By Shara Lawrence-Weiss
Teachers (and many parents) have long known the value of engaging children/students in craft activities. While it may appear to be nothing more than ‘child’s play’ there’s actually methodology applied.
Crafts serve a number of wonderful purposes:
Helping children to be creative
Cutting = use of fine motor skills
Gluing and sticking = use of fine motor skills
Emotional intelligence (if the craft relates to feelings, etc)
Teaches direction following
FUN and more!
Most early childhood classrooms very purposefully slate time for crafts each day for the reasons listed above. You can do crafts at home, too, without spending a lot of money. Hit your local thrift shops or craft stores and buy up sale items, bulk items and use coupons any time you can.
Here are some age appropriate ideas to get you going… (Remember that not every child develops or moves at the same pace so these age groupings are listed as generalities and not absolutes)
Children at this age can begin to use pinecones, rocks, twigs, large stickers, felt pieces and more. They will need you to prep the materials and you can lay the items out on the table. Allow your child to show you where they want to place the items on paper, on cardboard, etc. You can assist with painting, too, if you feel your child is ready for this. Keep in mind that many children in this age become agitated if they can’t control the items you are using. They WANT to but their fine motor skills won’t allow it. Therefore, be selective in what you offer, keeping in mind that you want to minimize any potential stressors for your child.
Depending on your child’s capabilities, this is a great time to introduce child safe scissors, glue, paint, brushes and more. Kids at this stage LOVE to be in charge and they love to know their actions have caused something to happen. If they cut, and see the new shape, that’s exciting! “Did I make that happen? Me?!” Try not to boss your child around too much. Allow for some errors and mishaps – this is completely normal and certainly to be expected. Glue on the table? Fine. Wipe it up when done. Did the paper get cut into 3,000 pieces even though you were hoping for a duck? Move on. If your child is having fun and learning at the same time – what could be better?
At this stage, pre packaged crafts are wonderful. You can find such crafts at Michael’s Craft Store, Joanne Fabrics, Walmart or Target. Purchase craft kits/sets that you know your child will enjoy: beading, painting, stamping, Paper Mache, wood crafts, holiday crafts, etc. Supervise now but don’t hover. Or better yet, buy one craft kit for each of you and enjoy the bonding time!
I will say this – most of the children I’ve nannied for (16+ years in the field and 3 children of my own now) stopped feeling thrilled about crafts by the age of ten; sometimes sooner. Before that age, crafts are exciting, fun and a perfect filler of time. By the age of eight or ten, most kids have other things on their mind. That’s okay. Enjoy the years while they last and make the best of that time. When your child(ren) gets a bit older, those memories will embed and will likely carry over into their own parenting style. If your child becomes a neighborhood babysitter, the knowledge they’ve gained through crafting with you will be invaluable. If they enter art classes in high school – same deal! You are setting a platform for creative thinking here - life long creative thinking and that, of course, is priceless!