Boat-themed crafts for children are fun to make -- especially if they float. You can use common household items with the addition of some kids' craft materials and adult supervision. Adjust the difficulty of the craft to the children's ages and abilities, and they will learn about transportation and have fun at the same time.
Preschoolers can make colourful shapes like triangles, rectangles and circles, then glue them on construction paper to make a boat picture. Printable templates for shapes are available online, or you can draw them with black marker. Add blue tissue paper for water and cotton balls for clouds, and teach the children about shapes and colours as you go. See the References section for photos, templates and detailed instructions.
Preschoolers also can make easy sailboats by sticking a drinking-straw mast into a ball of clay at the bottom of a margarine tub, then taping a paper sail to the mast. Clean styrofoam meat trays can also be strung together to make a barge with the aid of a hole punch and some yarn. The meat trays and margarine tubs also will float nicely, a plus for smaller children who will enjoy seeing their boats work.
5 to 7 years
Make pirate ships, English men-o-war, Spanish galleons or three-masted schooners from cardboard milk cartons, with the addition of some construction paper, straws and a bit of playdough. Cover a milk carton in construction paper, glue small lumps of playdough on the centre, and glue part of another milk carton over the top. Then, poke holes over the playdough and stick straws down into it for the masts. Some paper sails, portholes and flags create any type of ship you want. Using craft foam rather than construction paper will enable the ship to float in water. Detailed instructions with templates and photos are available in the References section.
You also can make sailboats that really float from egg cartons, styrofoam paper or plastic cups, soap bar boxes or matchboxes, depending on age and skill. A super-easy boat also can be made from a foil pan, a vinyl report cover and a bamboo skewer, using playdough again to stick the mast into.
8 to 12 years
Origami boats are a time-tested and easy-to-make children's craft, and all you need is plain paper; even a half-sheet of old newspaper will do the job. Fold the paper in half, fold down the top corners to make a triangle shape, and then fold the remaining strip on the bottom upward. Do the same on the other side. (If you stop there, you've made a paper hat.) Open the hat toward you and flatten into a diamond shape, fold up the lower triangles on each side, and again flatten it into a diamond. Pull the top corners out gently and it will open into a boat. Neaten the edges and pull apart the bottom slightly if you want it to float. Diagrammed instructions are available online and in the References section. Older children also can make balsa wood boats if they are able to use a woodcarving knife safely. Once the boat is carved, attach a short dowel and a fabric sail with superglue or Krazy Glue, and add lead fishing sinkers to the bottom to keep it sailing upright. It can be sanded, painted and sealed for a sailboat the envy of any child.