The Easter holidays are here, which means restless children underfoot. Most kids love crafting, but not all mamas enjoy the messy chaos of paint, glue & all things crafty. In this interview, we speak to mama, creative & founder of popular art & craft site, ‘Handy With Scissors’, Susie Rugg about her top tips for cultivating creativity in your littles. 

Writer: Rebecca Walker, The Conscious Wordsmith

When and why did you launch Handy with Scissors?

I started it as an Instagram account just after the birth of my second child. My eldest was 3 at that point and the perfect age to start trying out some more ambitious projects than just paint mixing (and body painting). I was posting random funny things on Facebook and a friend suggested I start posting on insta. I was hooked pretty quickly as I found an amazing community of creative parents doing the same thing all around the globe. I was lucky enough to be featured on a few key crafty blogs and the account grew quickly.

What are some of the developmental benefits of art & craft play for kids?

So there are the obvious ones like hand/eye coordination, fine motor skills etc, but for me it was about encouraging my son to see possibility in things, opportunities for creativity in unlikely places. To me that’s the beauty of using recyclables, as it teaches you to think about what things could be rather than how they appear at first glance.

I think art is a wonderful way to develop kid’s confidence too as you really can’t be wrong if you are just allowing your ideas to roll and are non-judgemental about the process. Really young kids do this naturally but at some point, usually in late primary, we start to judge ourselves and focus on a perfect outcome. That’s why I try to keep most of my activities open ended and why I am such a fan or process art at any age. I think the longer we can encourage kids to just go with the flow the better! 

Any tips for mums who hate crafting but want to cultivate crafty creativity in their littles?

 There are lots of opportunities to be creative out of the house. Local playgroups always have some messy play opportunities and art studios do classes for all ages. Creativity doesn’t need to s involve paint  and mess though. You can be creative anywhere. Create a fairy dwelling at the local park or go on a nature hunt in the backyard! Make an obstacle course in the loungeroom or let them help in the kitchen. Follow their lead as much as you can, but don’t be hard on yourself if craft just isn’t for you!

A lot of mamas are craft-adverse because of the mess it often creates. Do you have any advice for parents when it comes to overseeing craft activities in a less chaotic (materials explosion!) way?
  • I suggest being prepared. Get everything ready before the kids have a chance to start squeezing tubes. Lay down a plastic mat and don’t put everything out at once. Start with just a few materials to and then offer more things as you go to stop it being a free for all. This also extends the play and ensures you that the clean-up will be more worth the effort. For totally mess-free painting, try painting nude in the bath!
  • If paint isn’t for you anything to do with water is always fun. Try mixing some dish soap and in the blender for epic foam or freezing small toys in ice and using water and salt to melt and extract.
  • If you are lucky enough to have an outside space use it! There is nothing a good pressure cleaner can’t fix!
Are there any general crafting guidelines you use to ensure crafting success?

Keep it simple and try not to get too attached to the outcome. Things do need to be age appropriate and knowing your child’s preferences helps too. My eldest is now 10 and hates anything that doesn’t have instructions. My youngest hates instructions and loves to freestyle it.

I’m a big fan of quality materials too. You don’t have to spend a fortune but no masterpiece was ever made on butchers paper with a dried brush and you can’t make a Matisse with crappy scissors. The big chain stores sell really reasonably prices art supplies so pay just that little bit more if you can.

Lastly I’d say to keep the materials accessible. Kids will be more inclined to be spontaneously creative if they don’t have to ask for supplies every time they feel the urge to make something.

What ‘essentials’ should mum’s purchase if they want to set up a craft space for their kids?
  • A wipe down plastic tablecloth — great for protecting furniture
  • Chunky markers — nice big lines and easy to hold
  • Paint — put into squeezy bottles for extra ease
  • Paint brushes — not too scratchy
  • Glue sticks —cheap is fine!
  • Some plastic tubs — One to store recyclables, another for scrap paper
  • Scissors — age appropriate but make sure they actually cut
  • Yarn — great for weaving, wrapping and hanging artworks
  • Glue gun — controversial I know but they are great for building things quickly. Kids brains often work faster than their hands!
You are a mum of 3. How do you juggle your work life with mumming?

Now that’s an interesting one! My mum used to help a lot but she passed away just before the birth of baby 3. I’ve had to recalibrate a lot as my husband is an entertainer and works crazy hours too. I left my position at the Museum of Contemporary Art (I was the family and children’s coordinator for 8 years) at the end of last year and now I am working as a freelance creative.

I make craft content for companies like the BBC and Better Homes & Gardens, I make and sell ceramics and I curate and produce children’s festivals and events. It’s all modular now and I just do what I can when I can. I also make sure to collaborate a lot and work with other mums who also juggle work and family so we can step in and support each other when we need to. Its definitely not easy and at first it was a bit scary to be out on my own but so far so good!

What is your favourite thing about crafting with your children?

I just find children’s brains so completely fascinating. I love hearing them articulate their ideas and often wish I could just dive into their tiny brains and see what it’s like to live in that world for a bit. Selfishly, I also enjoy crafting and find lots of other activities boring so it works for all of us!

Visit Susie’s website at http://www.handywithscissors.com/ or check out her insta by the same name.