Classic Childhood Crafts

Joss discovered Perler beads at summer camp. Do you remember those? They’re the small, cylindrical plastic beads that you arrange into a pattern and then iron, fusing them together. He begged for his own Perler beads to use at home. Not that he gets everything he asks for, but these seemed like a good, screen-free activity that could keep him occupied for hours. With trepidation, I bought a set of 18,000. And they’ve been a hit! This made me wonder: What other classic crafts do I remember from childhood that we can try?

1. Perler Beads

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I was going to pooh-pooh Perler beads because they seem like a kind of useless craft. You use the beads to create an image, but what do you do with the finished product? You just have plastic “art” pieces lying around your home. However! I think the process of creating with Perler beads is very positive. You have to figure out how to lay out patterns, count the beads carefully – and they’re definitely a test of dexterity!

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The Perler bead set we got came with some patterns, this being one of them. Not sure I could’ve figured this out on my own!

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I did, however, design this Eda the Owl Lady portrait. It was a fun challenge!

2. Tie-dye

Nothing says “summer vibes” like a tie-dye shirt. I already wrote a post about tie-dyeing last year, so check that out if you want some tie dye instructions. We spent a couple afternoons earlier this summer adding to our tie-dye collection. I think half of Joss’s wardrobe is now tie-dye. In addition to being a fun way to spend some screen-free moments, it’s also a useful craft! You can dye tote bags, scarves, socks, pillow cases…whatever you like!

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3. Friendship Bracelets

I’m not sure I’d ever made a friendship bracelet before “researching” for this post. But I have now!

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Glad to see Klutz is still going strong. I know we had at least a couple Klutz books growing up – juggling being one of them. This book gives pretty easy instructions for making a variety of patterns, so is a good place to start. Most of the patterns are probably best for slightly older kids, but there was at least one really simple one that Joss could do. At least, until he lost interest. Friendship bracelets are slightly tedious, but a nice way to relax. And of course, a nice way for kids to connect with friends they might not see as much over the summer.

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Cats aren’t helpful when it comes to friendship bracelets. That’s some pretty tempting string!

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4. Woven Potholders

Joss and I made these at Gilcrease Museum’s Funday Sunday over a year – or two?! – ago. Because this was such a popular, well-attended event, I remember the experience being slightly chaotic. But still fun.

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We made several, and of course I ended up finishing all of Joss’s. But he did enjoy figuring out patterns and laying out the initial loops.

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5. Polymer Clay

Polymer clay is the best! Joss and his friends are at the stage where they just like to mash a bunch of colors together into a ball or flying saucer. So it can feel a little bit like the clay I paid for is…being mashed up into a blob of unidentifiable blobbiness. But the kids have fun, and the colors are pretty.

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You could argue that my unicorn creations aren’t far evolved beyond the “blobby” stage.

6. Shrinky Dinks

I first got back into shrinky dinks after reading Holly Embry’s Mother’s Day necklace tutorial. I since have made way more shrinky dink jewelry than I’ll ever wear, but it’s so much fun! You can buy blank shrink plastic sheets, allowing you to design and color your own image. If you’re not feeling up to that, you can also buy shrink plastic printed with ready-to-color designs.

7. Creepy Crawlers

Sadly (?), you can’t buy the Creepy Crawlers machine anymore, unless I guess you find it on EBay. Did you do these? I rarely think about them, but throwing my mind back in search of childhood craft-related memories brought them up.

If you want to do a similar gross-out activity, here’s a make-your-own gummy insects kit. Or, crank up the nausea factor even higher with this “Disgusting & Gross Science Activity & Experiment Set.” Not going to lie…I kind of want one.

8. Latch Hook

I thought about buying a latch hook kit for this post, but wasn’t sure I wanted to spend hours on this activity. However, I remember enjoying these as a kid. You can make pillows, rugs, a wall hanging – I even saw a flip flop kit! Here’s a video tutorial if you don’t know what latch hook is!

What crafts have your kids been enjoying this summer? What favorite childhood crafts did I leave out? Let me know in the comments! And, if you’re looking for some more creative materials to work with, check out this blog post I wrote during quarantine – a time when I really valued having a good stock of craft supplies! Happy crafting!

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Categories: Spaghetti on the Wall