“My kid hates crafts.” I’ve heard many versions of this statement, more times than I can count, as I’ve worked with children over the years. And those same parents, meaning well, don’t bring out the crayons and paint and paper and scissors, in the hopes of not causing their little ones distress.
I get it. No one wants an unhappy child. But instead, what’s happening is that those kids are missing out on a vital way to gain hands-on experience and learn about the world around them in a fun and meaningful way, engaging all of the senses. It’s usually those same kids that I get a frantic call about from the parent (or school district) just before kindergarten because they fear that their child isn’t ready for what’s to come next.
It’s also those same kids who are often spending way too much time in front of screens…though that’s a discussion for another time.
Upon first try, many children are just not that into crafts. Haven’t you ever tried things that didn’t quite hit the mark the first time but you learned to love (for me…eating brussel sprouts…but I love them now). Some kids take more time to warm up to new and unfamiliar things. But please, parents, don’t give up!
If you stick with it and try some of these tricks, I think that you’ll find that crafting with your kids is something that you both will enjoy immensely and learn so much from along the way. After all, the great Albert Einstein said it best…”Play is the highest form of research.” There are just so many benefits, both hidden and obvious. (Let’s talk about this in a future post together, but if you would like to take a look at some great information on the subject…Check out THIS article on the benefits of crafts in early education and THIS article on the hidden benefits of crafting with your kids.)
When parents say that their kiddos are just not that into crafts, what they’re really telling me is something else all together without realizing it. What you may actually mean is, “My child doesn’t like to sit still long enough to complete an activity”. Or maybe you’re saying, “My little Tommy frustrates easily when a task becomes challenging”. Maybe the kiddo just has underdeveloped fine motor skills and requires additional assistance, which of course means additional time and effort on the part of the grown up (which we don’t always have to give in this hectic world unfortunately).
You might be saying, “I (the grown up) don’t really like crafts and am not particularly creative”. Or maybe you’re saying “As a very busy parent, I just don’t have the time to invest in doing crafts with my children when other forms of entertainment seem to be getting the job done.” These are all legitimate points, but let’s break it down and see if we can find some solutions.
“My Child Can’t Sit Still Long Enough”
When a child has a limited attention span, it affects so many aspects of his/her life. It can really keep him/her from competing even simple daily tasks and cause him/her to fall behind peers. I do not take this lightly, and it is a legitimate concern. Before you can practice something like using scissors or coloring in the lines or buttoning a jacket or using the potty, the child first needs to be able to actually pay attention (or attend to the task, as we OTs say). But there is no rule that says a child has to sit still in order to use their hands…is there? Let’s ease this type of kiddo into doing activities that may take more than a 30 second attention span. And, by the way, it’s ok to start with just 30 seconds. Then build it up. You can even use a timer. Have the child start by sitting (or standing) at the table for 30 seconds and then go jump or swing or spin around for 3 minutes. When the time goes off they will be asked to come back. This time, set the timer for 1 minute of table time. When that goes off, let them do a preferred activity for 2 minutes. Each time the timer is being set, let the child know the expectations (“We will work until the timer goes off and then you will _________”). Continue to reduce the break time and increase the work time until no break time is needed (this may never happen for some kiddos).
I have written an entire blog post on ways to make crafting into more of an active time for those little ones who have “ants in their pants” (as my dad would have said). Check it out HERE.
Or grab this pdf course with loads of proven strategies for engaging little ones in activities and increasing their ability to focus on tasks…
“My Child Becomes Frustrated Easily”
Any time you are helping your kiddo to learn a new skill, there is a line that you need to find and then walk it like a tight rope. That line is the dividing point between “I can” and “I can’t”. You want to allow your child to do as much as they can on their own, being challenged to move to the next level, but still help them to be successful so that they feel like they are achieving something without extreme frustration. When we have the sense that we are “getting it” then we are willing, and even excited, to do more. For example, I have seen this with the skill of cutting. At first the child could not figure out how to open and close the scissors and wanted to give up immediately. So, we switched to another tactic and began using self-opening scissors. This removed one of the expectations from the task, simplifying it. Now they were able to squeeze the scissors in order to snip at the edge of the paper. AAhhh…success! And guess what happened next…they wanted to keep going! They wanted to snip everything in sight (yes, there was supervision). We will likely use these self-opening scissors for the next several times that we practice cutting, getting better and better at working the hands together, making smoother strokes across the paper and maybe even cutting simple shapes. Then I will reintroduce the regular scissors and practice opening and closing them. You can use this same kind of technique with any skill. If the starting point is way to difficult and causes frustration, roll it back and reduce the expectations. Then gradually build up the child’s confidence and practice until they are ready for the difficulty to be increased (or graded up).
“My child has underdeveloped fine motor skills”
Lots of little ones have fine motor skills that are not quite on track. And those same kiddos are the ones who most need to be doing crafts and other hands-on activities. The only way to develop the small muscles of the hand is to actually use one’s hands. Just like we exercise our legs by running, we can exercise our hands by using them, and crafts are such a wonderful way to do this. The process is enjoyable, and kids end up with a finished product that they can be proud of. I mean, the kind of thing that is refrigerator worthy. I love when kids are developing new skills, learning and growing, and they don’t even realize it. It is not work. It is play! And play is the most important thing for children.
“I am not crafty and just don’t have the time”
I have put these two parent centered issues together because they have the same answer. And you are in luck because THIS BLOG IS THE ANSWER. Yes, it will take a small amount of prep on your part. You will need to either run to the store (Walmart will do) or go on Amazon and use THIS LIST to fill your bag so that you have the supplies on hand to make every single project on this blog. Then when you find a moment in your day that is not already allocated to the many other important things that you have to do, just pull out the bag of supplies and scroll through the blog until you find something that you want to make. You will be ready to do crafts at the drop of a hat, in the forgotten moments of your day. And you do not need to have a creative bone in your body because I am willing to do all of the work for you. Instructions are simple, and there are plenty of ideas for implementation. Plus you will get my little OT tips for teaching developmental skills as we work together.
And if all else fails, try a little bribery. I am never above bribery (within reason) if it gets kids learning and growing.