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We grandparents are always looking for ways to spend quality time with our grandchildren. We want to nurture and encourage them as they grow. We want to make memories that will remain with them as they move into adulthood. But we may not realize that when we enjoy crafting together or teach them something we know how to do, we’re also building their learning skills.

Often traditional learning settings are focused on a certain outcome or understanding. This is, of course important work. But much of school work demands production of a “fill in the blank” kind of learning that requires only one right answer. This kind of learning can squelch a child’s natural creative juices. On the other hand, crafting or creating a work of art, invites the child to explore and be creative.

So with teaching handcrafts of all kinds we grandparents get the best of both worlds, a win-win situation in which we share quality time with our grandchildren and we build up their learning capacities.

Here’s how. 

  • Problem Solving

When a child creates a craft or piece of art, he learns to solve problems that arise as the project progresses. Maybe she learns to use glue more sparingly or he learns to cut a piece of paper to a proper length to fit a space. Problem solving is a very important skill in all learning tasks.

  • Procedure

Most craft projects or handcrafts have step by step procedures that must be done in the proper order for the piece to turn out right. Learning to follow step by step directions is a key learning factor.

  • Self Expression

This is where a child with lots of ideas bubbling over can experiment. Yes, we need to follow directions, but we certainly can embellish with choice of color or shape, or our project may look entirely different than my neighbor’s and that’s okay. Knowing when it’s okay to deviate from the directions and become creative is also a key element of learning.

The Crafts

There are endless crafting projects to choose from when enjoying time with your grandkids. Follow their interests as you shop for crafting supplies. Look at Mom blogs and other art sites that are overflowing with ideas for children’s crafts. 

Crafting projects will be different for a three year old and a six year old. Threes and fours like to do a one or two-step project that is short and sweet. Older children can focus for increasingly longer periods of time and are able to manipulate the materials with greater precision. Choose projects that will have successful outcomes and select at least some that allow for open-ended responses. Let that creativity shine.

  • Nature Crafts

Using found objects in nature is always interesting to children. From leaves to twigs to rocks, you’ll find a way to turn the objects in to art.

  • Paper Projects

Drawing paper, coffee filters, paper plates and a variety of ways to add shape and color are available in any craft store. Crayons, markers, scissors and the like can be kept in store for your times with the grands.

  • Popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, puff paints, wooden buttons and beads….  

Kids love to create using these items and more and craft stores are filled with a huge variety of products to turn into “art.”

  • Clay or Play Dough or Slime

Pliable materials give children a chance to mold and fashion the product into shapes they enjoy. There is something about working these pliable items that is calming and invites focus.

  • Paints

Whether it’s watercolors, acrylics or finger paints, children love to see the color on the page. Teach and model use of a brush and away you go.

  • Textiles

Using fabric or yarns or string your grandkids can create beautiful things. If you know how to knit or crochet and have older grandkids you may want to begin teaching them these more difficult skills. Begin with crochet as there are fewer stitches to learn and the process is simpler. Knitting requires a higher degree of manual dexterity and control, but is a wonderful skill to know. 

Sewing is another skill that older kids can begin to learn. Either hand stitching or with a machine, creating a simple garment or other beginner’s project is very satisfying to a young learner who wants to be as accomplished as the grown-ups in his or her life.

Build your supply of crafting items and store them for visits with the grandkids. Keep your eye open for projects that will work for your particular ages and stages. Remember to honor your grandchild’s interests, but also be willing to offer something new. 

Handcrafts enrich lives for both children and adults. They make for perfect bonding times with the grandkids.