Deployment is certainly not what anyone would call fun. No matter what role you play in a military family, deployments are difficult, but there can be moments of fun even during the hardest deployment. Whether it’s a backyard BBQ with a neighbor or an extra long walk with the dog or a sleepover with friends, fun moments still have a way of sneaking into deployment. This is especially true for kids – they seem to find joy in the simplest things, no matter what’s happening around them. Day trips, special treats and even deployment crafts for kids can help add fun to an otherwise unhappy time.
Adding fun to a deployment for a child can be very simple and one of the simplest is a fun craft project! Many deployment crafts for kids serve as both entertainment and a coping mechanism for dealing with the upheaval in their lives. Things like deployment countdowns or picture frames can be a great way to help children stay connected to their deployed parent. A friend of mine bought a hand casting kit for the family and her daughter loves looking at it to remind her of her dad. There are lots of things you can make so take your time and find something personal to your family.
Deployment Crafts For Kids
Decorate a care package.
If you’re sending a care package, having your child help is a win-win! Not only can they help decorate the box, but they get to spend time with you doing something fun. Deployment is certainly not fun, but the process of decorating a care package can be. Using stickers, markers and any other fun craft supplies can make this project the best part of deployment. If you need care package decoration ideas, check out my giant list of ideas here.
Make cards and pictures for the deployed parent.
While the construction paper and markers are out, keep the creative juices flowing and put together cards and pictures to send to the deployed parent. Writing notes and drawing pictures allow the child to communicate with the deployed parent and helps brighten the (oftentimes drab) room the parent is living in.
Put together a deployment wall.
Deployment walls are a great way to both educate the child about their parent’s deployment and keep them connected. There are so many examples of deployment walls on Pinterest (favorite #1 and favorite #2) and your family can make it your own. Things that often make an appearance include a countdown of some kind, clock with the time zone, pictures of the deployed parent and little ones together and an envelope to collect letters and pictures in to send to the parent.
Another option that might be good for older children is a brag wall. While this idea may be originally geared towards a military spouse, the concept could work wonders for a child who may be too old for a traditional deployment wall. When the deployed parent gets home, he/she can go through all the brags with the child and talk about them. Soccer goals, an A on a math test, finishing a paper, getting a driver’s license…all those little celebrations that a deployed parent doesn’t get to see in person, but can celebrate later.
Deployment countdown chain
A common feature of a deployment wall is a countdown chain and this is one of my favorite ways to keep track of the days. There’s something so satisfying about ripping a paper link off the chain each day! Children of all ages can help cut and glue the links, even decorating them if they’d like to. You could even make a chain for each month, rather than one for the entire deployment if it helps the time from getting to overwhelming.
A lot of the time, children don’t really understand where their parent has gone or how they’ve got there. You could illustrate their job role using a model making kit. For example, if they’re a plane engineer, you could get balsa wood model aircraft kits and put an aircraft together, just like the deployed parent would. Not only does this actually show what the parent does but it also makes the child or children feel more involved in their parent’s job. Plus, it’s a great gift for when that parent returns from deployment.
Daddy (or mommy) doll
A daddy (or mommy) doll is a wonderful deployment tool for children, but thanks to this tutorial, it’s also at the top of my list of deployment crafts for kids. It does require a bit more parental assistance than other deployment crafts, but it could also be one of the most meaningful. Very young children may not be able to assist in the sewing of the doll, although you could have a look at the best sewing machine for kids to see if it might be worth investing in, if you’ve got a few projects planned for them; it’s always a useful skill for them to learn. They could certainly help with stuffing the doll either way. Older children can of course be more involved in the project.
Kisses from daddy countdown jar
A very tasty deployment countdown option is the kiss a day jar. Children could help decorate and fill the jar, possibly even before their parent deploys. It can go near the deployment wall and would be a great way to end the day. You could also fill the jar with marbles or other small treats if you didn’t want to do chocolate kisses.
Popsicle stick picture frame
Keeping the deployed parent present in the child’s life can sometimes be the biggest challenge. I’m a big proponent of photos helping this process. Decorating a picture frame is a great deployment craft and you can make one for very little money. This popsicle stick one is very cute and patriotic. Plus kids get the bonus of having to eat a popsicle or two to make their picture frame! You could also purchase a cheap wooden picture frame from a craft store (normally they’re about $1) for your child to decorate as well.
Deployment crafts for kids don’t need to be intricate or expensive to serve their purpose. Having fun during a deployment and spending a little extra time with the at-home parent can help ease some of the tension. Let your little one get a bit messy and watch those smiles get bigger!