Benefits of Crafts for Children and Adults

Pottery as a craftCrafts can be fun, but are they good for you?  In a Kidspot article entitled “Benefits of Craft for Kids“, the author lists a handful of the benefits for children engaging in craft activities. Did you know that crafting stimulates the child’s imagination to create their own entertainment, and helps grow their confidence in their own ability to make decisions? In response to the question “Do Arts & Crafts Help A Preschool Kid?, Naudain Academy suggests that crafting contributes to the development of a variety of valuable skills including social, communication, fine motor, and problem solving skills. Most educators and parents seem to agree that crafting is highly beneficial for young children, but the confidence wanes when asked to consider crafts for older children and adults. Is there a point at which doing crafts becomes a waste of time?

Let’s define a craft activity, because it is often confused with art. Crafting is a goal-oriented activity, where the end result is well defined (usually by some external source like a set of instructions). An art-focused activity is an open-ended, expressive activity where the end result is less clearly defined by an external source and is instead usually determined by the artist. For example, if you are doing a craft to make a paper box with specific dimensions, the end result may not be perfect, but if you followed the instructions, you should end up with an item that is clearly identifiable as a paper box with a predictable size. An art assignment may be stated this way: “paint a picture of your mother”. About all you know in advance is that the end product will involve paint and possibly something that resembles a woman, but it is the artist who decides what the picture will look like. Although creativity is most often associated with the arts, crafting activities can (and should) be designed to stimulate the imagination and motivate the crafter to think outside the box.

So let’s again visit the possibility that crafts stop being beneficial once children reach school age. Are crafts really a waste a time for older children and adults? I believe crafting remains beneficial throughout a person’s lifetime. I also believe that the most beneficial crafts are those designed to stimulate the imagination i.e. craft-oriented arts or art-oriented crafts. When the benefits of both arts and crafts are married in a single product or activity, you get the most bang for your buck (if you think of learning and developing skills as an investment in yourself or your children).

So how are crafts good for you?

  1. crafts offer an opportunity to practise the skill of following instructions
  2. crafts encourage the development of a practical skill (e.g. cutting, sewing, carving, color coordinating, etc.) that can often be used outside the craft environment
  3. crafts have a clearly defined end point which enables and develops the skill of self-evaluation (i.e. the crafter can compare their progress to their goal or expected outcome throughout the process)
  4. crafts develop patience
  5. crafts offer the reward of a sense of accomplishment once the goal is achieved
  6. crafts offer the opportunity to create practical or useful items, thereby providing a tangible return on the time and money invested in the project
  7. crafts demonstrate, in a practical way, the link between having a goal and taking steps to achieve the goal
  8. crafting helps you de-stress by forcing you to focus on the task at hand and distracting you from thoughts or activities that exacerbate anxiety and depression

If you have the choice, select a craft activity that stimulates your imagination, encourages problem-solving, and requires creative thinking. Next time you have the option to buy entertainment products, consider buying a simple craft kit instead. The benefits of crafting extend well beyond what the average video game or movie can offer you. Crafting is good for you, and you don’t need to be an artist to craft.


Questions and answers are simply mathematics

If you find the study of mathematics dreadfully boring, it is time to play a little. In “Amusements in Mathematics” by Henry Ernest Dudeney (published by David Gaddy, Nov 2011),  plenty of mathematical fun is crammed into 640 pages. According to the author, this collection of puzzles and mathematical problems was created so that the user of the book could tap into the pleasure of “doing math”.

Henry Ernest Dudeney (1857-1930), an English mathematician, is best known as a master of logic puzzles. The author views mathematical puzzles as perplexing questions begging our answers. The reader is drawn into the hunt for solutions and answers to these questions. Asking and answering questions is a part of human life, and comes naturally to us all. When mathematics is viewed as the process of asking and answering questions, we allow ourselves to bypass any existing “number” prejudices and start to enjoy what comes naturally.

Amusements in Mathematics” also includes a discussion on the psychology of puzzles and the application of math in our daily lives.  It is an excellent resource for mathematics teachers seeking a readily accessible collection of “questions” that will spice up a lesson. However, this puzzle book is just as useful to anyone seeking a little mental stimulation – after all, we can all answer questions and should not shy away from the challenge of doing so often. This extensive collection of puzzles and problem-solving exercises is now available from  The book can be purchased at a saving of 20% until the end of February 2012 using the following coupon code: 20% off books – Enter code FEBBOOKS12 – Save up to $25 – Offer ends 2/29/12


Is it possible to put common sense back where it belongs?

For many students, something very fundamental is missing from the problem solving process. Many of my students simply couldn’t see the “obvious” as it glared at them from the question paper in front of them. Because they missed the simple sign posts that point the way to the solution in a problem solving activity, they quickly became hopelessly lost, and almost all would give up the moment the hopelessness attacked.

It took a while to realize that many of the students who struggled with the challenges of science or mathematics were not tripped up by a lack of knowledge of the subject. They knew the facts – they just didn’t know how to make the facts evolve into a solution to a fact-related problem. There are a number of reasons for this happening, but from my observation, the most common problem is that the students simply missed the “obvious”. It’s not that the students were rebelling against “common sense” just for the sake of rebelling. Most students simply had no idea that they lacked that vital ingredient to successful problem solving, that simple human quality which previous generations called good, old “common sense”. Sadly, it has become apparent that “common sense” is no longer common.

If common sense is missing, is it possible to put it back where it belongs? As we explore the process of learning, we will try to answer this question.


Where is the gap in my education?

As a teacher of Physics, I have spent years searching for ways to make complex concepts simple to grasp. I have looked for ways to make the learning process easier. And I have studied my students, listened to them, watched them, and experimented with different ideas to see which will enhance their understanding. In this process, one thing has never ceased to amaze me. In speaking to colleagues in similar study fields, I discovered that I was not the only one to notice this strange “phenomenon”. What astounded me was the gaping hole in the education of my students, and the frightening thing about it was that most parents and students didn’t seem the least bit concerned about it. What was missing? Common sense. Common sense? Surely I am mistaken? Everyone has common sense – it comes with the being human, right?


Obviously not obvious…

I spent years watching how students dealt with problem solving challenges. The majority of students were confident in the beginning, especially after spending time with the theory until it made sense to them. With the theories studied, they would move on to tackle complex problems with their new toolbox of Physics laws and mathematical formulae. But, in their haste to engage the challenge, they would leave behind all the simple, everyday skills that they would need to create the rock solid foundation for using the formulae and laws.

Imagine being summoned to a battle at the top of a mountain. You decide you are going to order some fierce “big guns”. You have them delivered at the foot of the mountain. In preparation for the battle you study those big, heavy monster guns, getting to know everything there is to know about them. You walk around them, you touch them, you knock on the metal, you sniff it, and you even practice pulling the trigger. On the day of the battle, you wake up knowing you are ready to use your weapons to defeat the enemy. Just as you do every morning, you use your bicycle to ride to the foot of the mountain. You and your guns are ready for battle, right? So, let’s go do battle at the top of the mountain. Oh, wait. That’s a problem, isn’t it?

Apparently there is no problem. What don’t the students see? The students will happily report for battle without realizing that they will not be able to use their “big, heavy guns”. Why? They didn’t organize any trucks to transport the guns to the mountain top for the battle. If you are thinking, “who would be so empty headed as to omit that very important step in the process of winning the battle?” you would be joining many other teachers who suffer this frustration daily. Isn’t it obvious to everyone that no matter how big your guns are, they will be useless to you unless you can carry them into battle with you? How can something so obvious be left out of the process? Perhaps the answer lies in the conclusion that it isn’t obvious at all.

This oblivion to the obvious happens constantly, and the result is that many young people drop out of science and mathematics classes, feeling “stupid”, disillusioned, and defeated. They have all the scientific and mathematical tools they need to solve the problems assigned to them, yet somehow none of the tools seem to work. The students stand on the mountain top, crushed, their faces ashen with their sense of betrayal, shamelessly whining about the useless guns that couldn’t be trusted in the heat of the battle. Can this disappointing end to the story be avoided? One of the objectives of this blog is to help students and parents of students find ways to “bridge the gap” on their journey towards successfully studying mathematics and science.