There’s a lot of benefits to getting the kids to do arts and crafts for an afternoon: it keeps them occupied with something other than a screen, for a start.
But there are lots of developmental benefits to children engaging in arts and crafts. It may sound absurd, but letting a child glue cotton balls on a paper plate or paint scribbles can actually turn them into more resilient, well-adjusted adults. Research also suggests that kids who grow up in families that encourage arts and crafts – whether it is a crafty hobby, or drama, or dance, or music – turn out to do better at school overall.
Creativity is exceptionally good for small children. Toddlers need creative play in order to develop. Drawing and painting helps them develop their bilateral co-ordination – the ability to use both of their hands together. It also helps them to develop the fine motor skills they will need to learn to write, type, tie their shoelaces and everything else.
Toddlers also develop their senses through creativity. The process of creating something can benefit them much more than the finished product.While the benefits of creativity are lauded for small children, they are often neglected in older children and adolescents. Having a creative outlet for older children can help them deal with problem solving – creativity means that kids can learn how to make connections, overcome challenges and think outside the box.
There is now a greater push for ‘mindfulness’, for both adults and teenagers. Mindfulness encourages people to be focus-ed on the moment, to live in the present. Teenagers, with stresses about school, relationships, extra-curricular activities, and after school jobs, can benefit from mindfulness exercises to help them de-stress and focus. Even something as simple as a colouring-in book can work wonders to take a teenager out of their troubles and help them live in the moment. Drawing, painting, starting a vegetable garden, or even just a walk outside can be a great benefit to teenagers. Adolescence is a time of both great mental development and academic stress; even small things to mitigate the pressures of growing up can be a huge boon to teenagers.
The greatest advantage to crafts and hobbies for children is that it reduces their time spent in front of a screen. It’s easy for someone without children to criticise a parent for letting their child play with a phone or a tablet to keep them quiet. Parenting is one of the hardest jobs there is, not least because it’s full time in a way no-one can comprehend until they’ve done it. That said, too much screen time has proven to be detrimental to children. Whether it’s a toddler learning to look at a screen in response to being cranky in public, or the relentless barrage of social media that
adolescents deal with daily, there’s nothing to be lost from reducing the time spent with technology.
Igniting the creative spark
by Janet Brown
Finding your children a hobby and getting them involved in crafts, particularly when you might not be very crafty yourself, might seem
a bit intimidating. Luckily, getting the kids started doesn’t take much doing.
The first thing to do is to start them young. Toddlers and small children thrive on creative learning. Fostering imagination through creative play is essential for development. Painting, drawing, dancing and dressing up are all part of building up the physical and mental skills that children will take into adulthood.
Let creativity be as much about problem solving as creating. Speaking from personal experience, sometimes going without can be a wonderful creative outlet. On at least four occasions, my little sister and I sat down with empty boxes, scrap paper and paint, and made our own dollhouses.
We learnt to be innovative and work together to achieve something that we wanted. If I’m honest, making our own toys was often more fun than playing with them.
When trying to encourage children into craft or a creative outlet, keep things simple. While everyone wants to challenge their children, a task that seems insurmountable to a child could do more harm than good. Children are encouraged by tasks that they can complete, and will get a feeling of satisfaction from being able to see the results of their finished work. There’s no harm in starting small and letting your child build up to something more challenging.
Play into a child’s interests. If a child is showing enthusiasm in a particular hobby, encourage it! If a child has specialised interests – a favourite character from movies or television – find a way to incorporate that into their craft or hobby. You could wind up with a macramé wall hanging of the Avengers, but weirder things have been sold on Etsy.
Let go of any ideas about what people should or shouldn’t do. If a little boy wants to take up knitting, let him (knitting was originally a skill of fishermen, and knitting a jumper is similar to making a fishing net). If a little girl wants to try woodworking, let her (it was a woman, Tabitha Babbit, who invented the circular saw). It can be hard to shake off our ideas of how people should behave, but it will be harder in the long run if you let your hang-ups get in the way of your child’s happiness.