I don't mind the mess as most of the time it only take 10 mins to clean up at the end. If you're actively involved in the craft, most of the time, a big mess can often be avoided. But, here are some hot tips.
2) Have a good variety of crafts up your sleeve. Variety will make your kids more involved. If they have to learn a new skill, they are less likely to be bored. If you're always pulling out the paint, by the third or fourth time, they'll be painting each other, the cat and their hair- true story.
3) Invest in a cheap piece of lino or thick plastic. If it's a yucky day, or if you need to be inside, lay the plastic down. I also have a couple of disposable table cloths if I know it's going to be a big mess (like glitter).
4) Set the rules. If you're doing something dangerous for the age group (scissors etc), using food dye, or just want to make sure everyone has fun, including you, set some rules and make the kids understand. My rules are always similar. Use your words, share the equipment and if you have a tantrum it gets packed up instantly (they learned this the hard way). Other rules are "things in this box only Mummy can touch" and "if you stick your fingers in there, they will be red/blue/green forever" (food dye)... Harsh but effective.
5) Limit the time for each activity. Three year olds aren't going to want to do an activity for more than 15mins to half an hour. Perhaps even less if they've only just begun crafting. If there are many parts to the one activity (like, cut things out, glue them on, wait for it to dry, paint over it, peel bits off and THEN it's ready) kids aren't going to dig it. We want crafts that we can complete in the one sitting, or that you can pre-prepare that they can complete them in the time allocated.
6) Choose the time you do crafts. Don't do it if they're tired, hungry, or restless- or if you are.
7) Be in the moment. Don't use crafts as your baby sitter. That's where Busy Bags (link to come) come into play. If you look away for more than the time it takes to blink, your crafty kid will be gluing his eyelids together. Sometime, if your kid is really crafty, they'll be doing it in the time it takes to blink.
8) If crafts are a chore, don't bother or just find some that you do like. This is my real quality time with the kids. I love it, they love it, we love talking about it together. Find your thing that you love, and give up on the toilet roll cars and fizzy plates.
When I do arts and crafts with my kids, they are happy which means I am happy. It brings us close together and I feel that they grow and learn because of the activities we do. Whether something simple, like play dough and cookie cutters, or sometime that takes a bit of time to set up, there hasn't been one activity that we haven't enjoyed.
Comment below with your hot tips for crafting with kids!