Discover: 50 Functional Art and Craft Projects for Kids

When it comes to art projects, I’m a big fan of form + function. For many many years now, one of my day jobs has been graphic design work. I consider myself pretty lucky because three-quarters of the time it’s a lot of work…but the other 25%…? Pure PLAY. You wouldn’t believe how much time I spend down on the floor folding up pieces of paper for packaging experiments, building out mini dioramas to see what a pattern-printed wall will look like, or scribbling fun little brand idea drawings out in colored pencil.

What I continue to learn from my own experience is that art, design, and play truly go hand-in-hand. And I mention all of this because, when it comes to planning kids’ projects for barley & birch, my first thought is almost always, “what will they be able to DO with this?” and then, “how can I make sure this feels like play?”

Serious art is born from serous play | Discover a collection of over 40 functional kids art projects via barley & birch

The beauty of functional art projects (for kids and adults alike) is that long after the actual “making of,” they become part of a larger hands-on art experience through use or play.

Since working on b&b, I’ve kept a list of people and projects I’ve found inspiring because they put the “fun” in functional art (three cheers for projects you can use or play with!) With so many of us at home and mostly indoors right now, I thought it was high time I shared some of my coveted favorites, so I put together a little collection (grouped by themes!) that you can use to find projects that will keep your littles busy long past the art and crafting is over.

Functional Art Projects for Kids – Table of Contents

Each of these lovely ideas reinforces the idea that art isn’t just made to hang on the wall – we can have just as much fun with the product as the process!

Looking for more ways to explore art with your kids at home or in a classroom? Pair these projects with our free printable kids’ art challenge and collection of 50+ kids’ art project ideas for a simple way to encourage art investigation and play!

Kids Functional Art Theme 1: Modern Classics

These kids’ art projects are four twists on classics that put the “fun” in “functional” and encourage creativity through sustainable supplies.

This collection of over 40 functional kids art projects encourages little ones to create hands-on art they can play with and use in everyday life. | via barley & birch

Kids Functional Art Theme 2: Animal-Themed Crafts

Let out your inner art animal with this group of creative creatures that will have your kiddos playing all day!

Animal-themed art and play projects for kids - part of a collection of over 40 functional art projects that encourage little ones to create hands-on art they can play with and use in everyday life. | via barley & birch

Kids Functional Art Theme 3: Wearable Costume Art

Proudly wear your work with these four handmade costume ideas that use creative art processes and recycled supplies!

DIY Costume art and play projects for kids - part of a collection of over 40 functional art projects that encourage little ones to create hands-on art they can play with and use in everyday life. | via barley & birch
Four wearable functional art ideas for kids

Kids Functional Art Theme 4: Fantasy Play

Peg dolls, fairies, mermaids, and gnomes – this artistic quartet of crafts is perfect for puppet-making or small-world play.

A photo collage of four fantasy-themed functional art ideas for kids.

Kids Functional Art Theme 5: Pretend Play Food

Food glorious food! From coloring to cardboard cutting, these DIY pretend play food projects are great opportunities for artistic exploration that can be used over and over for dramatic play.

Pretend food functional art project ideas for kids

Kids Functional Art Theme 6: STEAM Play

Need an escape? These 4 creative projects will fire up your kids’ imaginations and small-world-building skills...

Four STEAM-inspired art and play projects for kids

Kids Functional Art Theme 7: Nature Exploration

This group of artful activities inspires kids to make something they can use to get outside and explore the natural world right outside their front door!

Four functional nature art projects that inspire kids to create something they can use for outdoor exploration. | from barley & birch

Kids Functional Art Theme 8: Artful Badges, Trophies, and Awards

If you’ve worked your way through all the projects on this list so far, YOU deserve an AWARD! Here are a few of our favorite handmade prizes for art-standing efforts!

Award-themed art and play projects for kids
  • Create a set of art badges (with free printables!).
  • Craft clay medals for the win!
  • These kid-made beaded initials make stylish handmade awards.
  • Declare yourself the functional art winner with an upcycled trophy.

Kids Functional Art Theme 9: Loose parts and Found Objects

Explore sewing with scraps, repurposing nature finds, and recycling loose parts with this mini medley of functional art projects!

Four loose parts kids functional art project ideas

Kids Functional Art Theme 10: Medium Exploration

Looking to experiment with new art mediums and processes? Here are four fun functional art activities that will have your kids cheering for more!

Four kids functional art projects

Kids Functional Art Theme 11: Home and Habitat-Building

From the city to the country, these homes and habitats are STEAM-filled, upcycled stunners your kids can play with for days.

Four STEAM-filled habitat and home-building functional art projects for kids
Four STEAM-filled habitat and home-building functional art projects for kids.

Can’t get enough of this handmade goodness? Art-lovers will enjoy our list of 50+ amazing projects to help kids discover new art mediums (pair the projects with a book from our favorite art-themed picture books FTW!) And check out our list of 50 inventive ideas for a family movie & craft night,

This collection of over 40 functional kids art projects encourages little ones to create hands-on art they can play with and use in everyday life. | via barley & birch
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Amanda E.

With a passion for cultivating imagination, Amanda aims to help kids and families discover their creative potential through art, play, adventure, activism, conservancy, and community. Amanda has a background in graphic design, environmental design, and art curation. When not playing with ideas and designs for barley & birch, she enjoys working in freelance design, art, and illustration.

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    • You and your crew have made so many amazing things – it was nearly impossible to narrow down which ones to share! I love everything you make, so thank YOU for letting me include some! – Xx Amanda