Arts and crafts toys are a great way of letting children get creative, have fun and maybe get a little bit of messy at the same time.
These creative products are also an ideal way for mums and dads to get involved in their children’s play time, but how many do, and how often do they play together? Is arts and crafts – including activities like painting – a dying pastime?
We put the questions to users of Mumsnet, Facebook and Netmums.
More than half we spoke to (54 per cent) said they play with their children using arts and crafts products each week at least, while almost a quarter (23 per cent) play every single day.
Around 18 per cent play each month or so, and just five per cent play once a year or less.
“We play loads together,” Facebook user Kris Slaven tells ToyNews. “He’s into a variety of things as you can imagine at three years old – including my old Star Wars toys that I got out of the loft. In terms of arts and craft stuff, I would say we play together at least once a week. We draw, play with stickers, glue collages together and other things like that.”
Netmums member Joanne H(512) adds: “I am a childminder and I play with my children every day. It’s sometimes draining and I do not want to do it all the time, but one-on-one time is very important.”
Around one fifth of the participants in our survey say that although they play with their kids, they tend not to use arts and crafts products so much, due to their messy nature.
Almost half of the parents (45 per cent) admit they’d like more time to spend playing with their children, while one third (32 per cent) said they spend enough time and a quarter (23 per cent) aren’t sure. Work and other family commitments are the reason 59 per cent of parents we spoke to don’t have enough time to play with their kids.
While several users say they do take part in arts and crafts activities with their kids, around one fifth tell ToyNews they prefer playing with their kids using traditional toys – and their imagination.
“Playing to me is imaginative play – and I did a lot of that with the children when they were little,” says Mumsnet user Cory. “As for arts and crafts, we did some of that too, but I always thought playing at pirates or lions was more fun. To me, it made sense to let the playschool and childminder spend more time on that sort of thing, because they were clearly good at it and enjoyed it, while I concentrated on the activities I enjoyed: reading aloud, impersonating Robin Hood’s Merry Men and taking them for walks to look for dragons.”
PLAYING WITH ART
So what kind of creative toys and products do parents and kids use?
Netmums user Samantha J(182) says she regularly plays with Play-Doh with her kids, as well as messy painting, drawing and card-making. They also work on projects together to make bunting and junk cardboard models, and Samantha encourages them to take part in experiments like sinking and floating objects. Kellestar, meanwhile, organises a ‘Messy Monday’ each week with stickers and glittery Play-Doh.
Alison L(23) adds: “I have two boys who are five and three respectively, and I do some sort of activity once a day, whether it be drawing, painting, creating something random with clay or Play-Doh, baking cakes, a trip outdoors or reading and writing.”
The word ‘messy’ came up more than a handful of times, with Netmums user Em C(4) saying crayons, paper and stickers are “always on the dining table”.
The majority of parents we spoke to enjoy playing with their kids using arts and crafts products, and although not many have as much time as they’d like to, the bulk of respondents regularly play with their kids. A couple even mentioned the shortcomings of arty products (see ‘What would encourage parents to play more arts and crafts with their children?’), so there is still room for innovation and fresh ideas in the sector.
What would encourage parents to play more arts and crafts with their children?
“Different characters and other arty things that appeal to children as they get a bit older, like Star Wars, wrestling and football but for boys aged five to seven. More things that we can do together at the same time.”
“I think a lot of arts and craft items need to drop in price. Personally I would like to see more offers on arts and crafts, like buy-one-get-one-free, as I would buy so much more if we could afford it.”
“Craft stuff that tidies itself up.”
Norma Stanley Fletcher
“Not being at work. I don’t think I need encouragement, I love playing with Amelia, I love how each play session is different and I love seeing her development.”
“Something new would encourage me to play arts and crafts more as we quite often do a lot of the same things.”
What stops parents from playing with their children?
“When we play together, I would do whatever he wants - whether it be cars, drawing, or whatever. So that’s what stops me from spending time doing arts and crafts with him. He’s into so many other toys that he’ll go from one to thing to the next. If his interest in it increased, I would spend more time doing it with him and buying the sort of products that involves.”
“Often it’s just being part of a working family that holds us back. I find myself thinking that they’ll have done arts and crafts at school or pre-school, and the time could be spent doing other things.”
“Sometimes playing arts and crafts together can be messy, and it can take time clearing away.”
“There’s not enough time in the day.”
“The activity does not last very long and the preparation and clean-up can be cumbersome.”
“It is actually more that I have to make myself spend less time on arts and crafts with my daughter and balance this with activities that I am not so confident in.”