I had a super busy summer, teaching eight camps to children 7-14. I offered Embroidery, Fiber Fun, and Hooks and Needles at the Museum of East Texas here in Lufkin.
It was fun, and the kids occupied so much of my thoughts and were such a routine part of my day. Now that school is starting up again, I find I am still thinking of how wonderful it was to see children enjoy crafting. I want them to be that comfortable, that satisfied, all year round. And I want them to have an outlet should life get a little uncomfortable.
Kids are busy. They have school, and if they aren't busy after school with sports, or dance, they tend to attach themselves to some electronic device. Hopefully they are attached to books!
Each of these activities make for a structured, concentrated time. Crafting is the opposite. It involves imagination and freedom from conform. Yes, there are rules: don't touch the glue gun or saw a finger off; always start with a slip know and don't cut yarn longer than shoulder length. But these are just to get them started on the right foot. After that, anything goes.
Granted, during camps I had some whose creativity wasn't sparked. They found it hard, whined a bit, wandered off. Maybe they liked sculpture or painting better. But, the general atmosphere was calm stimulation. Children were spread out around tables, on the floor, in a corner weaving. I had to prompt some to stop and remind them to enjoy their snack. One week I had to scold three kids from using all my supplies up in one afternoon for their finger crocheting. They brought their own yarn in from home and spent their lunch hour - free time - together, making a gigantic chain.
So how can adults foster a child's creativity at home and school?
1) Keep supplies handy.
Things like yarn, plastic canvas, and blunt large-eyed needles are available lots of places and very inexpensive!
2) Encourage thinking out of the box and reinventing the wheel.
Got some old clothes they outgrew? Turn that old t-shirt into a pillow or bag. Take an ugly piece of plastic or packaging and cover it with fabric or yarn.
3) Busy hands make for better behavior.
This really applies well in the classroom. Students with various degrees of The Fidgets benefit from being allowed to finger crochet or braid a bracelet. Their physical demands are being met but at the same time their minds are wide open for listening and learning. And they stop disrupting the class.
4) Let their creativity schedule itself.
When a child announces they are bored, suggestions fall on shrugged shoulders. You might as well order them to clean their room. Just don't give boredom the opportunity to set in. Leave something out on the coffee table for them to explore on their own, when no one is watching. Boxes are so much fun to play with. Glue and clay or dough are a great tactile experience.
5) Allow yourself, as parent and teacher, to let go and let a child enjoy a mess.
This is important. So many of us have forgotten what it feels like to be a child, to be lost in the moment. We burden ourselves unnecessarily. Yes, crafting can make a mess, stain a shirt. It's not the end of the world! Just let it go, and for an hour or two, everyone be free to enjoy themselves and their creativity.