To Craft or Not To Craft…….IS that the question?

I am a pretty crafty person.

I make my own soap, I sew, I like to scrapbook, my husband and I make our own furniture, I recently learned to knit, and I love to cook. Homemade things make me smile. I enjoy spreading out fabric and creating something that wasn’t there before for my home or a loved one. It gives me satisfaction to throw together a batch of laundry detergent or set aside an afternoon to make bar soap. It’s commonplace for me to stop buying some product or food or whatever once I discover I can make/create/substitute something homemade in its place.

You might think this natural bent would translate into a creatively handcrafted homeschool, right??

Not so, my friends, not so. Well, not naturally so………

Here’s the rub. I used to almost loathe any of the time our lessons suggested we spend on a project or craft. I wasn’t a good sport when my kids asked to play with playdough. It used to set my teeth on edge to have to pull out paint and glitter and glue to supervise a kiddie craft session. The mess drove me nuts, that was part of it, sure. The more embarrassing reason behind my reluctance is my somewhat ridiculous inability to just let go, abdicate control, and keep my hands off whatever it was they wanted to do. I found it a struggle to allow my kids to be kids, free to paint unrecognizable blobs, mix playdough colors, spill glitter, break crayons, and just generally enjoy creating whatever struck them in the moment, reveling in the mess of however they chose to get there.

My reluctance wasn’t in the crafting alone. I was, without a doubt, a “no” mom. I almost universally answered “no” to questions of snacks, ideas, or activities from the kids that weren’t already in my plan, without even much of a second thought. Isn’t that terrible?!? To be fair, I believe it developed out of a desire for order, the need to keep a young family on a schedule, and a general exhaustion with living from moment to moment on the whims of babies and toddlers. But those babies were growing up, and I didn’t even notice how negative I’d become and probably wouldn’t have had a family member I admire and respect not pulled me aside and lovingly called me out with gentleness. She asked if I had reasons behind the particular “no” answers she had observed me hand the kids throughout the day, or if I was answering automatically out of some preference or perceived inconvenience. She helped me to realize ‘no’, ‘not right now’, ‘maybe’, and ‘I don’t think so’ have their time and place, but I needed to examine the heart of why I almost always said no to anything no matter how normal, kid-like, and perfectly harmless the request.

I had to remember my job as a mom and teacher is to guide, correct, protect, and encourage the development of three individual young men. I might consider certain crafts or activities to be messy, chaotic, and difficult to control, but it would bring me no joy to raise three boys limited only to the preferences and abilities of their mother.

I want the boys to see a clump of trees and instantly start thinking how to make a fort. I want to raise up men that love and spend their free time in the outdoors. I want them to appreciate the beauty in a sunset and still be awestruck by a city skyline. I hope the boys see the art in all kinds of music. I want each of my kids to see wood, machine parts, scrap metal, or any other number of things and be constantly considering new and useful ways to put those materials to use. I want boys that want to send creative thank you notes to their grandparents and keep a photo journal of their various exploits. I want so many things for my boys that can’t be accomplished with “no”.


It’s been a few years since I really set out to change the way I thought about and responded to the requests of my children. I haven’t been perfect. Like you, I am a constant work-in-progress but I can recall countless hours the boys have spent exploring, creating, crafting, and brainstorming in those years. As much as the projects and creations themselves make me smile, it’s the silly, messy, courageous, fun, surprising, and creative questions and ideas my kids constantly pitch my way that make me believe we’re heading in the right direction!

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  1. Ugh-this is sooooooo me 🙁 As much as I love being crafty I panic over letting my 4,3, and 2 y/o do art projects because, yes, it results in me (selfishly so) being irritated about the chaos and extra clean up. We end up with broken crayons and dried playdough crumbs hiding under our kitchen table, marker on the wall (because one seems to escape the box EVERY time we get them out if I don’t anxiously hover over them on ‘cap duty’) and a ‘project’ that doesn’t remotely resemble what we (er, I) set out to do. I make excuses-“They’re not ready yet/too little, etc” but really it’s me being frustrated at the extra mess. Thanks for the post-glad to see I am not the only crafty hypocrite when it comes to my kids. You’ve inspired me to pull out the elmer’s glue and some *gulp* glitter and give it another shot-and just let them make something-anything-that will allow them to enjoy the process instead of the product.

    1. It is nice to know this resonates with someone besides me, lol! Let me encourage you that it DOES get easier as the kids get older, especially once you’ve put your mind to it. 🙂

  2. I also was a Mom who said no alot (many years ago when my kids were young) till it was pointed out to me that as parents we should say yes as often as we can to nurture our kids. (not necessarily for all kinds of material stuff) and it was very liberating when I started to say yes more. I think we get this from our own upbringings to say no all the time.
    About the messy activities…One of my missions in life is to try to get people away from copycat crafts to educational and often messy art. I do find that one of my biggest challenges is with people who absolutely cannot deal with mess and as a result their kids really suffer. It’s really great that you were able to make that shift

  3. Hi,
    I didn’t stay at home with my kids (well I did for 13 years) but when I went back to work – it was to teach. And I loved letting the kids discover things for themselves. I was totally unconventional – no dittos, we used work books, they wrote, they played, they acted, they made messes for art. I loved it and so did they.

    Awesome for you to see this as learning … to live, to create, to learn through doing.

    Blessings as you move forward.

    when I created TAdeo Turtle – that is why I made activities to go with the book and a curriculum to help all moms and dads and grandparents be able to interact with the story using creative ways.


  4. While my son (now 10) has never said he wanted to be a girl, he has always loved ”frilly” stuff. His dad nixed the baby dolls when he was a toddler, but later had a change of heart and made no comment about stuffed animals, a dress in the toy box, sometimes magic marker toenails, etc. which he enjoys to this day. He also loves dancing. He is also incredibly intelligent and more mature than many his age (and rather likes being different while keeping most of the trappings of what is expected from a 10 year old boy). I tell him that he is more in tune with himself and more confident about expressing himself than most boys his age. However, I do sometimes comment that ”well if you choose the glitter sneakers (and wear them to school), you may be teased because for some reason, many kids think only girls are supposed to like glitter which is weird cause many guys wear jewelry) and he’s generally chosen to ”conform”. At your child’s age, ”I want to be a girl” MAY be the same as ”I like things that I think only girls are supposed to like” or maybe he really DOES want to be a girl, but time will tell. In the meantime, I suggest letting him do at least some of the ”girly” things he likes and gently letting him know that while its okay to do so, that some things may have social costs that he should know about first (at elementary school age: no one can see toe nail polish and glitter sneakers can be worn at home – or maybe sneakers with silver trim can be the choice!! – on the other hand at really young ages like your child, wearing a dress in public isn’t a big deal).

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