Do you volunteer at classroom parties, scout meetings, Sunday school or just plan epic birthday parties? Then read on–this article is for you!
If you’re not a teacher (just an enthusiastic mom like me), attempting to craft with a group of kids may seem overwhelming. But trust me, with these tips (and my printables) you can confidently walk into the next school party, scout meeting, or volunteer event ready to tackle crafts with almost any group of kids.
If you haven’t read my Tips To Prepare Crafts For A Group Of Kids, I highly recommend checking it out! The following tips are for the day of the event.
# 1: Know How to Get the Kids’ Attention
I’m putting this first because, truly, it’s a lifesaver. You need to know how to get the kids’ undivided attention.
When I go into a classroom, I ask the teacher if she or he has a special technique to get the kids’ attention. They usually have a saying or clapping technique that you can use. If the teacher doesn’t have a go-to, here are some attention grabbers to try:
- Turn the lights on/off
- Clap loudly
- Leader: “1, 2, 3”; Kids reply: “eyes on me”
- Leader: “Zip it, lock it, put it in your pocket”
You can use this anytime you need the room to STOP and pay attention. I use it after I set-up so the kids can listen to instructions. It’s also my attention grabber when it’s time to rotate activities (for more about rotating, see Tip #5).
# 2: If You Need to Set Up, Keep the Kids Busy
A lot of crafts and activities require set-up time, even if it’s just a few minutes. If you can set-up before the kids get there, great! If not, have something for them to do. I like to have them sit at their desks or in a circle and work on an individual activity until we’re ready to go. Make sure each child has a printout and pencil or crayon. Here are some great activities for set-up time:
- Wordsearches, Word Scrambles, Mazes
- Coloring pages
- Ask one of the adult volunteers to read a story
# 3: Delegate or Ask for Help
If you are the leader and have other volunteers helping you, don’t be afraid to delegate. You should not set-up everything while other volunteers stand around.
If you’re not the lead volunteer, make sure you ask, “What can I do?” Or better yet, just start doing something, even if that’s just engaging with the kids.
Ideally, everyone should be in charge of their own “station” (see Tip #5) and know ahead of time what they’ll do at the event. When needed, confidently ask, “Do you mind setting up the craft station?” or “Are you busy? Can you help me over here?” Occasionally, you may have to ask the teacher for help as well.
# 4: Use Name Tags
This strategy doesn’t really work for one-time classroom parties, but if you’re volunteering for ongoing Scout meetings, Sunday school or an after-school class, it’s totally worth it to have name tags. Knowing the kids’ names is so helpful when you’re working with them. I love my big roll of name tags.
Extra Tip: An adult should write the names in clear, big font. If you let the kids write their names, they may not be legible – even for the older kids. Bonus points if you can get a name list and write out the tags ahead of time.
# 5: If You Have Help, Make “Stations”
If you’re leading a group of kids by yourself, forget this tip and move on (stations probably won’t work for you). But, if you have help, split the kids into groups. Even if you have just six kids, you can split them into two groups of three. Kids pay closer attention and often have more fun when they’re working in small groups.
Extra Tip: If you’re going into a classroom, ask the teacher to assign groups ahead of time. She or he has invaluable knowledge about which kids work well together and which kids should be in different groups.
In general, it’s a good idea to have one adult per station, but you can have one adult lead two stations in certain circumstances.
For most events, it’s good to have four or five stations: three activity/game stations and two craft stations. Older kids can handle simple crafts or game stations with no supervisor.
# 6: Protect the Room
I don’t have to tell you that kids can make a mess. Use Dollar Store table clothes to protect the areas where you’re working. This is especially important if the kids will use any type of glue, paint, or markers. This also makes clean up super easy!
In addition, if you need to have a bucket of water or roll of paper towels nearby for a certain activity, make sure you plan for that during set-up.
Put needed supplies at each station and designate a place to throw away trash. I usually pull the nearest trash can right next to the “craft” table. Kids generally won’t stop what they’re doing to get up and throw away the trash. But if the can is right there, it’s much easier for them and for you!
# 7: Try to Keep Track of Time
Time flies when you’re having fun! If you can, keep an eye on the time. Here’s a general guide to follow:
- 5 minutes – Set-up
- 25-50 minutes -Stations/Activities/Crafts
- 5-10 minutes – Optional group activity if you’re doing stations
- 5 minutes – Clean up
Plan to get your stations set-up in about five minutes. Then, depending on how long your event is and how many stations you have, you can determine how much time you have for each station. Let’s say, for example, your event will last 1 hour and you’ll have five stations. If you set aside five minutes each for set-up and cleanup, that leaves 50 minutes for your stations. You should switch between stations every 10 minutes.
Use your watch or your phone’s stopwatch to keep track of time before shouting “SWITCH!” Check in with the craft station to make sure everyone is done before switching. That’s usually the station that needs the most time.
After stations, you can plan for a 5-to-10 minute group activity (one volunteer can handle this while the others focus on cleaning up the station areas if needed). This is a great time to bring the excitement level back down with a low-key activity like reading a book or playing Bingo.
If kids are zooming through your activities faster than expected, Don’t Panic!
Just pull out your backup craft/activity (see Tip #10 below). If you forgot your backup, utilize quick games like charades, “guess the drawing,” or hangman.
As a last resort, ask the kids if they have a game they enjoy playing in their classroom. The kids NEVER disappoint. They might suggest games like four corners, 7-up, or categories. Don’t worry they will be happy to explain the rules.
# 8: Use Disposable Supplies
Do yourself a favor and make clean up easier by using disposable supplies. Here are a few smart swaps:
- Use cut up sponges instead of paintbrushes. You won’t spend any time cleaning brushes.
- Use paper plates to hold small craft pieces or paint color pallets.
# 9: Write Names On Crafts
Teachers are used to writing a child’s name or student number on items, but as a mom, I’ve gotten burned on this so many times. If you’re the one in charge of the craft, ask the child to write his or her name on the back of the craft (if possible). If it’s a craft that can’t have a name written on it, initial masking tape strips that you can put on the craft and easily remove later.
# 10: Always Have a Backup Craft or Activity
Even after all of your planning, there will come a day with time just doesn’t work in your favor. Sometimes a piece of an activity breaks and it’s just not going to work anymore. Things happen. That’s when the backup activity becomes you lifeline. Here are some simple, fun backup activities to keep in your back pocket:
- A stack of 100 cups. Kids LOVE stacking cups to see how high they can build a tower. Once when I ran out of things to do, a classroom of 25 kids played with the cups. I broke them into five groups that each had 20 cups and I said, “Who can build the tallest?” Then I challenged them to build the fastest.
- Bingo. Print Bingo cards at home and bring them with you. If you need a fairly fast game, play the traditional one: horizontal, vertical, or diagonal line wins. If you really need to fill up the clock, let the kids play to fill their entire cards. I usually play until I get at least three winners. This is also a great game to play at the end because each kid has to sit calmly with their own card and listen to what’s called. It seems to bring the excitement down. There were times when I had prizes (i.e. a pencil) for every kid and they could pick their prize based on the order they won bingo. Or no prize at all works too. They just love yelling “BINGO!” Tip: no need to bring something to cover the squares, just use a crayon or marker to make an “X” over the space that is called.
- Print-outs. Use one or more of the print-outs I suggested in Tip #2, such as word searches, madlibs, coloring pages, a story, etc.
Generally, you’ll never need to use your backup. Time usually flies! The one I’ve used most is the cups. I bring them EVERY time.
Remember: It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect
I know this is a hard one for some of you, but try to remember that it doesn’t have to be perfect. And honestly, it rarely is with a group of kids. Just remember, you’re there to help the kids have fun and the more relaxed and easy-going you can be, the more fun both you and the kids will have together.
Just remember to smile. Not only do you got this, You’re going to ROCK this!