Craft Activities for Elderly Nursing Home Residents

Luz Diaz/Demand Media

What do you look for in a nursing home for your parents? Quality of services? Amenities for the residents? Experience and reputation of the staff? Finding a facility that checks off all your major requirements is a relief, but don't forget the little things like social activities. Organizing craft activities for your parents and their fellow nursing home residents helps expand the offerings to make living there even more rewarding.

Benefits of Craft Activities in Nursing Homes

Craft time in a nursing home gives residents a chance to do something creative, but the benefits go beyond creating something pretty. Nursing home residents experience a variety of positive outcomes when you organize craft time, including:

  • Socialization in a fun, relaxed environment with people other than caregivers
  • Stronger community when residents interact
  • Sense of purpose
  • Improved quality of life
  • Renewed interest in hobbies they once loved
  • Sense of independence
  • Positive self-image
  • Break from the regular routine
  • Brightened surroundings with the finished products on display

Scrapbook Pages

Help each resident make a personal scrapbook of memories. Photocopying pictures the residents have lets them use personal photos without destroying the originals. You can also ask family members to bring in photos. For residents who don't have many visitors, snap some photos in the nursing home to make a current scrapbook.

Scrapbooking is easy to modify for residents of all levels. Use punches to cut photos and accents into various shapes. Use stickers for easy embellishments. Getting staff involved to help residents with reduced mobility helps build the bond with caregivers.

Quilting or Crocheting

Residents who have experience quilting or crocheting might enjoy starting up with the hobby again. This craft option is ideal for a small group that meets regularly. Choose a project that gives the members a sense of purpose. The group members might sew lap quilts for other residents to spread a little joy through the nursing home. Another option is crocheting blankets for babies in local hospitals. They can also teach other residents how to quilt or crochet. These projects make the residents feel like they're making a difference.

Parade Float

Help connect the residents with the community by creating a nursing home float for a local parade. Choose a fun theme, and line up people to volunteer a trailer and truck to pull the float. Residents can make decorations to put on the float. Invite a few residents who are healthy enough to ride on the float in the parade to throw candy or wave to the crowd.

Holiday Decorations

Keep it seasonal with homemade holiday decorations throughout the year. Not only does this craft option add a festive air to the activity, but these crafts also bring a cheerful look to residents' rooms.

Try these holiday decoration ideas:

  • Valentine's Day cards: Organize a valentine card exchange. Offer paper, stickers and other accents so residents can make valentine cards. They can give them to other residents or family members. * Painted Easter eggs: Prep for Easter by decorating eggs. Wooden eggs are easier to handle than real eggs, and they last year after year. * Painted pumpkins: Painting is easier than carving for residents who have limited hand movement. It's also safer, and the pumpkins last longer. * Holiday wreaths: Celebrate the holidays with DIY wreaths for the residents' doors. Start with premade, undecorated wreaths. Let residents add ribbon, ornaments, beads and other decorations to customize the wreaths.

Tips for Organizing Crafts

Organizing crafts for residents with lots of different ability levels, health conditions and interests is a challenge. Make it easier on yourself with these tips:

  • Offer modifications for crafts to account for different ability levels. Have paintbrushes with larger handles for residents who can't grip well, for example. For scrapbooking, offer stickers for simple decorating options and supplies for more advanced crafters.
  • Limit activities that require strong memory retrieval as they can be frustrating to residents with dementia.
  • Work in groups instead of doing individual crafts. Pairing residents with more experience or stronger physical capabilities with those who have limitations can balance things out and encourage social interactions.
  • Partner with a local school or kids' group. Invite the kids to join the residents for craft time so they can help with steps that are challenging for some residents. It's also a great chance for the residents to socialize with a different generation.
  • Form interest groups. If you have some residents who love scrapbooking, organize a regular scrapbooking club once a month. 
  • Let residents suggest ideas. Some of the residents might have hobbies they loved before moving to the nursing home. You could even ask a resident to lead the craft activity to provide a sense of purpose and accomplishment.