Growing Reader


Making Magic Together: Craft and Creativity Books for the Whole Family

by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

Photo credit: Cultura/Frank and Helena, Cultura Exclusive/Getty Images

I’ve always had crafty inclinations; after I became a mother, they kicked in BIG TIME. I blogged, I swapped, I made lots of things, and bought even more books. Many of those books were “for later.” For those magical, well-lit moments of sitting alongside my daughter, sewing matching skirts, knitting finger puppets, or smiling at each other as we painted on opposite sides of an easel. As my daughter grew, I collected even more high hopes that, more often than not, fell flat. Poor planning, or too much planning got in the way and left us both disappointed and vaguely disgruntled. (Especially me.) It wasn’t simply that I wanted to fill our home with cute handmade items, it was also, as Bernadette Noll and Kathie Sever point out in Make Stuff Together, that “crafting builds connection, fosters creativity.” I really, really wanted to be THAT kind of mom.

But those high hopes of perfection meant that too often I approached these projects with too much of my own vision, without leaving enough room for my daughter’s. Yes, it’s about good planning (like making sure you have supplies, time, and space), but I’ve learned it’s also about improvisation, and following a sometimes messy path that is more a celebration of process than product.

So, with summer upon us, and with it more time to create, play, and learn as a family, I’d like to share some of my favorite guides to doing just that. And there’s always the possibility of plenty of cute handmade items in the end, too.

  • Make Stuff Together: 24 Simple Projects to Create as a Family

    by Bernadette Noll and Kathie Sever

    A gentle and encouraging guide. I love the section on acquiring materials and supplies, including tips on how those ‘shopping’ trips provide opportunities to connect with the larger community.

  • The Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections

    by Amanda Blake Soule

    Not so much a project guide as an invitation to a joyful, naturally creative family life. Soule offers wonderfully concrete tips and ideas for everything from “Sharing the Tradition of Handmade,” “Exploring Through Nature,” “Everyday Rituals,” and “Handmade Holidays.” I love the sections on Capturing Moments and Family Celebrations, and the Treasure Boxes, Birthday Crowns, and Holiday Wonderland ideas are simple but effective. Soule also includes a section on “craftivism,” which she describes as “crafting as the means by which a social justice or environmental issue is addressed.”

  • DIY Kids

    by Ellen Lupton and Julia Lupton

    The title says DIY, but all of these delightful projects can be a family endeavor. Each includes a “How much help do you need?” guide, which ranges from “Try it alone” to “Get serious help.” Also helpful: “How messy will it be?” “How much will it cost?” “How much time will it take?” Clear instructions and gorgeous photos make this one a winner. The clothespin dolls and toy necklaces were among our first successful ‘crafting together’ adventures.

  • Show Me a Story: 40 Craft Projects and Activities to Spark Children’s Storytelling

    by Emily K. Neuburger

    This book! As a former (but lifelong) literacy educator, this one made my heart leap immediately. “Storytelling is the perfect, most nourishing food for growing minds,” writes Neuberger. Parents and children can grow with these activities and projects that facilitate relaxed, creative storytelling — from the Storytelling Walk, to the mod-podged Story Disks, collaged Memory Cards, and Story Stones.

  • The Children’s Year: Seasonal Crafts and Clothes

    by Stephanie Cooper, Christine Fynes-Clinton, Marije Rowling

    This Waldorf education-inspired collection is influenced and organized by the seasons, with nature-related projects like a grass doll and horse, knitted gnomes to jumpstart imaginative play, and the sweetly simple bird table and birdfeeder.

  • The Artful Parent: Simple Ways to Fill Your Family’s Life with Art and Creativity

    by Jean Van’t Hul

    “Raising children in an art-rich environment encourages their creativity, imagination, and self-confidence,” writes Van’t Hul, and this book is bursting with inspiration and joy for family art making. Particularly helpful to parents who feel a bit at sea about getting started, The Artful Parent introduces innovative techniques and uses of materials (especially those already in the home), is organized by themes, and includes great activities for parties and groups as well as simple quiet at-home making.

The Kid and I have cleaned up our craft area and bookmarked pages and pages of ideas for summer crafting fun. We’ve pored over our vintage craft book collection and marveled at some of the anachronistic language and art in 30s, 50s, 60s and 70s-era project instructions. And we both realize that this time, right now, of planning, dreaming, and imagining together, is a vital part of making, as important as finishing matching library tote bags with cute front pockets for our cards. So we’ll breathe and enjoy it. And maybe the bags, too. If we finish them.