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Craft No-Nos

Laurie Copley

Use these new alternatives to avoid common craft pitfalls that can be impractical, overly messy, or downright unsafe for your kids.

There are only a few short minutes left before class is over. Billy, in a whirlwind of activity, just sent the glitter jar dancing through the air to create a glittery snowfall throughout your room. Megan is in tears because she spilled paint on her brand new dress. And Taisha struggles to cut her paper with too-sharp scissors.

This scene would be enough to challenge even the most gifted art teacher -- much less the engineer you recruited to teach first-graders. How can you give your novice -- and experienced -- teachers the best resources to make their craft time a success?

As always, the most important factor to remember is safety first! We all know some of the basic craft guidelines, such as no chain saws or super glue. But where do you go from there?

Children's Ministry Magazine dug up the very best craft innovations to get you on your way. Keep reading to discover the newest craft alternatives to common craft no-nos. See page 54 for information on where to buy supplies.


Nothing works quite like a hot glue gun for instant bonding. A hot glue gun, though, reaches a temperature of 380 degrees, which can be dangerous and cause painful burns. Even a low-temp gun reaches a temperature of 230 degrees. For your safest choice, hot-glue crafts before children come to class, or choose a special nontoxic craft glue.

Recommended Resource

Use a craft glue such as Aleene's "Tacky" Glue. This extra-thick and extra-tacky glue is good for use on paper, fabric, wood, metal, glass, ceramics, and most plastics. It's nontoxic and dries clear. Available from Dick Blick for $3.39 (8-ounce bottle). Search catalog #A23826-1005.


Preschoolers love to glue, but their glue projects can get very messy. Young children often have difficulty controlling the amount of glue dispensed from a bottle, so use a thicker glue or glue gel. Pour a half-dollar-sized amount on a plastic lid, and give children cotton swabs to dip into the glue and then apply to their projects. This method significantly cuts down on glue-overload and mess.

Recommended Resource

Elmer's Galactic Glue is a washable, no-run gel that's safe and nontoxic. It dries clear with an iridescent glitter. Available from Dick Blick for $1.99 (6-ounce bottle). Search catalog #A23834-0004.


Felt can be difficult for children to work with. It's impossible to cut with safety scissors, and it's difficult to glue because it won't stick well to surfaces.

Recommended Resource

Craft foam is a wonderful substitute for felt. It's easier to work with because the foam doesn't absorb glue like felt does, and kids can cut it and draw on it. Wonder Foam comes in a package of 10 assorted colors in 12x18-inch sheets. Available from Dick Blick for $9.50 per package. Search catalog #A60947-1000.


Kids love glitter, but most teachers don't love the mess. For a glitter substitute, there's an entire line of glitter glues on the market today that are fun for kids and easy for adults to clean up.

Recommended Resource

"Kids Activity" Glitter Glue by Plaid comes in a variety of glitter colors and dries clear to leave only the glitter. Available from Plaid Arts and Crafts Online for $4.79 (4-ounce bottle). Search for glitter glue.


Food has been used in craft projects since we were little tykes. Remember macaroni necklaces? Today, however, unless you're making an edible project, avoid using food in craft projects. You'll show children that it's important to be good stewards of all God's resources.

Recommended Resource

For textural projects use sand, crumbled acorns, or crushed pebbles instead of wasting foods such as oatmeal, cereal, or rice. Crushed pebbles come in a variety of colors and in 2-pound packages for $1.69 each. Available from Dick Blick. Search catalog #A61005-1002.


Plaster projects can be fun, but they pose definite challenges because they take too long to dry.

Recommended Resource

Faster Plaster tub by Plaid breaks the mold of traditional plaster casting. Mix the plaster powder with water, and it transforms into a smooth, chip-resistant plaster mold. Sculptures can be microwaved on the spot or air-dried for 24 to 36 hours at room temperature. Faster Plaster tub is available in a 3-pound tub for $5.49 from Plaid Arts and Crafts Painting Online. Search for 67003.


Children love to paint, but paint isn't the best accessory for kids' church clothes. In addition, paint brushes must be cleaned immediately after use, and pictures need to dry before children can take them home.

Recommended Resource

For a fun alternative, use watercolor pencils. Have children color pictures with the pencils on watercolor paper. Then wash over the drawings with a damp brush to create a watercolor effect. The Crayola Watercolor Pencil Set includes 12 pre-sharpened pencils for $3.49. Available from Dick Blick. Search catalog #A20522-1009.


Cutting is a vital part of most craft projects, but stay away from projects that require the use of sharp tools such as knives, pointed scissors, and X-Acto knives.

Recommended Resource

Provo Craft Paper Shapers scissors are a fun alternative to regular blunt scissors. These scissors cut paper into varied edges, including pinking, scallop, and wave. Available at craft stores or from Michaels Arts and Crafts Stores for $19.99 (set of 12). Search for Paper Edgers 12.

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