Looking for something new or different to entertain and engage your littles? Why not add some free—or almost free—activities that are fun and can help your kids develop their fine motor skills? That’s anything that helps those fingers and muscles learn. If you can do activities that are fun, they’ll have no idea that what they’re doing is actually good for them. And you get to shake up your routine, or create a new one when they ask to go back and do more.
Our little wasn’t developing fine motor skills as he should, so we made a conscious effort to find activities that could help him while he was having fun. After all, if a kid knows something might be good for them, they’ll never enjoy it as much as if they thought they were just playing, right??
Over time, my trick has definitely worked, and our family now looks forward to a variety of these activities on a regular basis. Going to different workshops and craft events, we’ve seen our little develop an interest in building—and cool tools!—as well as more detailed work like painting and crafting. He’s proud of the pins and patches he’s earned, and he loves to see his projects displayed. He also has quite a few projects that created toys he enjoys, and he likes to point out that he built the car/train/jet/motorcycle that’s going across the floor.
Here are a few of our favorites, along with a couple that we’ll be checking out soon. If you know of any great events or activities we can add to the list, please share—we’d love to know about other fun building or craft events we might enjoy.
A local nonprofit who believes that art should be accessible to all, Inspire offers a free Family Art Day the second Saturday of each month from 10:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M. Family Art Day is designed for children of all ages and their families to try various types of art projects and mediums, using inspiration from children’s literature to build themes and illustrations for each event.
No reservations are required to attend the event, and all ages are welcome. Our little is just now really enjoying working on art, so Family Art Day is on the top of our list to check out in the coming months. A list of upcoming art days includes “I Will Not Eat a Tomato,” “The Dot,” and “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom”—one of his favorites—so I know we’ll be getting artsy soon. Inspire is located at 200 Queen Anne Court, San Antonio, TX 78209. For a full schedule and more details, visit http://inspirefineartcenter.org/events/free-family-art-day/.
The first Saturday of each month, Home Depot hosts a free kids’ workshop featuring some sort of build-it-yourself craft, using a kit they provide. The workshop is held from 9:00 A.M. to noon and you can often just walk up, but they ask that you pre-register to hold a spot. A description of the project and a picture of the finished product are usually included on the website so you’ll know what is featured that month.
All kids get to keep their craft and receive a certificate of achievement, a workshop apron, and a commemorative pin. Home Depot provides all of the tools and supplies you’ll need to make the project, so all you have to do is pre-register to guarantee that you’ll have a space in the workshop and then show up at Home Depot. Hammers, wood glue, paint, sand paper, or whatever else you might need is set up on tables where kids can build the craft. Most of the time, parents are assisting, which makes it a fun activity for kids to do with Mom, Dad, or both, in tow. Kids can keep their Home Depot apron and collect workshop pins for each session they attend, making the apron a place to display pins from the workshops they’ve completed.
We’ve done a wide range of projects, including planters, a fire engine with fire safety tips, a tabletop football game, a military jet (in honor of Veterans Day), a Minions scooter, and recently, something from Kung Fu Panda.
Tips: Because many of the Home Depot projects involve paint, don’t go in your best clothes. They seem to be doing more kits with stickers—probably because littles and paint aren’t the best mix—but each clinic features a different project, so you never know. The workshops are targeted for ages five and up, but I’ve seen kids as young as three participating. We started attending the workshops when our little was three-and-a-half.
Lakeshore Learning offers a free craft for kids each Saturday, 11:00 A.M. – 3:00 P.M., aimed at children three and up. No reservations are necessary—the crafts are offered on a come-and-go basis. We haven’t personally done a craft with Lakeshore, but I have mom friends who enjoy taking their kids. The San Antonio Lakeshore Learning Store is located at 327 NW Loop 410, San Antonio, TX 78216, on the other side of Loop 410 from North Star Mall.
The website lists the craft schedule with pictures of each craft so you can check out what’s ahead and decide which might be a good fit for your kids: http://www.lakeshorelearning.com/general_content/store_locations/storeCrafts.jsp.
Lowe’s offers “Build and Grow,” usually on the second Saturday of the month, but they don’t always follow that schedule. Build and Grow is held at 10:00 A.M., and there are limited spots (usually 50) at each Lowe’s location. Popular clinics, like a Marvel Avengers series they held last summer, fill up quickly.
Like Home Depot, kids attending Build and Grow receive an apron and all supplies are provided. When you complete a project, you receive a patch to add to your apron. Their projects often involve some cool angle: a race car that is self-propelled, a Christmas train that lights up, or Hulk’s tank from the Avengers series. (I’ve seen entire Boy Scout troops at Lowe’s clinics, working with their Scout leader to build their projects, so I’m not the only parent who thinks some of these are cool.) We’ve also done picture frames, planters, fire engines, train engines, and everything from the Avenger series except Captain America’s motorcycle (Mom missed registering for that one).
Lowe’s is updating the Build and Grow website, but it should be ready to accept registrations for their February 13th event. Details about the project and pictures are usually available online, too, so you can tell if it’s a project your child might enjoy.
Tips: Build and Grow is limited to 50 spaces at each Lowe’s location, and walk-ins aren’t usually accepted (Home Depot will allow walk-ins if they’re not fully booked). Lowe’s doesn’t always have tables set up in their clinic space; you might end up working on the floor, so once again, dress appropriately.
Confession time: I’m not a huge crafter. When I decide to tackle a project, I go all-in, but you won’t find me wandering the aisles of Michael’s looking for something to work on, and Pinterest should be classified as the devil for the time it can suck once you start clicking on projects.
However, I do like doing crafts with my little. I like to decorate for the holidays and getting him into it. I don’t like having to buy a ton of supplies to do one project, however, so Michael’s Kids Club has been a great resource for me. Held every Saturday, kids three and up can craft while you shop. Yes, you read that right: The kids participate in the workshop while you shop at Michael’s. (Note: Parents must remain on premises during the event.)
To participate in Kids Club, you can sign up in the store or online, or just drop in. It’s $2 per child, supplies included. We started doing these when my little was three, and to be honest, some of the projects were more than he could handle. So I stayed with him, and we did them together. He can now handle the crafts on his own, though I confess that I select ones I know he can do. (Mama is working to build his self esteem and fine motor skills at the same time, after all!) He loves it and likes seeing his handiwork on display.
A friend of mine doesn’t have a single crafty-like gene in her body but takes her daughter to the clinics. She has no desire to buy supplies, but her daughter loves it and it’s something they can do together. In her opinion, spending $2 to do a craft vs. having to buy a cart full of supplies, is definitely worth it. I agree.
Kids Club events are included in Michael’s overall schedule, so just look for Kids Club within their classes and events: