When my children were 3, I discovered Smarty Arty… and our regular craft sessions have been organised and inexpensive since this point.
I bought a year’s supply, and I always have easy activities in my cupboard, ready to entertain my boys... AND gifts in the cupboard, but I’ll explain that concept later.
Smarty Arty supplies craft packs with all of the materials that you need to complete an activity from start to finish and are suitable for children aged 2 to 8 years. Children on the younger end can complete the activities with the assistance of a grown up, children on the older end of the scale can complete activities without adult supervison.
Most of the packs have supplies for 4 children and are priced between $3.50 and $6.00 each.
Personally, I think the best way to purchase them is either via the Art Subscription or Complete Packs, this bulk method works out even cheaper.
Each individual craft pack comes with all of the supplies that you need to do the activity with 2 to 4 children (however, if you purchase the Monthly Art Subscription, each pack will always cater for 4 children).
Here are some samples:
When you purchase the monthly art subscription you receive 4 different art packs to your door each month, i.e. one to do each week.
The packs usually contain some type of ‘seasonal’ activities e.g. in November, there will be some Christmas crafts, in August some Father’s Day crafts and in March, some Easter crafts and all packs cater for 4 children i.e. there are enough supplies to do the activity 4 times.
These make a fantastic Christmas present for kids (either from Santa or from Grandparents)… it’s the gift that keeps on giving throughout the year, a ‘group’ present for all the kids in the family.
There are several ways to purchase these packs, via a monthly subscription (which can be cancelled at any time), or a one off payment for a 6 month or 12 month subscription.
The Complete Packs are another great ‘one off’ present, it contains 10 packs, so it’s a huge / fun present that only works out at $20 per child (if the family has 2 children).
We've been using these packs in our family for the past 18 months, here are the reasons why I love them so much.
I know for a lot of families, the next step 'big boy / girl school' just happens and it's easy, regardless of what activities have been done at home for the last 5 years.
For my boys, I'm not convinced that sitting, listening and focusing on any activity for (even a short) period of time is natural.
Prior to discovering Smarty Arty I used to try to come up with my own activities to just have the kids sit, listen and participate for just 15 minutes at a time. Whilst I could do it, there was A LOT of research, time and effort to put these activities together.
The Smarty Arty packs are a great school readiness tool, not only are kids 'having fun', but each pack comes with extension activities that you can do with your children, encouraging them to listen and take part in something as a group... as a family.
My kids go to school next year, a few weeks ago I went along to a school readiness session and I was told that one thing we should be doing over the holidays is focusing on our child's fine motor skills. If you're not up with this terminology, it's simply having the children use their body, typically hands, to perform 'small' tasks. A classic skill that a lot of children struggle with is the ability to use scissors or hold a pencil.
Looking at the caterpiller example below, there's threading, and a lot of activities have cutting and glueing.
Kids will learn eventually right?
Sure... I'm assuming yes. In the meantime, if their peers at school are learning to write, and my kids are struggling to write simply because they can't hold a pencil... well, I won't be 'worried' as such, but I do feel it's my job as a parent to make the transition to school go smoothly, so why not have fun and start with the basics at home.
I'm not sure I need to explain this, when you look at the images above (particularlly the 'Monthly Art Subscription' and 'The Complete Packs' there is a LOT of materials included and a LOT of the work has been done for you!
To put it simply, the Monthly Art Pack includes 4 activities for 4 children, that's $1.55 per activity (including postage!)
Now these activities don't just include the 'obvious arts & crafts' aspect, but extension suggestions too.
In the 'Letter Q' example below, kids colour in a picture of a queen, make a crown, then there are suggestions to further the activity, for example:
... if you don't have 4 children... keep reading, this still applies. Enter... 'the gift cupboard'.
I only have 2 children, often when we use a pack that has enough for 4 children, I take the extra supplies, put them in a bag and store them away in my gift cupboard. I love my gift cupboard, when I've forgotten someone's birthday, I always have heaps of things on hand without a last minute trip to the shops!
If you look at the image below you can see that I have two 'gifts' spare after entertaining two children with this activity.
Maybe it's just me, but when we have a play date at our house EVERY toy is pulled out of the toy room and dragged through the house.
I like to pull out these packs when the kids have their friends over, 2 children... 2 friends, one pack is enough for everyone and there is LESS MESS!
I KNOW I'm not the only one who struggles doing craft with their kids. You want to show them what to do so it's done properly, BUT you know that they need to do it themselves and you shouldn't be taking over.
My inner OCD Mum demands the creation of a perfect product... with enough supplies for 4 people, I do the activity with them a lot of the time 'to demonstrate' rather than take over.
I find that doing this helps us all:
(a) the kids are more likely to participate and remain interested when they can see the end result (which I get to relatively quickly)
(b) I supress my inner OCD tendancies... my creation is perfect and I leave my poor children alone. OF COURSE theirs are perfect too, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, if my children's little hands make something it's sure to be perfect.
Even if you DO have 4 children, there are always bits and pieces left over. I have a Craft bits and pieces box which we use ALL THE TIME.
The kids just have to suggest something... like 'Let's build a rocket' out of that box!
I got into my Craft bits and pieces box and have all the shiny bits I need to put together a fantastic rocket dashboard... I mean, let the kids put together a fantastic rocket dashboard.
There's often spare stickon bits, paint and other items. As you can see from the tree activity below, I have left over green and brown paint pots.
I like to think that those BEAUTIFUL images of kids craft ideas (created 100% from raw ingredients) are a scam.
They either need an adult 'heavily' involved, or they are created by an adult in their entirety.
If you disagree, please keep it to yourself, as it will make me feel somewhat inadequate!
Doing crafts with kids isn't meant to be 'perfect and beautiful', surely it's meant to be 'fun and educational'. Well... for me, the Smarty Arty kits has added a little beauty into our end products and as a result, my children even more proud of themselves and able to focus... as they can see an achievable end goal.
Using the example below, if this didn't come in a pack one of three things would have happened:
When my children were little we used to have 'Feral Thursday'. I had twin babies and my Mother-in-Law would come over every single Wednesday to help me. I looked forward to Wednesdays, it was pure bliss, I could feed a baby whilst the other was being cuddled, I took care of my baby with my hands and throughout the day, not once did I have to use my feet too.
Wonderful Wednesday came at a cost... it was the day before Feral Thursday, the day that my children decided they prefered the one on one focused adult attention being offered on a Wednesday... and they told me about it.
Thankfully Feral Thursday is a thing of the past. Unfortunately Feral Friday stands in its place.
I'm not sure whether it's me or the kids. Who is the chicken and who is the egg? But after a long week if we don't get out of the house on Fridays, it's often not pretty.
In the past I've been guilty of pulling out a 'new toy' from the toy cupboard to help us all get through this long day. Not anymore, we have 'new things' to do any time we want, in the form of craft... a nice, simple and enjoyable activity that we can do together... before our crankiness sets in.
In the image below, thomas is proudly showing me the necklace that he made me, Lucas is about to turn the necklace into a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle nunchuck weapon! (I must say, over the past few years I've received quite a few compliments from jealous shoppers... they always admire my beautiful necklaces!)
Doing structured Arts & Crafts activities often involves purchasing a lot of bits and pieces. I can't tell you how many times I've enthusiastically seen a craft activity on Pinterest and found myself trecking between Target, Riot, Kmart & Office Works to find what I need (I eventually get there... after over spending).
I LIKE my supplies coming in a neat little zip lock bag delivered to my door!!!
Toys come and go... kids play with them, learn what they are capable of and then put them to one side. The Smarty Arty Monthly Art Subscription is a fantastic gift idea... an activity to do with Mummy or Grandma..or Daddy and Grandad!