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creative fun with my (almost) three year old

liz lamoreux


Ellie and I have been diving into the world of crafty fun lately.

And before I tell you all about it, I want to confess something: Sometimes I really struggle with activities to do with her. She’s our only child, I haven’t been around a lot of other kids, and I’m not so much into reading parenting books (mostly because they didn't apply to us for the first two years because of her heart surgery and our experiences). So I don't have a list of "things an almost three year old should be doing each day" that I turn to when we are embarking on a day together.

That said, I’m continually being reminded by Ellie that trusting my intuition and listening to her is the best way to know what to do next. I share this to gently remind you I'm not an expert, but I do enjoy sharing what works for us because I know I'm not the only mom out there like me. 

Right now, Ellie is really interested in what I’m up to in my studio and says things like, “I want to make necklaces” and “Can we work in my art journal now?” and “I want to paint today!” Her curiosity gives us a lot to do in a day. And I'm able to really listen and follow her lead when I'm also taking care of my needs (translation: not skipping breakfast, not worrying about emails that need to be answered, letting go of the to-do list as much as possible, and so on).

Because I always appreciate lists of ideas from other parents, I thought I would share a few of the creative things we are really enjoying together.

1) Making necklaces: We made necklaces with big wooden beads for her grandmothers for Mother’s Day. And Ellie loved it! She was very clear on who would get what colors, and she had fun sorting the beads into colors and sizes. We used these wooden beads, string, and sorted them into something like this (which is what I use for my beads in my studio). She was very excited to be making necklaces like Mama. And my heart more than melted when she said, "We have to make one for you now Mama" after we finished the Mother's Day gifts. I'm wearing it almost daily around here.

2) Stickers: For several months, playing with stickers was all about piling them on top of each other. Just a big pile of stickers. But lately, she’s started getting into decorating her coloring pages. We have this reusable sticker book and it really helped her see that if she piles them, she doesn’t get to see them all (plus we can easily unpile them and they don't rip). I’ve also started having her help me use letter stickers to form words for labeling her toy storage and even for Project Life stuff.  

3) Painting: She’s been using watercolors for about a year, but she is just now really getting into how she can use the water in different ways to affect the way the colors look. We LOVE this easel from Ikea.

I want to get some tempura paint for her to use, and I realize most people probably don’t start their kids off with watercolors, but it’s working for us (as evidenced by the video above about our painting collaboration). 

4) Art journaling: She has a few different notebooks/journals that she plays in. When I called one of my Smash journals an art journal, she immediately began to call all her notebooks art journals too. I LOVE this!! We use: 

  • One big inexpensive sketchbook full of thick paper for coloring, painting, and stickers. It is so fun to look through because Jon, Bonnie (our babysitter), and I have all played in it with Ellie, and I love how it gives such a snapshot of the last 10 months or so. There are notes from each of us next to Ellie’s drawings, “This is Millie,” “This painting is for Grandma Fina,” and so on. 
  • A few little Moleskines that I can easily throw in my purse to give her something to color in when we are out and about (they are awesome on the plane and at restaurants).
  • A Smash journal (I shared more about how we are using it in a guest post over at Alisa's blog).

5) Playing with the Instax mini: Last month, I started a new project where every now and then I bring the Instax mini with us on our adventures to the park and have Ellie take a few photos. She really loves to use it, and it becomes a bit of a lesson in detachment for me as I try not to control the moment and just let her play.  

As I've mentioned, I’m learning that explaining beforehand is a very good thing for her personality. So during the drive to the park, we talk about how we are going to take some photos and I remind her that she is borrowing my camera (we've been talking a lot of borrowing and sharing these days because there is a bit of "this is mine!" going on). We talk about how excited we are to watch the photos develop etc. Then as we walk, we talk about what we might want to take photos of. This way she is less likely to just grab the camera from me and yell at me as I say things like, “BUT wait! Let’s talk....hold on...okay there went two photos of the ground...” 

Going in, I have to just know that we are going to waste some film. But this feels okay to me because we are also going to get at least one awesome photo that she is going to feel excited about (though truth be told, she's excited about all of them). Last month, she took one of my favorite photos ever of my mom when she was visiting.

I'm thinking about using a Project Life mini album to document our Instax project and will share more as we find our way with this project. And one idea: If you are taking a few people on an Instax adventure, I suggest bringing a Sharpie along so you can quickly put initials on the back so everyone knows whose photo is whose.

Over on Pinterest, I have a board called "Creative Fun with EJ" where I'm collecting ideas, especially for things to do this summer when all three of us are home for several weeks together. 

In the Comments 

I’d love to hear about the crafty fun you are having with or without kids in your corner of the world. What’s on your studio (or kitchen) table? What do you hope to create this summer? How are you having creative fun with your kids?


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And please pass this course along if you know a toddler mama who might want to join us. Thank you.