Brain Building Through Craft Time


What is a practical way to give your child unstructured, self-directed play to help them begin a lifelong journey of learning?

In this fast-paced digital age, kids are spending more time participating in structured activities and navigating electronic devices, and less time with unstructured self-directed play. Research tells us, however, that kids need unstructured playtime and physical hands-on experiences to help them establish important neural connections for lifelong learning.

One of the easiest ways to ensure this open hands-on time for preschoolers is to get them involved with crafts. Beyond the obvious creative outlet, crafts are also an ideal way to let kids develop their own plans and see them through. They can safely take small risks, explore new ideas and materials, make mistakes, and overcome challenges, nurturing their confidence along the way.

Parents might panic as they visualize a huge mess with limited space and time, but crafts don’t have to be complicated for kids to have fun and learn. Here are some tips to help make craft time a success:

Plan craft time, but don’t plan the activity in detail

Let’s face it; if it’s not in the schedule, it won’t happen, so plan a weekly time to pull out the craft supplies. Offer project suggestions or ideas to get the kids started, but let them guide themselves down the path as much as possible.

Offer support, but not specific direction

While doing crafts, the kids will likely check in often and may need help from a parent or caregiver. Be careful that well-intentioned assistance doesn’t turn into telling the child what to do or making decisions for them. Encourage them by asking questions instead of giving answers.

Make supplies accessible and easy to use

Keep craft supplies close to where they will be used, and within reach of the kids. Provide supplies in open containers, portioning them out over craft sessions so that they get well used. Pour glue onto a plastic lid or plate and provide craft sticks or paint brushes for spreading.

Join in by working on your own projects

Take out some other work or use the craft supplies to make your own project instead of working on your child’s crafts. When kids and caregivers work along side, the caregiver is available but not micromanaging, and the child can be independent but secure.

Focus on the process, not the product

Learning happens throughout the craft process, not as a result of an end product. Kids will feel accomplished and excited just through the activity itself. Support them by acknowledging effort, commenting on small details, or asking questions.

Little crafters won’t paint a perfect picture or build an awe-inspiring structure, but they’ll be doing what’s most important to their development; learning through open-ended, hands-on play, and brain building along the way.

This post was written by Keri Zingle.

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