Library Crafts for the Craft-Phobic Children’s Librarian

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Library Crafts for the Craft-Phobic Children's LibrarianMany children’s librarians are crafty. They happily pull out the glitter and never bat an eyelash at the thought of allowing the kids to paint. Children come marching out of their story times carrying gorgeously decorated projects, and afterward, those librarians set right to work cheerily cleaning up the layers of marker caps, paper scraps, and wet clumps of glue-soaked glitter the budding artists have left behind.

I am not a crafty children’s librarian. The thought of allowing a group of children free rein with anything more than a crayon or a glue stick makes me nervous, and the clean-up process alone is enough to make me want to lock myself in my office and never come out. Still, I know it’s not fair to deprive an entire community of crafts just because I don’t like them. Below are some simple, fun (and budget-friendly) crafts that allow kids to express their creativity without jeopardizing  the craft-phobic librarian’s sanity.

  • Friendship Wristbands
    Kids Can Have Fun provides a free printable where children can color and cut out their own paper friendship bracelets, which they can easily fasten around their wrists using tape or a staple. To make this an even neater project (no scraps!), use a paper cutter to make strips of construction paper and invite kids to write and draw their own designs.
  • Sticker Scenes
    I have had great success with sticker scenes. Kids choose how to arrange a set of stickers on a given background to create a picture of their own. Oriental Trading sells these, but you don’t need to purchase kits to do this craft. Simply print out a few copies of a coloring page and put out whatever leftover stickers you have hanging around from previous programs.
  • Paper Masks
    Lots of different websites provide templates for making masks. Often, they are intended as parts of more elaborate projects with papier-mâché and other materials, but I find they work just as well on their own. I provide crayons or markers, Scotch tape, and popsicle sticks, and the kids turn themselves into everything from lions to superheroes. Some templates that have been especially popular are Masquerade Masks and Animal Masks, which both come from First Palette.
  • Pipe Cleaner Creations
    Kids are fascinated with pipe cleaners, and it is virtually impossible to make a mess with them. I don’t recommend them for really tiny kids, since the ends can be sharp, but for ages 4 and up, they can provide hours of entertainment. Kids can twist  two pipe cleaners together to make a candy cane or barber shop pole design. They can string beads onto the pipe cleaner and twist the ends to make a bracelet. They can even build with them like blocks, creating anything from a spaceship to a castle.
  • Transform a Paper Plate
    A package of paper plates opens up a world of simple craft possibilities. With a few embellishments, a paper plate can become a fishbowl, a snow globe, a steering wheel, a ping pong paddle, a mask, a flower, or a magnifying glass. Search “paper plate crafts” on Pinterest for inspiration.
  • Beyond Crayons and Paper
    Kids love to color, and they love it even more when they get to color on something unusual. Put out markers with aluminum foil or chalk with black posterboard. Cover some plain paper or a simple coloring sheet in Contact paper and let them experiment with dry erase markers. (Felt scraps make perfect erasers.) Colored pencils also make a great alternative to crayons, especially for older kids who are used to gripping a pencil properly.

Library crafts don’t have to be fancy to be fun and effective, and it’s not a crime to stick with materials that will engage kids’ imaginations without destroying your programming space. Keep things simple, focus on process over product, and watch as young artists surprise you with what they are able to create.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

About Katie Fitzgerald

Katie Fitzgerald holds degrees in English and library science, and has worked in small town and big city libraries, serving both children and teens. You can read her book reviews and posts about story time, picture books, and early literacy at Story Time Secrets. Also follow her blog on Facebook for kidlit quotations, story time suggestions, and interesting links.


  1. Love this list, thank you! I have a very small space surrounded by historic books. Finding crafts that aren’t messy, aren’t expensive and ARE age appropriate is a challenge, since I too am a craft-a-phobic when surrounded by kids in the library!

  2. These are great ideas for a mom with littles at home! My daughter loves doing “projects” but with a toddler running around, we need super simple and easy ideas! Thank you!

  3. These are good ideas for families, too, when we need a simple, less-mess craft! Good list!

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