Thursday, May 3, 2007

Random Thoughts on Crafts and Cheese

At age 21, I was already a wife and mother to a one year old. I was also a fulltime student on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; and a preschool teacher on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I taught a two-year-old class at a Mother's day out. At this particular preschool, crafts were an essential part to each day. They needed to be planned, supplies gathered and executed. However, I found that it was extremely rare that the children were ever able to complete even some of the project on their own. And so, I would neatly assemble 8 crafts, often with a fingerprint or two from the little one, and send them home.
I began to feel that the absurdity of this practice should be obvious to all. However, I was mistaken. Many, many teachers are convinced that craft projects are a necessary part to any classroom experience. Now, I am certainly not knocking creative activities. I think that it is wonderful for children to experiment with watercolors and different types of papers, crayons and clay. As they grow older, and more capable, I love the idea of learning through doing, especially when studying the great artists. What I am talking about here is a three-year-old teacher feeling compelled to provide supplies for the children to create their own cardboard Noah's Ark (which they really can't do) and send it home only to be stomped on in the car and sent directly to the garbage can. I, for one, really don't have the space in my home for acquiring 25 painted toilet paper tubes shaped into a Christmas tree by my child's teacher.
With homeschooling, we are free from the obligation to have 'craft time' as our principal shares my sentiments. However, I recently visited a homeschool coop where this practice is alive and well in the 3 & 4 year olds classroom. Upon exiting the building at the end of the day, I observed about 12 green paper towel rolls standing up in green paper bowls with flowers coming out the top. What was obvious was that no child had assembled them, what was not obvious was exactly what they were supposed to be.
If you are a pro-crafter, I hope that I have not extremely offended you but rather inspired you to think outside the crafting box. If you were already an anti-crafter, I hope that I have encouraged you to be more vocal in your efforts to stop the preschool cheese. If you were undecided, I hope that you have now made up your mind.
Also, I apologize for my harsh tone. I am acquainted with many pro-crafting women who I deem to be very kind and caring. I just happen to disagree with them on this issue.


  1. Well said. Crafts are fine IF the children are the ones making them. Truly. Yes, I am crafty. BUT, we don't do a ton around here except perhaps at holidays and such. We keep the creations for a short time, and then, to the trash they go. Unless it is something really cute that we can save for the next year. I hate clutter!

    If the kids want to paint, draw, etc. fine. They are aware though that it will only hang around a few days before it is tossed. I'm not a big believer in saying that every picture is wonderful. If I really like it, I say so. If not, I just smile. Call me a terrible mom...I'll get over it.

  2. I agree with you. While we do crafts here at home it is in no way compared to the constant and wasteful crafts that most children do in school. Often as nothing more than "busy work" rather than with a real purpose. Crafts here are done with a purpose and done in as least wasteful was as possible.

  3. I thought I was the only one that felt this way.

  4. I understand what you're saying, Kendra. We don't have room for the pictures they draw all day long, much less crafts they might be bringing home from a school!

    But at the same time, cultivating creativity is important, so we use it on special things. Like:

    using rubber stamps to decorate white paper lunch sacks to fill with caramel corn for people at the nursing home.
    Or getting out the paints and letting the boys make a giant painting welcoming visitors to church on "Invite Your Neighbor Day".

    And I allow the boys to choose their favorite drawing of the previous week and we hang it on a corkboard in their bedroom - they know the rest will be thrown away, and the one they chose will be collected at the end of the month with the other three and put in their special box.

    It has its' *place*, but it's not taking up our *space*!
    Great post!

  5. I agree with you. I am a pro-crafter but I pick my favorites (maybe about 3 a year) and I put them into a large artbook that the kids can title and then that is that for us. Each child has one and they can flip through their favorites as well. The occasional piece might get framed or be on the fridge for a stint. No artwork coming out of things around the house....if it does, hello trash!

    Great post Kendra....I am so onboard with your thinking...oh and, hats off to your principle! :)

  6. LOL!
    There is a time and a place for crafts. (And an age.)

    Though I think it's importatnt to teach our girls and boys "handiwork" (which *is* crafty), forcing them to paint toliet paper tubes or glue together crafts from Oriental Trading Company is not "handiwork" in my book. Well said, Kendra. You and I would make good neighbors shooting the breeze. :)

  7. I would have agreed with you 100% until this year. My 1st grader has a fabulous teacher. She uses crafts to teach them to follow step-by-step directions. This has been a hard lesson for my super-confident girl. And my 4yo is often able to recall the Bible story based on the craft alone.

  8. Wow - I love reading all of you ladies' responses to this post! Sorry for being so cynical about this subject, I really did lack a little grace in my wording. My kids love stamps and stickers. And, we usually have a ready stock of beads for making jewelry. I have observed well-done craft time in places like VBS or Sunday School. I truly do believe that crafts can be lovely and meaningful, they just usually aren't. And, I just feel sorry for teachers who feel so much pressure to have the kids make something that it's often a huge hassle for them with little to no lasting result for the children.
    Like Summer said, it's often quite wasteful. As for the clutter aspect, I tend to trash a lot of things. Old worksheets, less than wonderful drawings, kid's meal prizes, etc. I just really hate junk in my house. (although you might not know it if you visited!)
    Thanks Ladies!

  9. Just stopping by to say...your new profile pic is so cute! :)

  10. Cute new picture on your profile. Do I get points for seeing it first? :-)

  11. Rats. Elise beat me to it. Oh well. Still a cute picture.