Dr Suzanne Zeedyk: 5 Ways Craft Can Boost Your Child’s Development
At Create and Craft, we’ve always been firm believers in the importance of creativity. We all know that crafting is a fantastic way to explore our imaginative abilities, exercise a little playfulness and help encourage us to relax and unwind – but is there more to the power of crafting than meets the craft table? We’ve been working with child psychologist and play pundit Dr. Suzanne Zeedyk to explore what this means for our children, especially the generation growing up in the digital age, who spend far less time crafting than their predecessors.
Dr Suzanne Zeedyk Explores Crafting as a Powerful Parenting Tool
Parents today find themselves under an enormous amount of pressure to ‘get it right’ when it comes to raising their children – and that anxiety isn’t helpful for anyone. So I thought it might be useful to dive into the concept of creativity and crafting as a parenting tool, and help demystify the very real benefits that encouraging a more creative approach to play can offer children and parents alike.
When it comes to Create and Craft for children, what matters most is the creating. That’s because the process of creating is what happens as soon as they start crafting… and the impact of creation experience lasts much longer than you might guess…
Five Surprising Ways Crafting Helps Your Child’s Development
Crafting is a great way to improve your child’s thinking skills. Planning, coordinating, evaluating, organising – they are all important cognitive skills that matter in school, for tidying bedrooms, learning to cook, finding their way to a friend’s house and eventually in applying for jobs.
Craft projects naturally call on these skills, and every time a child exercises those skills, they improve. That’s especially the case for STEM crafts, which are designed specifically with cognitive skills in mind.
These skills will develop automatically as your child engages with STEM crafting activities, but if you would like to boost those skills even further, then talk with your child about how they went about the planning and the coordinating and the organising… they might have done all that without being conscious of it!
Your conversation will draw their attention to their own thinking processes, and that will enable them to be more consciously aware of their strengths.
More Activity, Less Passivity!
Crafting gets the body moving! Crafting requires a child to move their body and use their senses energetically. They have to reach for the scissors, or pinch their fingers together to pick up a piece, or adjust their eye muscles as they look far across the room for the part that has rolled away. That variation in movement contrasts with the passive, still postures in which our children spend so much of their time today, as they engage with screens.
Even though the movement isn’t a lot, it is still healthy for your children. It affects their muscles, hormones, blood flow and even their immune system! Human bodies are meant to move, and the more of that you can encourage, the more your child’s development will thrive.
Crafting sparks all sorts of emotions. Your child will experience a whole raft of emotions in the midst of crafting, including achievement, success, pride, frustration, disappointment and uncertainty. They might even experience all of those in a single project! Handling emotions is a really important part of children’s development. The emotional lessons you have in childhood affect how you deal with emotions in adulthood. This includes both positive and negative emotions, or what I prefer to think of as the pleasurable and the tough emotions.
The best thing you can do to help your child’s development, is to talk with them about their feelings. Whatever they are feeling, they will benefit from learning that you are always interested and emotionally available to share that moment with them. It is easier to cope with disappointment when you aren’t feeling it alone, and it is more fun to have successes when you are confident there is someone waiting to share them with you.
If crafting sparks a range of emotions, it follows naturally that it will spark a range of behaviour. This is because behaviour is always driven by underlying emotions. If a child is frustrated, they might smash what they’ve been creating. If they are disappointed, they might burst into tears. If they are proud, they might get boisterous.
It is easy for parents to focus first on the behaviour. The science tells us, though, that if you can focus first on the emotion, then you will build stronger bonds with your child. Help them with the tough feelings and join them in the success feelings. After you have connected emotionally, you can then address any behavioural challenges.
The Gift of Laughter
Crafting is the perfect activity for boosting laughter, and laughter is one of the most powerful tools you have as a parent. Every time you laugh with your child, it strengthens bonds between you. It even alters your child’s biology, by relaxing muscles, opening breathing airways and boosting the trust hormone called ‘oxytocin’.
Crafting activities are full of adventure, because you never quite know how they are going to turn out and you never know what obstacles might be faced along the way. The more you can bring laughter into the journey, whether that is the laughter of celebrating success or the laughter of making light of challenges, you will change your child’s development.
In the future, their strongest memories will be of how crafting felt. You can help to ensure that, along with whatever their brain learned during crafting, their heart always carries the echoes of the laughter you shared during the journey.
I hope these insights are helpful. I hope they will boost your confidence and creativity as a parent, as you seek to bring a wide range of activities into your child’s life. As a research psychologist, I think child development is absolutely fascinating, and I think every parent deserves to share in this knowledge.
I’ve been delighted to share some of it with you here.