Friday, May 2nd, 2014
Engaging in hands-on activities like arts and crafts should be a part of every child’s life. New research and thinking continues to reveal the many social and cognitive benefits for children at different ages. That said, developmental experts worry that parents and children may not have as many opportunities to craft together for a variety of potential reasons.
To learn more about the benefits of crafting in childhood, and the barriers which can interfere with crafting time, I partnered with Elmer’s Products, Inc., to conduct new survey research that can be used to deliver tips about crafting to parents, which we will be introducing at the Mom 2.0 Summit. We surveyed 300 moms to learn more about the kind of information they receive about crafting, the type of knowledge they would find helpful, and the factors that can make crafting time a challenge in everyday life. We also surveyed 50 experts in child development to learn more about the many social and cognitive benefits of arts and crafts in childhood.
Most importantly, moms told us that they want to hear more about the cognitive and social benefits of crafting, and suggestions for how to get the most out of crafting time. They also sent a strong message that time pressure is the biggest factor that interferes with their desire to craft with their kids. Experts shared with us a number of social and cognitive benefits of crafting, along with tips that can maximize both the fun and the payoffs for children and parents.
I’ve combined all this information to generate 9 tips that may help busy parents and children incorporate arts and crafts into the flow of daily life and cultivate the many cognitive and social benefits:
1. FIND RESOURCES TO SOLVE THE TIME PRESSURES THAT MAKE CRAFTING HARD TO DO. Parents love to craft with their kids – but they find it hard to make time for it. One solution is to access crafting ideas that don’t take too much time, but provide all the benefits of crafting. You can get tips on activities kids and parents will love to do together that won’t require huge amounts of set up and clean up time.
2. KEEP IN MIND HOW IMPORTANT CRAFTING IS FOR KIDS AND PARENTS ALIKE (IN RELATION TO COMPETING DEMANDS). Parents and kids have lots of competing demands for their time. It’s helpful to remind ourselves of the many benefits of crafting (social, emotional, cognitive). To the extent that we can control our recreational time, it’s suggested that parents make sure that screen time and time devoted to structured activities outside the home don’t reduce the opportunities for crafting with kids. Just some good quality time with simple ideas, even with items around the house, are all it takes to reap many benefits, all while having fun at the same time.
3. MAKE IT FUN – CRAFTING IS ABOUT DOING SOMETHING TOGETHER. Don’t worry about the final product – it’s the process that matters. Smiles, laughs, and some silliness keep kids engaged (remember that for kids, play is their work) and their engagement will help them get the cognitive benefits from crafting while getting something equally as important – the bonding experience with parents.
4. TALK WHILE YOU CRAFT. Parents and kids don’t have as many opportunities for face-to-face interaction these days – and we all know that such interaction is critical for healthy emotional and cognitive development. The simple act of parents and kids having engaged conversations is highly predictive of later cognitive development. Crafting is a terrific platform for kids and parents to talk about the crafting itself – and whatever else comes up.
5. LET KIDS TAKE THE LEAD. Creativity is promoted when kids take the lead with activities like crafting. Parents can support what their kids are doing and help them by encouraging, lending a hand when necessary, and helping with suggestions. The creative spark is lit when kids try to figure out how to make things work.
6. PRAISE KIDS FOR THEIR CRAFTING EFFORTS. It’s clear from research that praising kids for their effort, and not the “quality” of their final product, is predictive of their future “mindsets” that underlie success in many domains (academics, sports, arts, etc.). Crafting is a perfect platform for encouraging and reinforcing effort rather than critiquing the outcome.
7. USE CRAFTING TO COMBAT BOREDOM. Kids will eventually get bored with anything – they always need to find something different to do. So … use crafting projects as that fun tonic to inevitable boredom. Kids will be primed for the creative engagement it provides.
8. MAKE SURE CRAFTING IS HANDS-ON FOR KIDS. It’s important that kids lead not only with their brains, but also their hands. Crafting is one of the best ways to encourage fine motor development, and the benefits that kids will get from doing the crafting activities themselves are critical for academic readiness.
9. CREATE HAPPY MEMORIES. Kids will form memories of making crafts with their parents that last a lifetime. Make sure those memories center around the emotional bond you are creating and not so much what the end product looks like. That end product, however it turns out, will carry meaning because it will take kids back to a very special time with their parents – and maybe even evoke your memories of crafting with your parents. Displaying that product will help this process along as well – especially if you all talk about the memories that you created together.
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