I am one of those adults who, if given the chance, can spend the entire day just playing around with arts and crafts supplies. So when I had children, I naturally gravitated to activities that involved artsy things like trips to the art museum, attending craft shows and creating things with our own hands.
To me, the alchemy of transforming basic supplies like paper, crayons, and glue into something completely unique and colorful is nothing short of magic. And while it’s been very fulfilling to pass on this love of crafting to my children, I am starting to see some real benefits that go beyond just sharing my passion.
In our highly digital, techy, and materialistic world, crafting has become a way to teach my kids values that otherwise get lost in the haste of daily life. You don’t need me to tell you that playing around with art supplies encourages creativity and imagination. You don’t need me to tell you that coloring, cutting, gluing, are all ways for children to practice and perfect motor skills. These are things that most of us have already figured out on our own during our parenting journey.
But what I do want to share with you today, are three paybacks that I didn’t knowingly set forth to achieve when I encouraged my little ones to be crafty. These are happy surprises that have really boosted my parenting ego (a sentiment I feel I don’t get to repeat often enough). There are three good reasons you should encourage your child to make crafts: they learn self-reliance, they cultivate an appreciation for handmade gifts and they learn firsthand, the importance of recycling.
The amount of marketing and advertising that kids experience these days is stunning. Instead of constantly saying no to the latest greatest toy on TV, I started asking my 6-year old what excites her about that particular toy. Usually, it was simple things like how high the car jumped, or how the doll’s dress sparkled, or how fuzzy the new cuddly looked. This is when I fully embraced the old adage, teach a man to fish … and figured out ways to create those same feels using supplies and toys we already had around the house. We made an obstacle course out of empty boxes and refashioned a sparkly dress for the dolls we already owned and everyone was content.
So how do I know that I have encouraged self-reliance? I have seen several examples over time when my daughter has chosen to use her crafting skills to fill her need for entertainment. The two times that make me laugh even now are when she made jewelry using paint swatches and butcher twine and happily wore it to picture day at school. Or when she drew a keyboard in her sketchbook and sketched herself a video game. All this not because she felt deprived, but because she knew she could do it on her own.
Cherish Handmade Gifts
On a whim, the night before my son turned 3, I decided to put some cardboard boxes to good use and make him his favorite toy – a train. When he saw the completed project the next day, I honestly felt like I had never seen him any happier. He played with that train and took care of it for months (I couldn’t believe that it even lasted that long). When my daughter turned 6 and I forgot to make her a handmade card, I got called out on it!
We have stopped going to the store to buy birthday cards for friends and family too. Instead, the kids get a kick out of making one on their own using construction paper, googly eyes, pompoms, glitter, etc. I don’t think any of us are here to ban the idea of going to a store to buy gifts, but at the same time, I also don’t want my kids to grow up believing that handmade gifts are somehow inferior or cheap. Being crafty has helped my kids appreciate the time and energy it takes to create something with their own hands.
I have lost count of how many times I have repurposed cardboard boxes into toys. A play kitchen, a spaceship, a pet cat, the list goes on. Or turned milk cartons and empty bottles into bowling pins and whatnot. I used to do this out of my own sheer pleasure until the kids caught on and started asking me to turn our recyclables into toys.
Now that they’ve gotten better with using scissors, glue, and tape, they have stopped asking me altogether. They make their own masterpieces using bottle caps, packaging material, and whatever else they find around the house. I am really proud that they turn something useless into something useful. A cup is a cup only if you let it be; with imagination, it turns into a unicorn horn, into binoculars, into a microphone. This ability to look at some things differently has come in especially handy when we travel and don’t have our usual toys at our disposal.
If you are a busy parent who wants to encourage your children to be crafty, here are four simple ways to do so without a big time investment:
- Leave supplies like markers, glue, scissors, construction paper, pompoms, etc. in a designated and easily accessible area. This way, they don’t have to wait on you to get their creative juices flowing.
- Make a tray of art supplies for the dinner table. Especially on those nights when you are running a bit behind in getting the food to the table, the tray provides an easy distraction. Give them a challenge like “draw the most delicious sundae” or “make the greenest salad” to make things interesting.
- Create a gallery space where you prominently display their creations. Kids thrive on appreciation and admiration, and what better way to do so then giving them a museum-worthy display.
- Save interesting objects like shipping boxes, bottles, mess bags from fruits and vegetables, bottle caps, and whatever else you find around the house. Have an Inventory’s Day when they get to create something amazing from all those objects. Choose a theme if your kids are old enough, or just let their imagination run free.
I hope that I have inspired you to make some room in your life to get crafty with your kids. And you know, it really is just as fun for us adults as it is for the kids! So go forth and create and let the good times roll!
Follow Chika’s adventures with her family as she travels around the globe on The Antibland.