Why Arts & Crafts?
Marlene van den Berg
Mental Health Occupational therapist and Gestalt Play therapist. B.OccTher (UP) M.Psych (NWU)
If there is one thing that we all want it is more time and that that time we do spend is on something valuable and meaningful. So, when the kids are signed up for an arm-length of extracurricular activities and still want to add an art class you are probably asking WHY ARTS & CRAFTS?
Kids (and adults, for that matter) learn and develop better when they are involved in a fully interactive, multidimensional and sensory experience. Being engaged in arts and crafts offers that opportunity. An arts and crafts session promotes from the smallest elements of fine motor coordination to complex emotional processing. Imagine a one-stop shop where all areas of development and aspects of functioning is address. This is arts and crafts.
When we look at the younger child, one of the biggest benefits is the visual perceptive input. This helps children with elements of sequencing, foreground and background recognition, visual memory, form and consistency. Visual perception is the core foundation for numeracy and literacy skills which is essential for a child's development. Adding to this, arts and crafts promotes the advancement of higher cognitive reasoning abilities. Problem solving, judgement, decision making, initiation, termination and processing skills are all innate to a craft activity. Through creating, children can explore and even fail which assists in reasoning development that can be translated to all other aspects of their formative years. For a smaller child, motor coordination, object manipulation and even bilateral integration is addressed through the various activities and tasks in crafting. Arts and crafts is truly the all-rounder activity for early childhood develop... and did I mention... children love it too!
For the slightly older child we build on the early development tasks as explained above. However, arts and crafts become a platform for integrated life skills. The development of social reciprocity skills and boundaries is one of the most beneficial. By sharing scissors, learning to wait for a part of the project to dry and systematically following the steps of a task we can start to instil in children the skills that will one day make them adults who are able to apply 'soft' skills, as much as core competencies. One of our most important tasks as parents is to prepare our children against the onslaught of the world. Crafts allow for the development of a sense of personal identity and self-expression. Autonomy achieved through choice and self-esteem expanded through mastering a task becomes a steady staircase towards an integrated, happy and healthy child.
The answer to "why arts and crafts?" is an easy one: it provides a vast amount of developmental opportunities in a single process. As an extra bonus it is something that your child will enjoy and value for the rest of their lives... who does not remember cutting out from the ‘You’ magazine?
For the same reason we need to consider ‘why arts and crafts’ for the older (much older) child: the adult. Crafting provides the same all-round process of relaxation, self-expression and connecting to your inner child for an adult. In an hour a week you can meditate, create, socialise, and just be yourself. This hour a week is not something that will "take up" your time, paradoxically it will afford you more time and energy as you too will be able to live from a more grounded and integrated foundation. During an arts and crafts session, you will have the opportunity to delve deeper into you self, thinking about everything and nothing at once. Creative self-reflection will help you to make life decisions and express your needs more accurately in everyday life.
It feels like the more we review the benefits of arts and crafts the more the question of why arts and crafts becomes redundant. Perhaps the question should rather be: "Have you and your family started crafting yet?".
So, enrol your child and join a class yourself. This will lead to some interesting dinner conversation, more integrated family members, elaborate coloured paper, cardboard and glitter all over the house and happier souls at home.