toddler craft supplies

Stress Free Preschool Crafts & Activities: One Simple Rule To Change Your Life!

Toddlers and preschoolers are a fickle bunch of tiny humans am I right? Love ‘em to bits, but oh my gosh they can move on fast! The ability to plan children’s crafts and activities can be an uphill battle.  Luckily I’m here for you with a game changing perspective shift so you can easily plan stress free toddler crafts!

One day your 3 year old is crying and pleading with you that they NEED to make a rainbow sparkle unicorn and the next, they “like cats today” and have zero interest in the darn unicorn! 

Of course this is after you’ve spent your precious time after their bedtime last night down the Pinterest rabbit hole of toddler crafts and gotten fancy supplies ready.  You planned an activity to make your kid’s day because you’re an awesome mom, but then it didn’t end up making anyone’s day!

Just thinking about all the other ways you could’ve spent that hour for yourself for a little mom self-care or you know…sleeping can be frustrating.  We’ve all been there, myself included.  Then I shifted my perspective!

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Can One Rule Really Cover ALL Stress Free Toddler Crafts and Activities?!

Yes, it really can.  If you use this simple rule for planning awesome, successful kids activities it works because success will be redefined.  Yeah, there may be meltdowns.  I’m not magic.  You have a toddler and/or preschooler – that is just a fact of life! But hopefully it won’t as big a deal because this focuses on the whole process, not just the end result.   And I’ve got some quick stress relief strategies for you that you can do with your kids to help calm that situation and get to crafty fun!

This rule is the foundation of EVERY toddler and preschool activity and craft you’ll find here at Happy Moments Mom because it is how I plan things for my own days at home. I only includes things I’ve either done or would do in real life with my own kids.

This simple rule is based both on my knowledge and experience as:

  • Mom to my own energetic kiddos. My daughter is 4 and my son just turned 2.  
  • A teacher with over 10 years experience preparing lesson plans that need to work for 20-30 children, each with their own diverse needs.  

So are you ready for a life-changing shift in perspective with just one sentence?! Ok, here it is…drumroll please!

Your child must spend more time having fun than you spend planning the activity.

Simple, right?  I like to think of it as the kid fun vs. mom effort balance.  The doing must outweigh the prepping. 

Not only does this make your life easier, but it actually makes for more effective, better activities with so much learning and fun!

Basically, think about it this way: If you have a well stocked craft supply drawer ( if you want that to be easy you can buy a craft variety pack like this one for $13.98 on Amazon) and keep activities as open-ended as possible (let your kids add whatever details they want) it will take a little one 10min+ to make most craft ideas, but probably only 3-5min for you to quickly pull the few things needed together.  That’s a decent return on your time investment.  Some crafts or activities, like this toilet paper rocket ship, or this construction paper ice cream truck even hit the jackpot of becoming toys afterward which then makes kid fun time hugely outweigh your effort!

What if the activity you see or they want doesn’t follow the rule to be a stress-free toddler craft?

Just say NO!  You have that power and honestly, the experience of not always getting what they want can sometimes be an important one for little kids. Deflect to something similar that does keep the kid fun – mom effort balance.

Trust me, the time to plan most children’s crafts, games and other activities DOES fit this rule. Sometimes it’s just how you do something that needs to change.  For so many activities, a few tweaks makes it easy to find the right balance.  Read on for how to make it work!

Three Steps to Follow The Balance Rule:

Step 1: Kids Lead the Planscartoon boy thinking and planning

It just isn’t always sustainable to spend the precious little mom time available to us choosing and planning activities that we think our children will like nor is it effective if then they are totally uninterested in that moment.  

As an elementary school teacher I know I could have the most perfectly planned lesson incorporating all the best practices possible, but if the children in front of me are not interested, it just is NOT happening. On the flipside, sometimes awesome learning and fun happens because of a spur of the moment question or event.

It may be scary, but you really don’t need to plan anything in advance.  Yes, have general ideas of things you could help lead them to, know where to look for ideas when you need them and have general supplies ready but otherwise don’t plan.

Timing is Everything

Live in the moment and let planning be 100% child effort and 0% mom!  If they are talking about it a lot and are interested, ask if they want to make a craft about it!  This is the key to making stress free toddler crafts – no stress because there’s no plan!

Your kiddo wants that sparkle rainbow unicorn I mentioned back at the beginning? Great, do it! Right now! Don’t overthink it, embrace it.  Your little one just gave you a plan for the day (or at least the next half hour) and it’ll work and be awesome because it is their plan – they want to do it!

This is exactly the kind of fun little moment that good days home with kids are made of so enjoy it! 

Step 2: Prep with your kids, not for them

Kids Helping Hands

Planning is in your head, prepping is doing the work – gather materials and cut shapes.  Share the workload with your kids! Yes, they are little and yes, they can help – little kids LOVE to help!!

Once you involve your toddler in the prep, then the whole time becomes time the kids are enjoying the activity so the kids/mom balance is automatically on point.  This is also where so much learning can take place very naturally.  

  1. Find an example craft online based on whatever your child’s interest was in Step 1 (Check out KIDS MOMENTS for some fun and easy ideas). 
  2. Figure out together what you need and where to find everything.  For a one year old this may just mean you talking about what you’re doing while doing it.  Preschoolers can physically help organize and may be learning to cut too ( I always recommend these scissors for helping learn).  All ages can help with choices as long as they can point their finger (or slap their hand…whatever works!)

 Here are some great questions that come up in this step:

  • What colours do you want to use for each part?
  • What shape do we need for the _____?
  • How many pieces do we need for eyes/legs/arms?
  • Should _____ be bigger than ______?
  • Do you like it like this or would another way be better? 
  • We don’t have _____, what could we use instead?

Step 3: Keep it Simple

flower with quote there is beauty in simplicity

Simplify more complicated projects to meet the kid fun – mom effort balance.  Not every craft needs as much detail or embellishments as that picture perfect example you found online!

One of my main simplifiers is whenever something says to use paint we usually just colour with crayons.  Way less mess, way less fuss.  Still fun and actually often takes longer – that’s a win!

Also, most of those perfect crafts we see online were made by an adult, not an actual  3 year old!  But stress-free toddler crafts are better than picture perfect ones because they actually get done! That’s why most of the photos you’ll find on here (like these DIY jigsaw puzzles)  are the actual products made by my kids unless it’s a great idea that I hope to do but the right moment (when my kids want it – remember Step 1!!) hasn’t come up yet.

Developmentally, little kids have much better imaginations than ours and they really believe in magic.  What you see and what they see looking at the same project can be totally different!! 

Us moms may feel the need to be “Pinterest perfect” but it really isn’t necessary, and sometimes takes the fun right out of the moment with fussing trying to make it that way! 

While we’re talking about Pinterest…

Follow Happy Moments Mom on Pinterest and facebook for lots of awesome ideas!

toddler painting

What About Big Toddler Craft Projects or Activities?

As you can see, not planning activities does not mean doing nothing – I’m filling an entire blog with what we do!  It means doing them at the right moment and keeping them simple.  This allows you to plan stress free toddler crafts and activities. 

If anything, shifting your focus this way helps you embrace doing MORE because everything is more manageable to do.

Some efforts are bigger than others though, and that is totally okay…as long as the return on that effort is there.  While these can’t really be done in the moment, you know your kids and their interests. Big projects are usually for more long-term fun to come back to again and again when it comes up which makes them worth it!

For example, one of our projects this spring has been turning our side yard into a play space (stay tuned for a post about it).  Big effort, but worth it because it will yield a big reward of hours and hours of play.  We aren’t even done yet and already the return on my time investment has been worth it many times over.  And, just like with little projects, they helped with some of it themselves so it doesn’t even count as mom time anyway!

Stress Free Toddler Craft Recap:

  • Don’t spend more time on something than your kids will
  • Do things when your child brings it up naturally, not because you want to.
  • Involve your child in planning and prepping, not just the doing of the activity.
  • Don’t worry about perfection, your child usually isn’t.

Share this game changing rule with your friends!!

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