inexpensively from places such as ‘the Works’ (in the UK), but like anything, you can buy more professional tools if willing to spend a little more. There are so many paper-cutting project possibilities! Card making, prints to go in a frame and made into a gift, make a wall freeze – with paper cut leaves, birds and rainforest animals (or any other scene you like!). Note: for younger children simple activities involving paper and scissors can be lots of fun and a great way to develop fine motor control. Of course, it is up to each parent/family to gauge the suitability of scissors and age of the children using them (and please do supervise until a child is fully confident with scissors).
Make a Shadow Puppet Theatre – this earlier tutorial in the PowerWood creative corner explains more – and is almost 100% paper-based (including the straws, cardboard box & baking paper screen for the ‘theatre’)!
I hope these ideas can offer a starting point for paper crafts to explore at home. There are many more to explore – from colouring, collage, cardmaking and origami – to maybe even making your own paper from scratch! And sometimes, a humble bundle of paper can feel almost too simple a starting point for craft when there are so many other crafts to explore. But ‘the craft’ is also in how you play around with the colours, textures, shapes and sizes of your paper, and different elements are combined – with even just a few different types of paper or card to hand, and maybe a used cardboard box or two, the possibilities really are limitless!
If you love paper and would like to explore some different projects for inspiration, this paper-lover’s book from Flow Magazine looks like a lot of fun with plenty of beautiful papers and quirky projects. I don’t have a copy myself – but is definitely something that might make its way onto a birthday wish-list before too long!
© Abigail Cole 2021
For more creative ideas visit www.forgetfulfairyartstudio.com
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