On Children’s Crafts

On Children’s Crafts

I couldn’t agree more.

From The Common Room blog:

I have a simple theory about children’s crafts. That is, if it is the sort of thing they might do as adults, then it’s a handicraft. If it isn’t, then it’s clutter.

It’s not that I expect adult quality work. Stringing beads is acceptable because adults make jewelry and the skills used in stringing beads can be expanded to making useful or attractive things such as fishing lures and jewelry. Making macaroni pictures is clutter. Wooden and clay beads are at least as easy to string as macaroni, and far more attractive. I have worn a necklace made by a child using wooden beads, and I have worn it in public without blushing. Except for the words “Mom” on some of the beads, anybody might have worn my necklace.

Playing with playdough is a handicraft because the skills used in playdough can be used later for molding miniatures out of better dough, for sculpting and pottery and other plastic arts. We also play with bread dough and make little loaves of bread that are shaped like teddy bears or kittens. This is not clutter because we eat it. Making clay ash trays is clutter, particularly since I do not smoke.

There are some art projects where it is the process that matters rather than the product. In those cases, I believe the product should be edible or readily disposable, such as the Carrot Queen’s creative substitute for play dough with children who eat their playthings. Art projects resulting in food, stationary, cards, or small, discreet Christmas ornaments are about the right goal for an art project where the process is more important than product.

This has been my general philosophy behind handicrafts for at least as long as I have had children. It probably began forming the day I made a clay ashtray in kindergarten. I know it was beginning to harden in the fourth grade when we made hideous paper mache balls to hang on the Christmas tree, and my ball was about the size of a mutant grapefruit and less attractive than warts. In the sixth grade we glued pieces of brightly colored tissue paper to a coke bottle, and that was equally futile and an insult to my intelligence.

Join the discussion

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.