Crafts are one of those things I don’t write often, but when I do, I almost always make a sale. The magazines that use them, need a steady stream. The reason crafts are a staple of many children’s magazines is because they help to make content interactive. They don’t just offer a story or article, but let the child move beyond the magazine to create something new. Interactivity is a goal of many magazines, work that engages the reader and also leads to the reader doing something. A craft can fit this bill.
They’re not difficult to write either. In fact, writing a craft article has a lot in common with writing a recipe. You usually have a list of
ingredients (materials and tools needed) and a list of directions. The threes keys to an effective craft for children’s magazines are (1) simplicity, (2) economy and (3) usefulness. Simplicity means the child can do the craft with minimal adult assistance. Some magazines (such as Fun for Kidz) like crafts that depend upon adult and child working together, but most magazines want a craft that the child can do on his own. Economy means using materials the child has access to without purchasing much (or anything). Recycled materials are particularly popular with some magazines. And usefulness means the object that results from the craft can be used as a gift, or is a playable toy or game, or is a useful device.
I’ve sold a very cute paper newt to Highlights, as well as a paper hat and a valentine that was inspired by fortune cookies. These crafts looked good on the page, and used materials most child have. They also resulted in objects the child might enjoy playing with (newt), wearing (hat) or giving for a holiday (valentines.)
Crafts for adults can be more complicated. I’ve sold teddy bear patterns to Teddy Bear and Friends. Adult crafts can tie into another piece, especially in the educational setting, I sold a frog puppet to an education magazine that also bought a frog snack and a frog poem. I sold a snowflake craft to an educational magazine that also bought a snowflake poem, and I sold a lamb craft to a religious educational magazine that also bought an interactive story and a game, all featuring lambs.
Craft ideas sell best when they are simple to do and explain – this also makes for the best pay rate relative to the amount of time and materials you’ve put into making the craft. Craft explanations are usually short. Most magazines don’t like to see kids using ANYTHING dangerous (not even pointy things to poke holes in eggs). If you’re selling to a magazine with a theme, write a sentence or two of introduction that ties your craft clearly to the theme.
Want more tips? Crafts tied to specific places or unique celebrations or anything related so science activities or history are always hot. Some girl magazines are getting into “DIY” make-overs so crafts that produce something that can be used to decorate a girl’s room are an easy sell. The older the reader, the more a craft should have room for the crafter’s own creativity. Many older kid crafts are more suggestions of embellishing things rather than step-by-step directions that will always lead to identical results.
One way to get ideas is to spend some quality time looking through adult craft magazines and women’s magazines. Many times the complicated, adult crafts will spur ideas for simple, fun, kid-friendly alternatives. Brainstorm ways to embellish “every kid” staples like novelty pillows for the bedroom, picture frames (or other ways to display photos), book covers (always popular with magazines as “back to school” time), sneakers, backpacks, hair, t-shirts, party invitations, party decorations, holiday decorations. Look for decorating trends and consider kid-friendly additions or versions.
And have fun!
With over 100 books in publication, Jan Fields writes both chapter books for children and mystery novels for adults. She’s also known for a variety of experiences teaching writing, from one session SCBWI events to lengthier Highlights Foundation workshops to these blog posts for the Institute of Children’s Literature. As a former ICL instructor, Jan enjoys equipping writers for success in whatever way she can.