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Craft Time: Good for Our Mental Health

January 4, 2011

Whether it’s at preschool, elementary school, home, girl scouts, or even in the psychologist’s office – I have found that almost all kids love crafts. Even tough 12-year-old boys can usually be talked into making a collage out of sports magazines or decorating a poster for their rooms.

But sometimes I wonder what kids really get out of arts and crafts. Is it really worth it to lug out all those craft supplies and then (ugh) put them all back? And what about the psychological effects of crafting – is it something I should be including in my professional work? And what about for us adults? Should one of our New Year’s resolutions be to spend more time at the easel (or sewing machine, or potter’s wheel, or table saw)?

Below are some thoughts about the benefits of participating in arts and crafts…and I hope to hear your thoughts on some I am sure I have missed.

It’s creative. Ok, so this is a no-brainer. But I think it is important to remember that kids (and adults too) don’t have much time to be fully creative in their everyday lives. Math problems, gym class, homework assignments, chores at home – most of these things need to be done in a certain way. But art is something different. When presented in an open-ended way, kids are free to do/create/design whatever they please.

It’s messy. An important part of learning and development includes experiencing different sensations in a tactile way. Squishy, sticky, pokey, fuzzy. Craft supplies can provide kids with opportunities to feel all these sensations. In addition, arts and crafts time allows us to get some paint on our hands and glue under our nails. Most kids enjoy creating a mess – and teaching them to help clean up afterwords is an important benefit too.

It’s not about perfection. I am an anti-perfectionist. And I encourage others around me to forego perfectionism as well. Kids and adults who hold themselves to such high standards often struggle to enjoy life, try new things, and be tolerant of others. Crafts can be a wonderful way to help kids get used to the idea of enjoying the creative process, instead of getting hung up on a perfect end result.

It’s a good way to get talking. If you’ve ever been part of a quilting bee, a sewing circle, or any kind of craft group you know that the main purpose of the group is often not the craft, but the conversations that happen in between. When our hands and eyes are busy creating, it often makes it easier for us to talk about tough things. Having trouble getting your tween to open up? Teenager not talking like she used to? Try doing a craft together and see what happens.

Need some ideas about where to start in the crafting world? Check out Family Fun Magazine, take a class at Michael’s; or for older kids and grown-ups check out Made (one of my favorite blogs), or V and Co.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Caroline permalink
    January 4, 2011 9:40 pm

    I’m an occupational therapist and one of the main reasons I went into the field many years ago was because crafts were utilized as a technique to treat both the mentally and physically disabled populations. There are so many opportunities using varied crafts to work on coordination, attention span, problem solving, sequencing, posture, strengthening, sensory integration and I could go on and on. What could be a more fun way to improve our functioning in the world than doing a craft!

    • January 4, 2011 10:51 pm

      Caroline
      Thanks for your informative comment! Sounds like there tons of opportunities to use crafts in health care. We really should take our crafting time seriously!

  2. January 6, 2011 1:10 am

    I love this post! I think creative expression is so good for our mental health too.

  3. January 6, 2011 11:37 am

    Yes, Dr. Stephanie,
    There is nothing better than Arts & Crafts!
    Bravo on your work!

    Blessings!
    Julia

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