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Melissa’s Playbook: Why I Love Arts & Crafts

2017-03-22 by Melissa

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I cannot ever remember a time when I wasn’t creating or crafting. As a young girl, I spent many hours sketching, painting, creating dried flower collages, and designing doll clothing from scraps of fabric found around our house. As I grew older, I literally explored every craft on the planet — from flower arranging, fabric frame making, and decoupaging to scrapbooking, sewing, and soapmaking. At one point, I dove deep into the world of jewelry making, actually developing a brand and selling my designs at craft shows for years.

As I matured, I realized that creating for me was more than just a hobby — it was my salvation. I had always fallen victim to my anxious mind … feeling a continual sense of foreboding and lack of control that bordered on panic. However, when I was engaged in a creative activity, that inner turmoil subsided and I felt completely calm, focused, and engaged. And, most importantly, crafting enabled me to take my internal strife, channel it, and create something of beauty that brought me joy and pride and that I could hold in my hands. This gave me a sense of power unlike anything else, as it illustrated that my pain actually had a purpose. And the true irony is that it led to an entire career! I have now come to understand that creativity has always been my emotional outlet and form of meditation and therapy. I now understand that having this creative focus is essential to my health and well-being.

Melissa's Playbook Why I Love Arts and Crafts

I feel so grateful for having discovered this truth about myself. I believe I owe this discovery to the fact that I experienced a childhood of boredom — where I faced long stretches of time when I needed to “fill the blank canvas.” No one came to my rescue and I didn’t have many toys, scheduled activities, or friends to help pass the time. I alone, with only my imagination, had to come up with a solution. Had my days been more like those of kids today — jam-packed with adult-led music lessons, sports lessons, practices, and academic enrichment classes —I may have never needed to dig deep and discover the joy of creating. Had I owned a device that fit in my pocket and that offered endless conversation and passive entertainment at my fingertips, I may have never developed the resilience and confidence in having to devise original ways to entertain myself. I feel extremely passionate about the need for kids to BE ALLOWED the downtime to explore (on their own terms and at their own pace) their world in order to discover themselves, their passions, and their purpose. As parents, we must realize that it’s our responsibility to give our children the time and space to build their imaginations and creative thinking skills which will provide a beacon throughout their lives!

Kids and Crafting

There should only be one goal when it comes to kids and crafting: to empower them and make them feel good about themselves and their ability to create. That means the end result must be something they are proud of having created. In the past, I would often experience tense moments with my children upon completing a craft project that looked nothing like it was “supposed” to look. Very few of the craft projects my children tackled ended up looking even remotely similar to the photo on the front of the box. And this was very frustrating for all of us as it led to a negative experience. This insight is what led me to launch our initial crafting line, where the projects were easier to execute and the results appealing no matter what crafting level the child had reached. I knew we had to do better for our kids!

In order for a craft project to be confidence-building, a child must be able to achieve excellent results given his or her age and abilities. Because as you know, kids want to proudly show off their finished product, receive validation, and bask in the praise! They are eager for that affirmation that they “did a great job!”

One of my favorite phrases coined when we conceived our crafting line is, “low skill, high impact.” That is the essence of what we hope our products deliver to the child. We want them to be easy to execute, requiring little in the way of true artistic skill, but deliver simple innovations or an end result that makes the creator say “wow!” They also encourage kids to add their unique personal touches to make them their own. Simple acts of self-expression do so much for kids’ self-esteem. Deciding whether to paint a wooden pirate chest red or yellow, choosing whether to place a sticker here or there, coming up with a pretty pattern to repeat across a surface — these are the little crafting moments that empower our children.

Melissa’s Playbook Why I Love Arts & Crafts

It has always been important to me to offer a range of products suited for different skill levels and temperaments. Some children may delight in the idea of filling a blank piece of crisp, white heavy bond drawing paper with whatever comes from their imagination. Other kids may find a blank slate a little daunting and need a kick-starter — a partial picture for them to complete, or a set of, say, dinosaur-themed stamps the child can use to complement his or her color pencil drawing. Our craft items are designed to produce amazing results, no matter the child’s skill level. And because of that, they capture kids’ attention and build confidence and self-esteem. As a mom, I like to have a variety of creative supplies and craft kits handy so no matter what mood the kids are in, they can pick up something open-ended and enjoy the art of expressing themselves!

 

Make Something

I can’t get enough of crafting, and more than anything I love gathering my kids to try out a new craft project. Chips off the old block, my two middle daughters recently became obsessed with the latest crafting craze — SLIME. In fact, one of my daughters actually turned her experimenting into a business, taking orders for personalized slime (varying colors, opacity, and mixings) and selling nearly 100 containers in just a few months.  Although our home has succumbed to the incredible mess of dried glue and staining everywhere, I can do nothing but beam and support her as I see her make design decisions, try different combinations and fail, and try again until she perfects her unique formulas and combinations. And watch her excitement as she turns a creative passion into a small business with all its challenges as well! These are life experiences that will serve her — and any kid who engages in creative expression — well!

Melissa’s Playbook Why I Love Arts & Crafts

I happen to be a crafty person, but even if you aren’t, it’s still easy to give your kids the opportunity to explore this side of themselves. March is National Craft Month. Think about setting aside a Saturday or Sunday to have a family craft-a-thon! Clear a table, set out basic supplies, and get your creative juices flowing! You just may find that you catch the crafting bug. Or at the very least it may serve as a reminder how enjoyable (and therapeutic!) it can be to make something with your own two hands! I have so many favorites I don’t even know where to start, but here are three easy-to-do craft ideas that involve items you may even have around the house!

 

1. Crafted!

This is a crafting spin on the “Chopped” television show where contestants are given a limited set of ingredients to creatively combine to make different dishes. It works best with two or more kids (or grownups!). You’ll need the following items: glue, black markers, large popsicle sticks, googly eyes, pipe cleaners, pom poms, yarn in different colors, squares of patterned scrap paper (origami paper works well), and scissors. Divide materials and give every participant exactly the same “ingredients” (e.g.  2 popsicle sticks, 4 googly eyes, 4 pipe cleaners, 4 pom poms, 4 squares of patterned paper, 3 pieces of yarn, black marker, glue, scissors). Give crafters 30 minutes to create something magical using exactly the same materials! The results will all be very different and incredible to behold!

 

2. Paper Airplane Designs & Races

This is a go-to favorite in our house. And it literally only requires standard-sized white paper and markers. We possess many books on paper airplane folding, but simple-to-follow folding instructions are also easily found online. Note: Once folded, I always staple the bottom of the plane numerous times so the wings stay together and the aircraft flies more smoothly. We also always personalize our planes with unique striping and number designs to differentiate them. Then it’s off to the races to see whose plane can fly the farthest. The first plane to rack up 10 wins is declared the champion!

Melissa’s Playbook Why I Love Arts & Crafts

 

3. Tape Canvas Paintings

We have been enjoying this simple craft in recent weeks because the results are so amazing! All you need is a blank canvas, masking tape, various paints, and paintbrushes. Take the blank canvas and make a pattern of masking tape stuck directly to the canvas. You can use criss-crossed lines, or a shape made with smaller pieces. When the design is completed on the canvas, decide which paint colors are desired, and thoroughly paint the open sections of canvas. Overlap the paint with the tape to make certain the areas are fully covered. Wait until the paint is fully dry — which varies by paint type. Once dry, the magic comes in removing the masking tape and seeing the design magically appear. This project can also lend itself to a lot of creativity in mixing paint colors, using metallic or glitter paints, or using different techniques like sponging, patterning, swirling or making up your own unique painting style!

I hope you enjoy the fun of crafting this season, and please share some of your unique ideas and creations!

Melissa

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Melissa

Melissa is the co-founder of Melissa & Doug. She credits her creativity to a childhood of boredom, relying on only her imagination to fill the blank canvas — with magic. Concerned this generation of children is missing out on the kind of unstructured downtime that enables them to find their passions and purpose through exploration, Melissa is leading a movement to Take Back Childhood. She dreams of a day when kids are free from over-scheduling, undue pressure, and digital distractions so they may discover themselves, develop into free thinkers, and realize their full potential.

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