Today I have a very special treat for all you crafty mamas (papas, grandparents, aunts...) out there. Sometimes kids are hard and planning daily activities with them is hard. As a stay at home mama I frequently find myself wishing I had planned something more creative for us to do with our time. I mean, I'm a craft blogger. Where is the creativity?! Or... maybe you are a Pinterest addict who frequently pins these amazing crafts online only to find that your child is less-than-impressed with your efforts. We've had that happen here too.
Whether you are not sure how to go about introducing crafts to your child or burnt out on trying to get them involved in something they just aren't interested in, this guest post is just what you need to read.
About the guest blogger: Teresa is a nurse, lactation consultant, massage therapist, yoga teacher, writer and crafter. Mother to three boys and one naughty Bichon.
The Back Story
I had an unplugged childhood. I spent hours, and I do mean HOURS, drawing, coloring, gluing, cutting, and creating. I grew up in a rural community. With the notable exception of the library and the city park and pool, there were few resources for leisure time, and <cough, ahem> the internet was decades from inception. Children’s programming was limited to Saturday mornings. There were a handful of regional children’s TV shows that were hosted by ersatz cowboys, music teachers, and homemade puppets. A few of us that lived in town were fortunate enough to have cable television, but our cable was a fragile thing. Wind and storms routinely knocked out our reception and we were left to our own devices. In my case, I read, or searched my house in desperation for paper. I counted myself lucky if I found a blank piece of lined notebook paper. Some of my greatest creations were drawn on the back of envelopes.
It’s a New Day
Flash forward twenty or so years and I had children of my own—three boys to be exact. We lived in a decent-sized city with lots of resources for entertainment, a world class children’s museum, zoo, gardens, a professional puppet theater, bike trails, and numerous parks. We took advantage of all of these things and enjoyed them tremendously, but what I wanted to share with my boys was my love of all things crafty. My relationship with paper, crayons, and glue was not just the desperate time filler of my youth, it was the visual construction of my imaginings. For me, creating had a pleasant, satisfying, calming effect. I so wanted my boys to know what that felt like.
Because of my own lack of supplies, I was determined that my boys would have quality materials. I purchased beautiful German block crayons, reams of large newsprint for everyday and good quality drawing pads for the special projects. There were pastels, and water colors, an easel, and paint smock. I spent way too much on special scissors that cut patterns, die cutters in cool shapes, and colored construction paper in a rainbow of hues. In the event that they were more dimensional thinkers, I purchased old school clay, modeling dough, modeling wax, and colored, wax-covered sticks that were easy to mold and sculpt. There was much more, but I think you get the picture.
While I was savvy enough to know not to introduce all of these things at once, all of my attempts at encouraging creativity was met with, “Meh.” How could this be? How could my offspring prefer an online coloring game with limited palette and no shading? “Did you smell that beeswax?—It’s heavenly!” “Look at this beautiful stamp set with colored ink pads!”
Don’t You Walk Away Mister
I did exactly what I shouldn’t have done. I got angry. I tried bargaining—“Spend half an hour modeling dough with me and you can watch a movie.” Nothing worked. At best I would get five fidgety minutes of haphazard coloring and a “Can I go outside?” I felt rejected. I shouldn’t have taken it personally, but I did.
This situation could have gone on inevitably if not for some professional intervention. My boys’ beloved grandmother was a former art teacher and preschool teacher. With her guidance we made some changes. Some of these changes were structural, but honestly—the big change had to take place inside of my head.
Top 5 Things to do with your Craft-reluctant child:
1) Create a craft cabinet with all of your supplies centrally located and easily accessible. The contents of that cabinet will need to be modified with very young children. If this is an activity that you want your children to do then they have to be able to get to the supplies.
2) Some negotiation is OK. If your child is “bored” give them a choice of three things they can do. Make crafting one of those things. This way they are selecting crafting for themselves and you can hopscotch right over the power struggle. This of course means that you have to be OK when they don’t pick crafting.
3) My mother-in-law was fond of reminding me that when creating with young children, it’s the process and not the product that counts. Let go of the perfectly executed Pinterest project. Themed art projects are really more for us than for them. What matters most right now is the exploration.
4) When your child does express interest in a crafting activity pick a single medium and really explore all of the qualities of that medium. Have you ever thought about all the things you can do with crayons? You can melt broken crayons in muffin tins and create your own block crayons. You can grate them with an old cheese grater and melt shavings in between sheets of wax paper. You can create a drawing and then iron to watch the lines blur. The sensory play and experience with the medium is far more important than having a picture-perfect themed project. The exploration of cause and effect and the sensory play with medium was one of the most successful things that helped to engage my left-brained boys in a right-brained crafting activity.
5) Make your peace. I’m sorry to say this. It breaks my heart really it does, but this may not be your kiddo’s favorite activity any more than say, hockey is yours. You can continue to enjoy all those supplies. Pull out the paints, crayons and pastels. Invite your son or daughter to interact with you. Go ahead and role model what an enjoyable and stress-reducing activity crafting can be, but know it may not be their thing.
Given the first paragraph of this blog you can probably guess that my boys are no longer little boys. Two are young adults and one is a teen. The two older boys have gone on to be successful college graduates, hard workers, and productive members of society. I like to think that all the exposure they had to creativity as a child played a role in helping them to develop their dimensional thinking, math skills, and reasoning skills that help them to be successful adults. While I’ve had to give up on my dreams of Christmas craft projects with my adult children, I was successful in creating three well rounded young men, and I’m proud of that. Project completed.