6 Secrets to Successful Multi-Age Crafting

6 Secrets of Successful Multi-Age Crafting

My kids love crafting! I love that they learn so much while crafting. With seven kids ranging from 1-14, I’ve learned that multi-age crafting is different.

I can’t just go to Pinterest, pick a beautiful project, and get the kids started.

They’re abilities and interests are just too varied.

Some of them would find success on the project I picked, while others would be miserable. I’d end up tempted to do the project for them.

And that’s not the point of art.

Here are the top tips I use to ensure multi-age crafting success.

We use them frequently–several times a week at least. Art is so much fun when done like this!

1. Lower Your Expectations

There. I said it.

You cannot expect all of your kids to complete Pinterest worthy crafts every single time they craft.

If you’re doing art to show off how crafty your kids are, you’re probably doing it for the wrong reason.

Instead, focus on the process. What they make isn’t nearly as important as the skills they learn while crafting.

Your children will be working on essential soft skills such as:

  • Creativity
  • Building imagination
  • Working collaboratively or independently
  • Using supplies appropriately
  • Solving problems

In addition to practicing plenty of fine and gross motor skills.

With all that going on, it’s okay if you don’t feel like framing and displaying every single thing they make.

2. Let Your Kids Be Creative

I hardly ever have a plan in place for craft time. I simply pull out the supplies, and let the kids do what they do best–create.

I could never come up with some of the amazing ideas they have. I don’t even pretend to try.

During our last craft session, here’s what the kids did:

  • Jayme (14): Hand sewed some fabric into a Spiderman Hood for a costume collection she’s making.
  • Jeff (7): Created a Mario and Luigi craft by drawing shapes, cutting them out, and gluing them together.
  • Ellie (5): Made a farm set by drawing different farm animals, coloring them, and cutting them out.
  • Sydney (4): Colored some Doc McStuffins coloring pages Jayme printed out for her
  • Simon (2): Colored a few minutes on a piece of paper
  • Brynna (1): Picked up crayons and dropped them back into a bucket.
  • Owen (9–with Angelman Sydrome): Played with a drawing app on the iPad a few minutes
  • Me: Made a jumping origami frog and flying bird.

3. Ensure Simple Rules Are Followed

Multi-age crafting should be enjoyable, not stressful. I don’t want to worry that my 1 year old is going to grab a pair of sharp scissors and poke her eye out.

So, we have five simple rules in our house. They keep us safe, and make clean-up simple!

  1. Sharp Objects are for Responsible Parties Only–Keep Tabs on Them & Put Them Away Immediately When Finished
  2. Pick Up Everything You Drop (we have a child with Pica in the house who loves to eat crayons…)
  3. Put Your Lids Back on Your Markers
  4. Stay in the Crafting Area (usually the dining room table)
  5. When You’re Done, Clean Up Your Supplies

My four year old follows all these rules–they aren’t that complicated. I’ve found my kids learn through example. The older ones definitely help make sure the youngers follow the crafting rules.

Otherwise, we keep the supplies up for a week.

My rules might not be what your kids need. I encourage you to create your own simple craft rules. Teach them to your kids gently, and ensure you have a consequence for when the rules get broken.

4. Don’t Overwhelm Your Kids with Supplies

I don’t bring out every single craft supply in the house each time we create. Otherwise, I’d overwhelm the kids with options. Instead, I keep it simple.

I bring out crayons and a variety of papers. If the older kids want a specific supply (scissors, glue, yarn, etc.) for a project, they can get it. But, they’re responsible for ensuring it gets taken care of and cleaned up when they’re done.


5. Let Your Kids Be Done When They’re Done

We usually put a movie on during craft time. My youngest kids color for a bit, then go watch the movie. They’re in the same room, but don’t have to craft for as long as the older kids.

Everyone has a different attention span, and having a second option available keeps whining and fighting to a minimum.

6. Leave Time for Sharing

We end each crafting session with a quick share session. Everyone shows off what they created. It’s great public speaking practice, and teaches the kids to have pride in their work.

It also teaches the younger kids to actually create something before they stop and go watch a movie. That way they have something to share!

What are your secrets for successful multi-age crafting? I’d love for you to share in the comments!

Photo by Aaron Burden via Unsplash.

patterning games for kids

5 Patterning Games for Kids

Red. Blue. Red. Blue.

Big. Big. Small. Big. Big. Small.


Patterns are everywhere!

If you’re looking for a fun way to practice patterns with your kids, give one of these games a try. They’re:

  • Easy to set up
  • Fun to play
  • Full of learning

Because learning shouldn’t be complicated!

5 Patterning Games for Kids

1. Potato Stamps

The humble potato provides a perfect stamp when you cut it in half. If you keep your cut plain, you can experiment with color based patterns.

You can also cut a shape into each half of your potato, and use those to create shaped patterns.

Here’s what you’ll need:


1 potato per person

Tempera Paint (affiliate link.) you’ll need at least 2 colors.

Construction paper

1 Paper plate per person

Paring knife


Cut the potato in half lengthwise for your child.

Pour a small pile of 1 color paint onto one section of the paper plate.

Pour a small pile of a 2nd color of paint onto another section of the paper plate.

Show your child how to dip one half of the potato into the paint, cut side down.

Let your child stamp the potato onto the paper.

Have your child dip the other half into the second paint color.

After a few minutes of free stamping, make a pattern and ask your child to copy it.

Then, let them make a pattern for you to copy.

Continue experimenting with colored patterns.

If Desired:

Use the paring knife to cut away part of the potato, leaving a raised shape behind. Have your child experiment with stamping, and creating shape patterns.

2. Build a Nature Pattern

Head outside for a nature walk, and let your child gather materials for pattern building. When you get back inside, spread out her finds on a large piece of newspaper. Then it’s time to create.


A variety of items from nature, such as:

  • Leaves
  • Flowers
  • Sticks
  • Grass blades
  • Moss
  • Small rocks


Digital camera (the one on your smartphone works great!)

White paper


After you’ve spread the natural items on the table, encourage your child to look for items she can build a pattern out of. Have her  build her pattern on the white paper.

She can make a colored pattern like this:

Something green, something brown, something green, something brown

An item pattern like this:

Rock, flower, grass, rock, flower, grass

A texture pattern like this:

Hard rock, soft flower, hard rock, soft flower

Or any other pattern she can think of. Nature is fun to play with!

Once the pattern is created, have your child take a picture of it. Then, let her shake the items off the paper and begin again.

3. Muffin Cup Patterns

This game is perfect for when you’re cooking dinner. Just set your child up nearby to play while you work. Building patterns with small items will encourage fine motor skills.


A muffin pan (6 or 12 hole)

A variety of beans and small noodles

White Paper

A quart size Ziploc bag


Set the muffin pan on the counter.

Measure out 1/4 cup of 6 different types of beans or noodles.

Put the beans and noodles in a pile.

Have your child sort them into the muffin holes, with one type of object in each hole.

Once the items are sorted, create a pattern from them on the white paper for your child to continue.

Have your child build a pattern for you to continue.

Alternate turns.

Have your child put all of the beans and noodles into a Ziploc bag to sort again another day.

4. Lego Patterns

My kids love Legos, so I had to include this one! Have your child gather your Lego collection, and then sit down together to play. This game teaches your children that the same pieces can be used to build a variety of patterns.


Legos in a variety of colors and sizes


Each player secretly picks one Lego brick, and conceals it inside his or her hand.

When everyone is ready, count to 3 aloud.

On 3, everyone reveals their piece by opening his or her hand.

Everyone looks at all the pieces.

Everyone hurries to gather more pieces that are similar to all the pieces selected.

Everyone builds their own pattern out of those similar pieces.

Compare patterns. Use words such as color, shape, and size as you talk about the patterns.

Ask your child if all the patterns ended up the same.

Take apart your builds, and try again.

5. Letter Patterns

This game is perfect for young learners. It practices letter identification.


A dry erase board and marker


A piece of white paper and a marker


Write a letter pattern on the board or paper for your child to continue. You can start with easier patterns, and then make them harder. Here are some examples:

  • ELLIEELLIEELLIE (use your child’s name!)
  • bdbdbdbdbdbdbd

You can create tons of patterns using only letters.

To change things up a bit, alternate turns with your child. Mine always love creating patterns for me to continue.

As You Play

While playing, read the patterns aloud. This will help your child use multiple senses to learn about patterns.

Do you have a favorite patterning game for kids? Please share in the comments!

reasons to sing the alphabet song

Three Reasons to Sing the Alphabet Song With Your Child


Do you remember singing the alphabet song as a kid? I know I do!

Familiarity with the alphabet is a huge predictor in reading success.

Signing this catchy song is a fun introduction to the alphabet. Here are three reasons to sing the alphabet song

1. Children Memorize Songs Quickly

Ever had a song stuck in your head? It just keeps replaying, without you even thinking about it. We are musical creatures, and easily remember words to songs.

Research shows that songs are a good way to teach academic material, because they are easily memorized. The beat, rhythm, and tune get embedded in our brain, and we find ourselves singing it again and again.

We can use this to our advantage when teaching our kids. The Alphabet Song will help them quickly memorize the names of the letters.

2. Singing the ABC Song Preps Your Student for Letter Identification

The Alphabet Song introduces your child to letters in a fun, non-threatening way. They just have to sing the song.

And while they are singing? They are building neuron paths in the brain that will later be associated with letter identification.

They are building a foundation.

You can’t build a house without a foundation.

Likewise, you can’t learn to read without a foundation. The alphabet IS the foundation for reading success. The Alphabet Song preps the brain for the important work of learning the alphabet.

3. You Can Teach Some Simple Activities with the ABC Song

Attention spans of young children are short. That means we have to take advantage of short teachable moments that occur throughout the day.

Your child will benefit more from consistent, short lessons than from long, drawn out ones.

Working with your child while singing the alphabet song will help you to increase your child’s reading skills without frustration.

Here’s How

Before you sit down with your child, quickly write the alphabet on a piece of paper. As you sing The Alphabet Song together, have him point to each letter.

You can also write each letter on a piece of paper, and spread them across the floor. As you child sings, have her jump from one letter to the next.

These quick activities help your child associate letter names with the letter shapes.

You want your child to sing the ABC song. Start singing it early, and often. Talk about letters as you’re out and about.

The more you play with letters, the easier your child will pick them up.

What are your reasons for singing The Alphabet Song?

Share in the comments!

6 spring learning activities

6 Spring Learning Activities

The seasons are changing!

Spring is in the air!

To celebrate, here are six simple spring learning activities.

1. Build a Nest

Using moss, thin twigs, and stones for eggs you and your child can create a realistic looking nest. As you work, you’ll be bringing science to life. You can discuss:

  • Characteristics of birds
  • Types of nests
  • Other animals that lay eggs
  • Bird migration patterns


2. Take a Spring Nature Walk

Spring’s the perfect season for taking a nature walk. Bring your camera, and let your children document signs of spring. You can keep your eyes peeled for:

  • Budding leaves
  • Baby animals
  • Bird nests
  • Birds flying back from the south
  • Rising rivers or streams
  • Mud puddles
  • Worms
  • Butterflies
  • Caterpillars
  • Flowers growing

3. Read a Springtime Book

There are lots of spring books for kids! A beautiful new one came out this year by one of our favorite authors, Kevin Henkes. His wife completed the lovely illustrations, and it’s just a sweet book to welcome spring (aff. links).

There are lots of other spring books to read. Head to your local library, and look for some of these titles:

As you read, talk to your kids about the books.

Have them make predictions. What do they think the caterpillar will eat next? What color flower will be on the next page?

Talk about fiction and non-fiction. Do caterpillars really eat lollipops? Do bears use pillows?

4. Play Hibernating Bear

An active spring learning activity, this simple game teaches children about hibernation.

First, gather a pile of blankets. Place them under the table to create a comfy cave.

Next, pick one person to be the bear.

The bear needs to gather berries and fish to eat before winter comes. (The child can walk around the room and pretend to pluck berries from bushes and fish from a stream.)

The bear then goes to the cave, and pretends to sleep.

The other players pretend winter is here. They can build a snowman, make a snow angel, or anything else they can think of.

As “spring” comes, the bear starts to toss and turn and get ready to wake up.

The bear wakes up and comes out of the cave, hungry and ready for action.

Another player can now be the bear if desired.

5. Plant Something

A list of spring learning activities wouldn’t be complete without some gardening! Kids learn so much from digging in the dirt.

If you don’t have a lot of space, there are plenty of plants you can grow in pots.

Let your child prepare the pot or ground, and plant the seed. Encourage him to water the plant each day (after you show how much water is needed.)

Using a spiral notebook as a gardening journal, your child can observe the plants and draw them. Let them draw what they see each day on a single page.

They’ll be able to look back and count how many days it took for the first green to show above the soil. They’ll have documented how long it took for leaves to appear. It’s a great scientific project!

You can practice measuring by using a ruler to see how tall each plant is getting.

Plants are so fun to study!

6. Make a Kite to Fly

If spring is windy where you are (like it is here), it’s the perfect season for building a kite. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Here’s the directions we’ll be following this next week.

We just need dowels, string, and newspaper. I think the kids are going to love it!

By making a kite, you’re teaching your kids:

  • How to follow directions
  • Measurement
  • Cutting skills
  • Geometry

As you work, you can talk about the tail. Why does a kite need a tail? Let your kids each give a guess. If no one guesses stability, you can offer that answer.

Once your kites are ready, give them plenty of time to dry. Then head outside and catch some light winds.

What are your favorite spring learning activities?

Have you ever made your own kite?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section!




what is tanner learning

What Is Tanner Learning?

Are you struggling to engage your children in learning?

Do you feel like learning games take too much effort or need too many weird supplies?

Are you ready for learning to be fun?

Hi! I’m Lisa. I’m a certified teacher in Washington State, with a Master’s Degree in Elementary Reading and Literacy. I’m an educational expert.

I’m also a homeschooling mama to seven children. Life is busy, and I don’t have time for complicated setups or intense prep.

I like simple and fun. That’s how learning looks around here.

We rarely use textbooks. My children are creating, moving, and singing as they learn.

Engage Your Children in Learning

Tanner Learning strives to help parents bridge the gap between learning and fun. I’ll be sharing ways for parents to play an active role in the educational process.

Whether your children are homeschooled like mine, go to public school, or are participating in a different educational path, you’ll find ideas to make learning fun.

Subscribe to Stay Up to Date

If you’re ready to make learning enjoyable, be sure to subscribe to my posts! I will add a new simple, engaging educational activity each week. Best of all–those activities won’t break the bank or eat up your free time as you prepare.

You’ll also be the first to learn about my courses as they become available. Perhaps you’ll be a Beta tester for me.

My Courses

I’m currently working on my first course–Teaching Reading Through Play. It’ll debut first on the Schoolhouse Teachers site.

Designed for students who know their letters, this course will help parents teach them how to read. It’ll be play based, and very engaging.

I’m working on 36 weeks of lessons, with 5 lessons each week. To keep your child’s attention, my lessons are short. It’ll be a slide show based course with video support as necessary.

My next course will be a writing course for early writers.


Do you need advice from an educational expert? I’m available for email or phone consultations. Click here to contact me for an initial consultation.

[Photo credit: Got Credit]