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Crafting With Kids in Small and Rented Spaces

Crafting with children in small and rented spaces

Our dining room wall – and why I buy washable markers

Thank you to everyone who commented on yesterday’s post! Blissful_e wrote a comment asking for ideas on letting kids make a mess in a rented space. I think this is a great question, and so I wanted to address it in a separate post rather than writing an essay in the comments section. Crafting with kids in small and rented spaces can be a challenge, but it’s still possible to make it work!

Before we moved to our current home, we rented an apartment that had cream carpet everywhere except the kitchen and bathrooms – not a good environment for creative toddlers. Luckily I only had one child at the time. Emma and I did most of our crafting on the kitchen floor. I also put one of these office floor protector mats under one end of the dining room table and sat my daughter over that for any crafty activities. We also bought a good carpet stain remover. If we were still living in that apartment with two toddlers, I would probably put a gate up in the kitchen and physically lock the kids in there for any messy activities. I’m really glad our house is nearly all tile/linoleum…

Some other ideas:

  • Cover part of the floor with an old flat sheet. If you don’t have any old flat sheets, see if your local thrift shop or even dollar store has some you can get for a cheap price.
  • For activities involving water or paint, put down a cheap shower curtain. Ikea sells a clear one for $1, or at least they did last time I was there. You can put your flat sheet on top of the shower curtain if you want, to add some absorbency.
  • If you have a deck or yard, do crafts outdoors whenever the weather is nice (preferably not-super-windy).
  • The bathtub can be a great place to do crafts like finger painting – your child has a hard surface to paint on (the bottom of the tub), and you’ll probably want to give them a bath afterwards anyhow. Just make sure you are using washable paint.
  • Have older children help clean up – this helps teach them not to be excessively messy. I had Emma wash off her wall artwork featured above (created while I was mopping the floor and she was supposed to be sitting quietly at the table coloring). She hasn’t tried writing on the walls since, but if she does, she’ll be on clean-up duty again. Crayola washable markers and crayons wipe off with a cloth dipped in plain water. I’ve had great luck getting regular crayons off of walls with a plain rubber eraser and a little elbow grease.
  • Choose art supplies you don’t mind cleaning up that can be kept within your child’s reach. In our house we have a bin with fabric scraps, colored paper, craft sticks (the tongue depressor type) and pompoms that Emma can get out whenever she wants. None of these are likely to hurt anyone or anything, and they are all easy to clean up. As Emma and her siblings get older (particularly as they grow out of the “high risk of choking” phase), I will be able to add a wider range of objects to this bin. Tape some contact paper to a wall or window (an idea I saw at Chasing Cheerios) and your child can use these objects to create a tactile collage.

Any other suggestions on saving parental sanity while allowing messes in tight/rented spaces?

MaryAnne is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

9 thoughts on “Crafting With Kids in Small and Rented Spaces”

  1. I keep messy projects confined to the kitchen table. We have laminate flooring with an area rug under the table. I got tired of cleaning the rug so, I went to Walmart and bought some clear heavy duty vinyl. They sell it in the fabric dept. for around 2 dollars a roll. 3-4yds will cover the whole rug. There is just enough over hang that I wrapped it around the rug and duct taped it down. Now my rug is wrapped in plastic. I can see my pretty rug but when something gets spilled as it inevitably will with 4 kids 5 and under I can just mop it off.

  2. shannon niebuhr (@JoziKaroo)

    We live in a 5th floor flat. Although we do own it, we’d like to keep it *relatively* intact, so:

    Just to follow up on the washable markers theme — our kitchen has tiled floors and tiled walls, up to eye level. We use both the floors and the walls as dry-erase “boards” for our 3 year old. Wipe them clean and start again. Sometimes he’ll draw whole murals.

    In one room we put down astroturf (plastic grass) over the existing flooring (tiles, but very unfriendly ones). We play with sand, water, paint, glitter, etc., out there. Once a month we roll up the astroturf and shake it out outside.

    We use the apartment building’s exterior corridors far more than what they were intended for. I drag my son’s small plastic play table out there and we do painting and clay. I even borrowed the building’s fire hose to wash down the floor after a great experiment with colored-salt-glitter, and it just disappeared down the gutters and alkalanized the garden a bit (it was only 1/2 a cup total of salt, really).

  3. Good ideas! Also, buy shares in Mr Clean Magic Eraser ;) It was the only thing that saved the kitchen floor of our rented home at one point.

  4. Thanks so much for following up on this, MaryAnne! I think shower curtains will be a big help for me, also finger painting in the tub sounds splendid! Actually, I think I will use most of these ideas, from the comments as well! I need lots of help!! :)

  5. Another great post! I love coming here and just connecting with you wonderful ladies. Thank you, MaryAnne! Art time is always a mess at home, so I can’t help much with being neat. The cardboard easel on Maya*Made has helped a great deal with containing paint messes indoors in our kitchen. The baby is the one we are really watching now because she so desperately wants to join in any arty thing. When all our kids were about 12- 14 months old and too young to be able to draw (funny angle for wrists, I think) on horizontal paper, we taped butcher sheets to the four sides of a very large cardboard box – so that was a 4-sided easel and the vertical-ness of the surface seemed to stimulate drawing with crayons or pencils. The key, we found, was for the box to be squarish in cross-section (so stable) and at least as tall as the baby.
    MaryAnne- yes, we too have separated our art and craft supplies into roughly “safe” and “choke-able” for now. Actually, all the good stuff has been confiscated, pity and only taken out when the baby is napping. But as you said, we can keep replenishing the supply box as the littlest ones get older.

  6. When we lived in an apartment for a few months I had a tarp under the dining table. Same concept as a sheet, but there was no danger of anything soaking through to the carpet and most cleanups simply required taking the tarp outside to shake it off.

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