If your elderly parent or older adult has dementia, the time you spend together may be getting more difficult as their memory lapses.
Creative engagement, however, has been shown to help people with dementia tap back into their personalities and sharpen their senses (source: Forbes), so you might give arts a crafts a try the next time you visit them.
11 Simple Crafts For Adults With Dementia
Here are eleven arts and crafts that are both appropriate and beneficial for dementia patients.
We’ve also included instructions and steps so you can show your senior parent or loved one how it’s done.
1. Memory Boxes
Creating memory boxes is a simple craft that involves decorating a box and filling it with personal mementos.
These mementos can help to stimulate reminiscence, which has been shown to help boost cognitive function in those with dementia.
Instructions to Create A Memory Box:
- Find a box that catches your eye and is the right size for the contents you will be filling it with.
- Collect various items to put in the memory box, such as old photographs, postcards, trinkets, and other sentimental objects.
- Encourage your senior to decorate the box using paint, stickers, or markers to make it personalized and meaningful.
- Place the gathered items in the box in a way that is visually appealing and easy to access for reminiscing.
2: Craft A Scrapbook
Scrapbooking is a great activity for a dementia patient because it is easy and the finished result makes a wonderful keepsake.
Depending on the items you use, it can be great for reminiscence therapy, too.
Instructions For Scrapbooking:
- Before scrapbooking, you need to pick a theme. Perhaps your theme is family, a certain time period, a holiday like Christmas, or a season such as summer.
- Once you know what your theme will be, it’s time to find photos that fit the theme. This might be something you do for your senior due to their dementia stage, but certainly, let them assist you if they’re interested.
- To make a beautiful scrapbook, head to local craft store for the following supplies:
- an empty photo album
- patterned paper
- card stock
- a glue stick
- embellishments ranging from jewels to ribbons and everything in between (make sure they aren’t a choking hazard for someone in the later stages of dementia).
- With your senior by your side, determine what the layout of the scrapbook will be.
- Once you’re happy with it, you or they can glue everything into place. Then add embellishments to make each page sparkle and shine!
- With card stock or decorative pens and markers, go in and title each page. You might want to add journal entries for the photos per page, but this is optional.
3: Roll Out And Decorate Cookie Dough
The scent and taste of freshly baked cookies will brighten anyone’s day!
You can mix the ingredients if your loved one is no longer able to follow a recipe.
The important thing is to spend a wonderful day together chatting, reminiscing, and laughing as you create your goodies.
Note: AVOID this activity if your loved one has food allergies and you can’t find non-allergenic substitutions!
Following Betty Crocker’s recipe, here are the ingredients and quantities you’ll need to make chocolate chip cookies:
- Semisweet chocolate chips (2 cups)
- Vanilla (1 teaspoon)
- Egg (1)
- Packed brown sugar (3/4 cup)
- Granulated sugar (3/4 cup)
- Softened butter (1 cup)
- Salt (1/2 teaspoon)
- Baking soda (1 teaspoon)
- All-purpose flour (2 ¼ cups)
Instructions To Make Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Grab a small bowl and add the salt, baking soda, and flour, stirring with a whisk.
- In a separate, bigger bowl, combine the sugars with the softened butter.
- Plug in an electric mixer and stir the mix on medium speed for about a minute. You can also stir by hand, but in both cases, you should do this part, not your senior.
- The cookie dough mixture should have a fluffy texture by this point. Next, add the vanilla and the beaten egg, then the flour.
- Finally, dump in as many chocolate chips you as desire.
- Using a rolling pin, flatten the cookie dough. Feel free to use cookie cutters to punch out shapes.
- Bake The Cookies
Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about eight to 10 minutes. The cookies should be golden brown when they are done.
Remove them from the oven and let them cool for at least 10 minutes before eating them.
If needed, store any unbaked dough in a plastic container in the refrigerator and bake within 2 – 4 days (or store in the freezer up to two months).
Decorate your tasty cookies as you and your senior wish!
Helpful tip: If you’d rather, you can always buy premade cookie dough. This saves you time on a lot of the above steps.
Learn more about Things To Do With Elderly When Stuck At Home.
4: Play With Play-Doh
Play-Doh is modeling dough that many kids tinkered with growing up.
Reclaim the joys of your childhood and introduce your loved one with dementia to the fun of Play-Doh by crafting different shapes with it.
If you can’t find any Play-Doh at your local store, you can order it online or you can always make your own.
The lifestyle blog, I Heart Naptime, has a great recipe for homemade play dough.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Food coloring
- Vegetable oil or coconut oil (2 tablespoons)
- Lukewarm water (2 cups)
- Cream of tartar (4 teaspoons)
- Salt (3/4 cup)
- All-purpose flour (2 cups)
Instructions To Create Your Play Doh:
- Grab a large pot and add in the cream of tartar, salt, and flour, incorporating the ingredients. Then pour in the oil and water.
- Squeeze in a few drops of the food coloring. Let your senior pick the color!
- Turn your stove burner on to medium-high; this is something you should do on your own. Cook the Play Dough ingredients for a couple of minutes, stirring as you go along. Eventually, the ingredients will thicken.
- Turn the stove off and remove the pot. Transfer the homemade Play Dough to wax paper or a gallon-sized plastic bag.
- When the Play Dough has completely cooled, you and your senior can begin playing. Craft anything you wish!
5: Color Large-Print Coloring Books
This one is easy and doesn’t require any special steps, so it’s perfect for someone with dementia.
Browse online or treat your senior loved one to a shopping day to buy them a couple of coloring books that catch their eye.
The print of the books should be large, as should the illustrations so your senior can see all the details.
Crayons and colored pencils work well. You can use watercolors (if you take each coloring page out of the book) are fine to use as coloring mediums.
If your senior is unable to use fine motor skills, they can still enjoy painting with water through special books that simply require a wet paintbrush to bring beautiful pictures to life!
6: Make Paper Flowers
Paper flowers are gorgeous, and they never wilt or die.
Making paper flowers also conveys a sense of purpose because you can create various cheerful decorations out of them once you’re done.
If you’re going to make some artificial flowers with your senior, crepe paper in bright colors is a great choice.
It can rip, but it doesn’t do so as easily as lighter types of paper can (tissue paper, for example).
Instructions To Make Paper Flowers:
- Cut out a template for each leaf and petal. The templates will help you and your senior along when making the flowers.
- The stem of your faux flowers should be a wooden skewer.
- Cut the pointy tip off so your senior doesn’t hurt themselves.
- Then wrap green crepe paper and glue it around the skewer until you can’t see any wood.
- To make a flower’s stamen, cut a long strip of crepe paper.
- Next, make vertical slices into the top of the strip like you were cutting blades of grass into the paper.
- Wrap this piece of paper around the top of the stem and glue it into place. The stamen is ready.
- Take the petals you cut and assemble them naturally around the stamen, using a bit of glue to keep them secure.
- To hide where all the flower petals join, take another thin strip of green crepe paper, layer it around the base of the flower, and then glue it into place.
Once you have several flowers finished, you can make decorative flower arrangements. Simply put florist foam in the bottom of a pretty plastic vase, then stick the stems into the foam. Voila!
7: Create Photo Collages
How about a fun photo collage on a rainy afternoon?
If you and your senior with dementia have made scrapbooks before, then switching to collages won’t be too hard.
Again, you want to begin by selecting photos.
These don’t have to come out of personal photo albums. Any old magazines, postcards, or even old greeting cards are up for grabs for your senior to take photos from.
Then it’s all about arranging the photos on decorative paper and gluing them on.
8. Decorate Wooden Photo Frames
Provide plain wooden or plastic photo frames and let the individual decorate them with stickers, paint, or markers.
For this great project you will need:
- Wooden photo frame
- Paint, Mod Podge, or other decorative materials
- Decorative elements such as scrapbook paper, fabric, or stickers
Instructions For Decorating Wooden Photo Frames:
- If the frame has a glossy finish, lightly sand the surface to help the paint or Mod Podge adhere better.
- If you choose to paint the frame, apply a base coat of paint using a brush or spray paint. Let it dry completely before adding any additional decorations.
- If you prefer to decorate with Mod Podge, you can use it to adhere and seal decorative elements such as scrapbook paper or fabric to the frame. Apply a thin layer of Mod Podge to the frame, place the decorative element, and then apply another layer of Mod Podge on top. Let it dry completely between layers.
- Once the base coat of paint or Mod Podge is dry, you can further embellish the frame with stickers, stencils, or other decorative elements.
- If you used Mod Podge, apply a final layer of Mod Podge to seal the decoration and protect it from wear and tear.
- Allow the frame to dry completely before inserting a photo.
9. Assemble A Pine Cone Bird Feeder
Although your senior can’t handle the responsibility of a pet in their condition, they can still enjoy animals attracting birds with a bird feeder.
Instructions To Make A Pine Cone Bird Feeder:
- Select a good pine cone from the yard with your senior. The pine cone should be large and pretty. When you find the right one, tie some twine around it.
- On its own, birds might not be attracted to the pine cone bird feeder, so help them along by giving them something they want to eat. Peanut butter is a great option.
- To keep this project from getting messy, use a spatula or even a craft stick to rub peanut butter on the crevices of the pine cone.
- Atop the peanut butter, sprinkle some wild birdseed. Between the peanut butter and the birdseed, the local birds will find the bird feeder irresistible.
- Hang it somewhere prominent where the birds can access it.
10. Felt Placemats
Use precut felt shapes and glue to create colorful felt placemats.
For this simple and fun craft, you will need the following:
- Felt fabric in your desired color(s)
- Ruler or measuring tape
- Hot glue gun and glue sticks
- Sequin trim or any other decorative elements (optional)
Instructions To Make Felt Placemats:
- Measure and cut the felt into an 18-inch by 14-inch rectangle to serve as the base of your placemat.
- Cut two pieces of sequin trim (or any other decorative trim you like) to 14 inches long.
- Use the hot glue gun to carefully attach the trim to the short edges of the felt rectangle, adding a decorative touch.
- If desired, you can add more decorations to your placemat. Consider gluing on additional felt shapes, buttons, or any other craft items that suit your design.
- Allow the glue to dry completely before using the placemat to ensure all elements are securely attached.
11. Paint Rocks
Painting a blank canvas can be daunting for seniors, but a rock?
That’s a smaller canvas that’s much more manageable.
To paint rocks, you simply need a fairly flat rock about the size of your palm, plus some acrylic paints, colored markers or pencil crayons
We have a handy video tutorial for painting rocks that you should check out!
Arts And Crafts Safety Tips
As you engage in the fun world of arts and crafts with your senior parent or loved one, make sure both you and they stay safe with these tips.
Use Safety Scissors
You’re free to use sharp-tipped scissors for cutting things out, but your senior with dementia should not. Give them a pair of safety scissors.
Safety scissors can still cut paper, but your senior is at a much lower risk of injury when working with a pair of these scissors.
Only Craft With Non-Toxic Play Doh
Whether it’s store-bought or homemade, double-check that the Play Doh you use is nontoxic.
The original Play Doh has no allergens or toxic substances unless you have a wheat gluten allergy. Off-brand products could be toxic though.
Avoid Objects The Senior Might Try To Eat
Speaking of Play Doh, keep an eye on your senior when they’re playing with it.
Dementia can cause your senior to make decisions that they normally wouldn’t, so they could attempt to eat some of the Play Doh.
Keep other items your senior might try to sample far away from them too.