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Why Crafts?

Debbie Trafton O'Neal

Almost every Sunday morning after class, children run out of classrooms with a new craft. Some of these crafts make it home to be displayed in a place of honor. Other crafts may never make it out of the car.

And Sunday after Sunday, teachers wonder: Why even spend classroom time on something that's so rarely appreciated? What are crafts good for anyway? And what's the best way to use crafts at church?

More than mere time-fillers, crafts serve an important role in Christian education. Crafts

  • allow children to express their God-given creativity.
  • give children an opportunity to discover the world God has made.
  • enhance children's ability to think and solve problems.
  • build self-esteem.
  • help children listen and follow directions.
  • give children tools to apply their faith (making gifts for others).
  • create relationships as children work together on cooperative projects.
  • reinforce a lesson.
  • remind children of what they've learned in class.
  • create fun!

The process, not the product is the key in craft-making. The exploration and experimentation in a craft are crucial parts of the learning process. Children need to be encouraged to express themselves freely; they can be inhibited by the "right" way to do a craft.

A teacher-made version of a craft may cause children to either give up or view their finished imperfection with disappointment. So limit the number of times you show a model. For example, show children a finished project so they have an idea of what theirs can look like, but then put the sample away. Again, explain the process, step by step, and create another sample to a point where children may have difficulty. Give extra directions there.

Consider these important factors as you lead children in making crafts.

*Age-appropriateness-When 4-year-old Grant's mother praised the complicated craft he'd made, Grant said, "I didn't make that. My teacher did." If the craft is above kids' ability level, the teacher is forced to "help" too much.

*Clear directions-Make a sample item before class so you can give directions in a clear, concise way.

*Materials-Always have enough materials for visitors or someone who has trouble and needs to start over. Also make sure you have scissors that cut well. If you have a left-handed child, provide left-handed scissors.

*Safety-Paints, glues, and other materials should be non-toxic. Scissors should have blunt ends. Use liquid rather than powdered tempera paint.

*Bible connection-If a craft could just have well been done at school, what's the point? Your class time is too precious to waste on anything that doesn't shed light on the Bible. Tie a Bible story, verse, or other lesson about God into each craft, and it'll truly help children learn and grow.

Debbie Trafton O'Neal is an author and educator in Washington.

According to Jim Pierson, director of the Christian Church Foundation for the Handicapped, children with disabilities may need these adaptations to fully enjoy crafts:

  • Encourage teachers to be sensitive to each child's perceptual ability, motor skills, and ability to listen to, understand, and follow directions.
  • Position special-needs children so they can see and hear.
  • Set up a buddy system with a teacher or peer tutor if necessary. The helper can explain, guide, and move through the activity with a special-needs child.
  • Give directions, but avoid taking over. Doing it yourself is the easy way out. Remember, a successful craft activity is not a finished masterpiece. Success is measured in a child's sense of accomplishment.

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