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Best Toys For the Holidays Part 5 - Arts And Crafts

Posted Aug 26 2008 1:46pm

This week’s edition was suggested by a reader, Jenny-junebug, in the comments on one of my earlier lists:

Best Toys For The Holidays - Part I – Blocks

Best Toys For The Holidays -Part II- Dolls

Best Toys for The Holidays- Part III – Books

Best Toys For The Holidays - Part IV Cars, Trucks and Things that Go

As I once consulted for an arts and crafts company (working on a Lynette Jennings line of home décor products – remember her?) and have undertaken a number of crafting projects both during and since my Waldorf playgroup days, I felt fairly comfortable tackling this subject…until I started asking questions. Like:

Why do we buy our children arts and crafts supplies – besides to keep them busy for awhile?

What should we look for in an art or craft supply?

What do the experts say about children and art?

Spurred by a revival of interest in knitting and the increasing popularity of scrapbooking, crafting is booming. The Craft & Hobby Association trade group values the entire craft and hobby industry, which covers everything from card-making supplies to needlework tools and accessories, at $30.6 billion.

There are simply hundreds of options for arts and crafts supplies for kids. Many of them quite are quite good. Many of them are well made. Some of them are expensive kits that are used up quickly and replacement materials are difficult to find. Some of them are cheaply made and break after one or two uses.

How does one choose?

If you’ve been reading some of my posts tagged, Marketing for Moms , you probably have some idea of how products are marketed for children. That is, the focus is not necessarily on what is the best product for children’s development but rather, what is most likely to sell and sell again. This often means a glitzy, exciting art or craft kit that capitalizes on a current trend, has a limited use and increases a child’s interest in buying another kit.

Now, this is not necessarily bad…but should be considered whenever purchasing these types of gifts for a child. A gift of a craft kit this holiday season is bound to be used and forgotten by spring…just warning you…I often send kits to my niece but…know that they will likely be history by the next time I see her.

So, like most purchases for children, buying arts and crafts supplies takes a bit more thought than one would think …sigh.

OK, so here are several guiding principles to consider:

If a child is “artistic” – you might want to consider buying him or her “real" art supplies. Unlike those marketed for children, quality art supplies have richer pigments, smear less and apply easier. Using quality art supplies builds interest in art history, technique and the study of art.

  1. Good art supplies – pastels , pencils , charcoal
  2. Drawing books - for kids – For parents and kids
  3. Paints – watercolors or oil paints for older kids

If a child is a visual or kinesthetic learner, you might want to consider buying crafts that relate to what they are learning in school.

Teachers said that hands-on projects help students understand basic ideas as well as

broader concepts and help children to apply information in new or different situations


“Kinesthetic and visual learners really benefit. They are much more apt to

transfer their expertise and enthusiasm to reading and writing activities after

having experienced the concepts with their eyes and hands.”

  1. Architectural building kits
  2. Woodcraft Kits
  3. Kraul Science kits

If your interest is in buying safe non-toxic natural supplies you might consider:

  1. Beeswax modeling material - brighter and more eco than traditional wax crayons – they do not smear or bleed. Beeswax comes in a hard strip that softens and becomes pliable when warmed in the hands -
  2. Beeswax crayons – purer, brighter and smelling better than traditional wax ones
  3. Natural Handwork and Felting supplies

If the child has a strong interest in handcrafts...

  1. Sewing Machine and supplies
  2. Quality Pottery wheel and clay – the cheap ones tend to not work well and fall apart so spend a little more for one that will last here

  3. Knitting crafts knitting forks, finger knitting supplies, knitting spool (scroll down on linked page)
  4. Weaving Kit

Here are a few resource sites you may also want to review.

Waldorf Philosophies of art

Art education Links

Green Guide to art supplies

I nstitute that lists for non toxic art supplies

Some great Waldorf craft Books

Whew! OK-, I've done my part.

Now, what are your ideas?

More Thursday Thirteen

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