For some reason I can never fathom, it’s assumed that if you’re involved with youth and teen services in ANY capacity, you have automatically been gifted by the craft goddesses, like Aurora and the fairies bestowing gifts at her presentation. You must LUV crafts, and glitter oozes from your pores, and you instantly know how to turn scraps of anything into five different STEAM related, fun filled and engaging art activities that will instantly endear you to your audience.
No sorting hat read my brain for craft knowledge and put me in teen services, no testing found aptitude for glitter and pom-poms, and speeding bullets definitely travel faster than I knit. I like to do crafts, which helps, and don’t have a fear of making mistakes in front of teens, which impresses them to no end, but the best thing is that I have a stash of go-to websites for easy crafts that challenge teens enough to keep their interest, yet aren’t too hard to throw them off. They’re easy on me because they require little prep or craft knowledge, which is wonderful when I’m running from location to location.
Cubeecraft: Cubees are printable papercraft people that require a printer, paper, scissors, tape, and a little bit patience. They are free to print and designed by a host of different people; you can find them for almost any character or theme. They’re rated by number of scissors for how difficult they are to create, so you can go from easy to hard depending on the age range of your program, or the skill level (or patience) of your teens. I’ve done Cubee programs based on different themes- Hello Kitty, Star Wars, Scott Pilgrim… all were huge hits, and teens wanted to do tons. You can pair the Cubees with a movie night, a pop culture program, or just have them out for a make and take craft program.
Pony beads: With a bag of beads, some string and a little bit of research, you can have a huge crafting program by just letting teens loose with pony beads. Relatively cheap (online you can find them for $4 for 1000 pieces) and in a ton of colors, you can have teens search online for patterns they want to make, from cuff bracelets and necklaces to character key chains and more. The patterns use the basics of weaving (thread the plastic wire in and out in the way the pattern shows), and teach the basic of following map keys and pattern making- after a few attempts bring out graph paper and colored pencils, and teens will be jumping to create patterns of their own.
Zentangle: Often called coloring for adults, Zentangle is an excellent way to get teens to relax and get back into art when they’ve been beaten down because they “can’t draw.” Zentangle is abstract art through repetition, which means to me structured doodling. You can find hugely detailed patterns online to get teens hooked- print them out and have them color with pencils and markers to begin. Then show them the patterns, and have them start their own by having print outs of the basics such as this:
and then letting them explore their own expressions. If they’re brave enough, showcase their art by hanging it up in a specific area- all you need is string and paper clips, and either a ceiling space or a corner that can be used and reused for the occasion.