Since moving out of our very small town house into a single family home I've found that we have a bit of space in the unfinished part of the basement to dedicate to solely to crafts. My mother had done this for me when I was little and gave me a craft space out of the way of my younger brothers where I could create anything I wanted. I decided to do the same thing for my three year old.
The first and probably most important aspect of our craft area is the tub of trash-turned-treasures waiting to inspire an idea. I throw in paper towel rolls, egg cartons, interesting boxes and anything else that I suspect may inspire creativity. Obviously I don't let it get out of control. If the box is full then it's full- nothing else will be added. It's one tub and is kept out of the way under a shelf. I just toss items in here that would otherwise head for the recycling bin. I also keep other items on hand for her to use such as ribbon, pipe cleaners, paint brushes (she has to ask to use the paints), and glitter pens. She has easy access to all of these so that they can easily inspire a creative idea. Items she needs help with are kept visible to remind her she can use them, such as the button jar, a glue bottle, and the paints.
Since we started using this for arts and crafts I've noticed a change in how my daughter approaches projects. The other day I was finishing up an egg carton and she asked me if she could use it to make a train.
"What do you mean?" I asked, feeling lazy and not wanting to take the carton down to the basement if it wasn't actually going to be used.
"First I'll cut it here, and here, and here. In half. And then paint it and put it together like a train" she explained. (She doesn't actually know what half is, but it was a nice attempt at using a new vocabulary word.) Her plan was enough for me. We put it aside and this weekend while her sister was napping we got it back out.
She carefully dictated to me the exact steps. I (tried) to only do what she said. She gave me exact directions on how she wanted it cut. Then she stared at the pieces of the carton for awhile before deciding how she wanted to decorate them (with pieces of the Frozen ribbon, *sigh*) and then put them together. She needed me for the cutting, putting holes into the egg carton and squeezing the glue out of the bottle, but other than that she worked independently, problem solving and narrating as she went.
My daughter's train does not look much like a train. Yet she is ridiculously proud of her creation. What more can you ask for?