In the comment section of this post, Cici asked:
"Can you expand a little? What do you (or would your son do) with the small squares and circles of felt and the sheep's wool?"
O.K., below are a few more ideas for children's handcrafts! :) But first, a quick disclaimer ...
I am by no means an expert in this area. If anything, the reason I am concentrating so much on it is that I fear in the past I have fallen too short! With any child - but especially one with developmental delays - you look for the open windows, the pathways to learning. And here I have this crafty little guy, who, for all of his challenges, is good with his hands and joyously open to art experiences. How can I not make the most of that?
Some of these ideas are a bit beyond EB right now, but I'm including them because they may be just right for another child (and I plan to try them with my older two). My plan is to allow EB access to materials and projects that are comfortable for him, and slowly work in activities that will challenge his attention level. I will probably make up a very small basket to begin with - with just one or two items for him to handle. As he gets used to his basket, and as his patience builds, I will increase the number of materials inside as well as the complexity of the projects.
And one more thing ~ most of these ideas are not my own, but ones I have gleaned from wonderful craft books like The Children's Year, All Year Round, Earthways and The Children's Seasonal Treasury. Directions for craft projects of all kinds can be found in these books.
As with most natural materials, wool felt is wonderful to hold and work with. It is, however, more expensive than acrylic felt, so I try to be careful how we use it. Mainly, we will use it for small crafts and simple stitching practice.
I will ask dh to make a felt board and then the boys will make and use various shapes cut from felt to stick on the board ~ making up stories and practicing skills as they do (weather, letters, numbers, shapes, faces etc.). We'll keep the shapes we collect in small baggies and add to our collection through the year. The older two can draw the shapes themselves, then cut them out. For EB, who'll be learning to use scissors this year, I will provide pre-cut shapes in his basket.
(Note ~ the following felt crafts are for slightly older children who can handle a large-eyed needle.)
The older boys can stitch the felt with bright strands of embroidery floss or yarn and create their own designs. These "embellished" felt pieces could be the beginnings of small handmade gifts later on.
I also might take 2-3 squares of felt, lay them together and fold them in half; then, stitch up the side to create a small sewing book. Again, simple stitches can be made, and small felt shapes and buttons or can be sewn on for fun. This can be an ongoing project.
Small felt beads and buttons can be strung through with thread ~ bracelets and necklaces made this way would make pretty gifts, and at Christmas, add a jingle bell or two!
Another nice use for felt shapes is to make a small pincushion or soft toy. Cut out shapes (circles, stars, squares, hearts, leaves) in double, and stitch along one side, but leave a small opening. Stuff sheep's wool (or cotton batting) inside and close up your shape with final secure stitches. This would make a nice addition to your handwork basket (or Grandma's)! Before stuffing, you might also sprinkle the wool with a bit of essential oil or some crushed dried herbs.
I have a small collection of plain sheep's wool I've been itching to use, and I'd love to add some colorful wool roving to our collection. The wool we have now was bought online, but once we had a batch of raw sheep's wool (quite raw it was too - we got it straight from a sheep farm we visited). We washed and "carded" the raw wool into a soft pliable wool. We never did get around to dying and spinning it - maybe next spring. Come to think of it, that was a really fun rabbit trail - I'll have to post more on that later.
In the meantime you could get a small amount of clean wool and use two small wire brushes (as found at the pet store) to card the wool. Small bits can be rubbed between palms to make "yarn." (Or perhaps try out a drop spindle. Ask at local yarn shops about this.) Pure, soft sheep's wool is truly lovely for little hands to play with. It can be fluffed out into a ball, or twisted into shapes - and it can also be used to make imaginative scenes on the felt board. Kind of like painting with wool. :)
You can also offer a small amount of wool (colored would be nice here) and a few pinecones and let the children pluck out bits of wool to "decorate" their pinecone "trees." A walnut shell, with a small bit of wool tucked inside would make a soft cradle for a tiny doll or small "seed friend." (Seed friends will have to wait for a fall post!)
Plain or colored wooden beads are fun to string along with thin strips of leather or pipe cleaners (knot one end to make it easier). You could also use pipe cleaners and beads to craft little people - perhaps clothe them with bits of felt and fleece.
Soft balls of colorful yarn can be used for so many crafts. Before fall I will take the boys to the yarn store and let them each pick out their own color skein of yarn. Using children's needles (plastic or wooden) you can stitch with it on burlap (secured by a small wooden hoop) or on a plastic cross-stitch canvas.
You can also make pom-poms and attach a jingle bell for fun (these make cute Christmas present embellishments). At some point this fall we'll try to make yarn dolls. And fingerknitting is something I plan to teach both Earlybird and Crackerjack to do, while Bookworm would like to learn how to knit properly.
A small ball of beeswax is lovely to smell and mold with, but can be hard for little hands to manipulate. EB does have strong fingers, but he'd soon lose his patience I think. I may still place a small ball in his basket so he can feel it, smell it and play with it a bit. And rolling sheets of beeswax into candles would be a fun activity one week - especially if we're talking about bees! (September is National Honey Month!)
So there are a few more ideas for the little ones' crafts! I'd love to hear what you enjoy doing for handwork ~ drop me a note!