Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?

“Do you wanna build a Snowman?”

“No, no I don’t”

“How about a knitted doll? Beaded necklace? Pom-Pom Panda? Woolly purse?”

Yes, I am talking CRAFT KITS! The dreaded craft kits. Of course they look very appealing sat there all colourful and innocent on the supermarket shelves. Drawing you in with their promise of wholesome fun and quality family time. The pictures on the boxes of beaming children and proud parents. But this is a lie people, these craft kits signify the end of family unity. They do not deliver on their promise of homespun creations, unless you re-define the word creation.
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Now, I love craft. I completed an Art degree, once I wrote an essay entitled ‘What is Art?’ (it was inconclusive) but, I can tell you these craft kits are not Art. They are a form of torture created by evil psychopaths to test the family unit. If you survive one of their making experiences you are indeed a strong family and should probably receive the Victoria Cross for bravery.

You’ve all been there I’m sure, the enthusiastic child runs towards you clutching a brightly coloured box yelling “Can we make this?” It all happens in slow motion, your stomach drops, you turn, knowing you have seconds, if that. Seconds to get to that box, to divert the child, to guide the family to safety. But, your feet are stuck to the ground, nothing seems to work, your hands stretched out in front of you. Just as a strangled “Nooooooo!” escapes from your lips the box is ripped in half and thousands upon thousands of tiny beads fly out in all directions. You spend the rest of the afternoon picking up beads from the most unlikely places, whilst punishing your child for their enthusiasm. This is before you have even sat down and tried to begin the craft.

My daughter and I have attempted many of these ‘projects’. It’s when you realise that all excuses have run out and you cannot escape the activity, you sit down together. For a while you stare despairingly at the various components, whilst your independent, determined daughter reads the instructions.
IMG_20150221_135108At some point it becomes apparent she’s been attempting to read the Chinese version and you struggle to prise them from her. Now in charge, you begin to allocate the work:

“Now I had better do this, then perhaps if you do this… oh wait, no I better do this bit. How about you do this? Oh you can’t…well you watch for a minute and then you can do this bit. You don’t want to watch? Yes, alright you go off and watch T.V and then I’ll call you back when I find something you can do.”

Believe it or not this is the best case scenario. You end up completing the project on your own and your child joins in by sticking the eyes on. O.K, it doesn’t look like the one on the box but you have used all the parts and no one is crying.

If your child does not allow this approach you will have to expect a certain blood bath. PVA glue everywhere, children stuck to the table. Paint that doesn’t paint, glue that doesn’t stick, paper that dissolves in your hands, beads with no holes and paintbrushes with only one hair. For three hours you have held that rope doll together, so the glue will dry and it still hasn’t stuck. Your child almost certainly believes that you are to blame for the disaster.
“It looks alright on the box! What have you done to it mummy?”
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At Christmas we sat down with my mum to make the paper chains with Millie. We ripped most of them up whilst trying to separate them. Then they wouldn’t stick. We ended up sellotaping them within an inch of their lives whilst Millie looked on in disgust. Sellotape, the saviour of all craft projects. That was until I discovered Duct tape. I love Duct tape. I was also thinking of exchanging PVA glue for a nail gun next time. What do you think?

Then a few days ago we attempted a knitting kit. Firstly, I had a go. I gave up after 6 attempts at reading the instructions and completely messing it up. My Uncle came over and unpicked my work, reckoning that simply reading the instructions carefully would enable a good product. After a few attempts he also declared it was futile.
IMG_20150219_114853 Millie retrieved the knitting from us and took it over to my Gran, who was wearing a jumper she had knitted herself, and asked for help. Gran took the work and then after a couple of minutes explained that the light was bad and she couldn’t even see the thing. It now sits like a tribute to our stupidity in my craft graveyard, It’s a lonely cupboard where my craft goes to die.

If by some piece of luck or sheer willpower you manage to finish one of these projects you are rewarded by having to display the horrific gargoyle for weeks on end. Eyes that have slipped down the face, squashed body parts stuck on at uneven angles. A nasty combination of colours that would offend even the most colour blind of people. It sits there as a reminder of the arguments, the tears, heartache and broken promises. After a few weeks you throw the thing away, when the kids are at school and are left with that horrible feeling that you just destroyed/discarded a piece of your child’s imagination.
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So I am sorry if I have ever bought one of these kits for your child and you to enjoy. It was an innocent mistake that I will not make again. If you want to make something with your kids then my suggestion is that you throw down a whole load of paper, stickers, cardboard and a large roll of duct tape and leave them to it. Then the next time you are in the store and you see those boxes and are wooed by the promise of innocent fun for you and your child. Walk away. Do not build that snowman!

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5 Comments

  1. Claire

    And the art programs are just as bad!!
    Art Ninja being the current favourite in our house – he happens to be able to us “Ninja Time” which covers the waiting around (for days) for the paint to dry.
    Half term nearly over and all that is to show for our goblins is a heap of soggy, painted sponges stuck to the dining table!!

  2. Clare

    Jen, excellent piece as always. We have learnt to our cost, about these craft kits, and found always the best solution is just to raid the recycling bin for materials, then use your own creativity – no instructions or picture to live up to, and they are just as pleased with what they have made!!!

  3. Elllie

    I love this Jen. Daniel recieved a Dragon Puppet kit for Christmas. Every single day since he has asked to make it. Last week, we did – or rather – Daddy did it with him. I escaped under the pretence of feeding the baby. The paints were dry and one of the round bits was missing. Eventually a dragon appeared. It is now sitting forgotten on the dresser.
    BUT…. it might just have been worth the smile on Daniel’s face when David said “YES” I’ll do the dragon puppet kit today!

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