Let children discover and manipulate their worlds in any way they choose by doing art. Children do art for experience, exploration, and experimentation. One way you can let their minds run wild with creativity is by showing them how to make their own adorable crafts that mimic all sorts of animals, such as frogs, rabbits, bears, or even their own pets!
You can provide children ages 3–6 with many other creative opportunities with the activities in MaryAnn F. Kohl’s book Preschool Art: Craft & Construction—It’s the Process, Not the Product! Each craft has icons showing the craft’s general age range, planning and preparation time, and possible safety precautions, such as if some materials used will be sharp, hot, or electrical. Try some of these sample crafts to help your children start their menagerie!
Children can make adorable ornaments, mobiles, or decoration pieces in any sizes or animal shapes they desire. This craft is designed for children ages 3 and up and requires easy prep.
- Cut out a shape or piece from a Styrofoam grocery tray.
- Draw on the piece of Styrofoam using a variety of colored markers. Completely cover the surface of the Styrofoam.
- Allow the artwork to dry.
- Pour white glue into a cup.
- Paint glue over the entire surface of the colored Styrofoam piece.
- Allow the glue to dry completely to produce a clear, slick, sealed surface that brightens and enhances the colors underneath.
- Use the Glue Over as an ornament, hang it from a mobile, or hang it on a wall.
- To hang the Glue Over on the wall, poke a small hole in the Styrofoam and insert a bit of yarn. Or tape a paper clip to the back of the design and use it as a hanger.
Cuff Finger Puppets
What’s cuter than little puppets that can go on children’s tiny fingers? Little puppets that look like mini-animals! This activity is recommended for ages 4 and up and requires moderate prep.
- An old pair of pants with deep cuffs or hem
- Sewing machine
- Decorations (sewing scraps, yarn, buttons, plastic eyes, felt)
- Tacky glue or needle and thread
- Take an old pair of pants with deep cuffs and turn them inside out.
- Cut the pants straight across the hem.
- Sew two “U” shapes into each cuff, so that the hem of the cuff will form the bottom of each finger puppet.
- Cut ⅓” (8 mm) from the edge of the sewn line. Turn the cuff right side out or leave as is.
- Decorate the cuff puppets by gluing or sewing a variety of sewing or craft items onto them. Create animals, people, characters from a book or story, or strange little sha.
- Make up plays or songs, or simply enjoy the puppets.
Children can create their very own life-size animals with this activity. It is recommended for children ages 4 and up and requires moderate prep.
- Large- and medium-sized cardboard boxes
- Wide masking tape or duct tape
- Wheat paste
- Large tub or bucket
- Small, damp towel, optional
- Fabric scraps, sewing scraps, or colored paper
- Tempera paints and paintbrushes
- Assemble a cardboard animal using medium- and large-sized boxes. Rearrange the boxes as often as needed before taping them together.
- When satisfied with the size and configuration, tape the box animal together.
- Pour wheat paste into a large tub or bucket.
- Tear newspaper into half sheets. Place a half sheet of newspaper in the wheat paste and briefly soak it until it is wet and coated.
- Squeeze out the excess paste. Press the sheet of newspaper over the animal shape. Press out the wrinkles using your bare hands or a damp, small towel.
- Completely cover the box animal with layers of newspaper. Add extra bumps, curves, and features with balls, lumps, or mounds of soaked paper, if desired.
- Allow the sculpture to dry for several days, until it is crunchy and hollow sounding.
- Paint the box animal or decorate it with fabrics and papers.
Children can make their own stuffed-animal toys or little pets for their big dolls to play with. This activity is recommended for children ages 4 and up and requires moderate prep.
- Plain or patterned fabric squares
- Pencil or crayon
- Fabric pens, optional
- Fabric glue, in a bottle (Hint: Use fabric glue that is labeled “Fast Drying” or “Good for Seams.”)
- Pillow stuffing or fabric scraps
- Pinking shears or scalloping scissors
- Cut the fabric into 8” (20-cm) squares.
- Draw a design or shape on a square of fabric. Redraw the exact design on another square of fabric.
- Cut out the shapes from the fabric.
- Decorate the fabric using fabric pens, if desired.
- Place the two identical shapes together, undecorated sides of the fabric touching (right sides out).
- Glue the edges of the fabric together, leaving one side open for stuffing.
- Allow the project to dry overnight.
- Stuff the shape with fabric scraps or pillow stuffing.
- Glue the open edge of the shape together. If it doesn’t hold, staple it and remove the staples after the glue dries.
- Trim the edges with pinking shears or scalloping scissors.
- Sew the shape using a sewing machine or a needle and thread.
Create a realistic-looking stand-up photo of a family pet with this activity. It is recommended for ages 5 and up and requires moderate prep.
- Magazine picture or photograph
- Foam board
- White glue (Hint: Use rubber cement instead of glue, if desired.)
- 2 picture-frame scraps, equal lengths
- Tape or rubber bands
- Carefully cut out a good-sized photograph or picture in a magazine.
- Place the picture on a foam board and trace the outline.
- Remove the picture and cut the foam board on the traced line.
- Pour white glue into a small dish. Add water to make a thin consistency.
- Using a paintbrush, glue the picture to the foam board. Make sure to stick the edges down and smooth out any wrinkles. Let dry completely.
- Trim any excess picture or foam board, if necessary.
- To make a base, brush glue over the inside of two picture-frame scraps.
- Place the photo upright between the two frame pieces and press them together. Hold the pieces together using tape or rubber bands until they are dry. (Hint: The glue may leak down between the wood scraps, causing them to stick to the table. To prevent this from happening, move the project often or dry it on a baker’s cooling rack or wire mesh screen.)
- Paint glue over the magazine pictures, the frame-scrap base, and all the edges of the foam core. Let dry.