Parents indulge their children early in life with the latest gadgets and gizmos, ostensibly to aid in their development. Then we have kids that begin to demand the latest electronic toys, iPods, computers, video games, and play stations for entertainment. If it doesn’t buzz, ring, or have little icons knocking into each other with the touch of a button then kids don’t want it. The point is that our children could use a little more hands on learning and maybe a little exposure to more natural and authentic historical learning environments. Could a little time spent one on one with your kids in some meaningful craft have a more positive impact down the road for them and you? Perhaps parenting should be redirected toward quality time spent with children engaged in making a leather pouch or weaving a bracelet. The result could be that your child might feel good about himself because they created something useful that they can wear, show off and offer as a gift that they put their heart and hands into.
Time is often a parents’ worst enemy. There is not enough of it to go to work, take care of bills, home repairs, run kids to school and all the activities that parents seemingly feel that they need to enroll their children in, let alone take time to supervise time consuming history arts and crafts. Hands on education at home has nearly become extinct in so many households. The idea often arises that if you have the money why not indulge your child in a video game or one of those ipods or the latest laptop filled with so called educational software. That way, while you rush around to microwave dinner and get ready for the school play, the other children can have something to do that is entertaining. When time is available, sports have come to fill a gap in play time and the score is what counts. Could we be headed on a downhill slide with this kind of parenting?
Quality time could be spent with more creative activities in good old fashioned arts and crafts. That may seem so antiquated and out of touch with what kids really want to do but could the results of such activities be worth the time? If your child has been to a museum and has seen exhibits of their community’s early history, why not follow up that visit with some hands on history. When teachers see the students come to class with a hand made woven bracelet, a miniature model of an Indian village or a beaded belt, they could be asked to tell the class about their project, how it was inspired, and make the student feel really good about something they have achieved. Parents can feel good too that their child created something from perhaps items in a craft drawer or even items found in their own backyard by simply following some simple instructions and using their imagination.
Today, if the terms “cut and paste” were not part of the computer jargon, those terms would almost become obsolete in the real sense of what they are. Children do a lot of cutting of paper and pasting before they reach the age of six but those simplistic hands on activities set the stage for more important accomplishments later in the learning experience. Parents need to find creative ways to continue that process of turning an idea into an achievement, especially while an idea is fresh. So often parents just don’t know how to process the idea of sitting down and working with their children on a project that has to be put together from scratch. There really are ways to do it and parenting techniques should involve at least some time set aside for those more down to earth projects.
Arts and crafts based on Native American cultural history can offer up a chance to set specific goals to be achieved including doing some research on what Native people may have used for rope, weaving, clothing, sewing, decorating and everyday living; then collecting or purchasing the materials to recreate one of those tasks; and finally the goal of actually sitting down and working on the project with the intent to finish it by a specific time. The research itself can be fun and certainly a brain teaser. With all the hype and stereotypes revolving around some of our American holidays, it could be a family project to research some real information and present it to other members of the family or your child’s class with several recreated craft items based on what you found. Learning about the process of how Native people wove cloth from specific plant fibers might inspire your child to do a weaving project such as a bag that could be used as a purse or used to carry one of those modern gizmos or gadgets.
Nature can be a stimulating place to start when it comes to hands on learning. Finding out a little about how Native people used flint, plants, leather, fur, shells, copper, and such items as bones, claws, deer tail hair which can further inspire your child to put a collection together or draw pictures of items that Native Indians made from those items. Studying Native American and colonial American use of feathers, both domestic and imported could further inspire the budding artist to do some feather art or do some research on birds and how they live, lay eggs and more. Planting gourds and then harvesting them for the purpose of making gourd rattles, bowls, jewelry and taking them to a craft show would be a wonderful learning project for the entire family.
Shells can be collected and then you and you child can go to the library or the internet to find out which ones were cut and carved into jewelry and which ones were used to make into “wampum.” Even just the term of an object used by Native Americans could foster a discussion and a craft project. Your child can look up what wampum really is or was and find out its origins, how it was made, what the function of such shell beads served in the Native American community and then see if they can create their own wampum from pasta, paint and string.
The list is really endless. The point is that taking some time, even if you have to carve it out and put it concrete to save it might be worth the effort if your child feels lonely or just isn’t stimulated by dancing his fingers across a computer keyboard everyday. Some historic craft kits are available and can save lots of time and effort on your part as a parent, trying to track down every item needed just to create a beaded necklace. The value in crafting can come from this precious time spent with your child in an engaging stimulating and rewarding experience that results in an accomplishment that your child and you can be proud of with tangible results.
If a math problem is frustrating your child, try getting them involved in a craft where they need to count beads or choose colors or use their hands to count threads for weaving or twining a bag. Most of these involve the use of rudimentary math skills. It might seem as if they should engage in something totally math free, but instead of telling them over and over that math is important, show them. When they engage in many hands on historic crafts they are learning that math is everywhere and that without it, most tasks from the past as well as today would be impossible.
Clothes really don’t grow in malls or at Walmart. Hand sewing might be a good way to have your child see how clothing was made for thousands of years before sewing machines and factories. Since sewing involves some instruction, use of sharp needles and pins, adults definitely should supervise a sewing experience in making a leather pouch, a cloth pocket or bonnet. Colonial and Native American craft kits, instructions and materials are often available and will save on time looking for individual materials and instructions if time is an essential ingredient in getting involved creatively with your child. Experiment with different crafts and see where your child’s talent and skills are. See where he or she excels and then continue to choose crafts related to that as a relief or reward for doing their math, homework or other chores.
If you do have a computer and printer, show your child how that technology can be put to use for more than communicating to their friends via “Facebook,” or “Myspace.” Buy some relatively inexpensive colorful paper and have them do a research project on how Native Americans made pottery in New York. They can sometimes find pictures of pottery that are free from restrictions on line and print them onto the paper. They can create a title and type up descriptions of the various stages from finding the clay, mixing it with shell temper and then rolling it into long tubes and pushing them together to form a pot. They can research the firing techniques, designs and then the uses of the pottery and how long it was made before Europeans brought trade kettles of iron and brass which took the place of ancient pottery. They can then print off the report and bind it by going to places such as “Office Depot,” where they have binding coils, heavier paper that could be used for the front and back and even laminating devices. If you have the latest scrapbooking device that cuts foam paper, cardboard and makes fancy lettering, help your child make a unique cover for their report on pottery making. Your child can then show the report proudly to their class and friends. If they feel they want to experiment later with actually making a clay pot and firing it, they have the instructions and all they need is the clay and they are ready to go. They have already done the research, now its time to see what actually making a pot is all about.
With the internet so available, sometimes nudging your child to go to sites that feature quality articles and informative topics is a bit of a challenge, but if you set a goal for them, such as making a report or doing research on an Indian tribe to be able to describe their dress, housing, and village arrangement, it might be just enough to stimulate them to really sink their teeth into some hands on history.
Now that the economy is in crisis and our budgets are in crisis, this might be a good time to spend time instead of money on your child. Arts and crafts can be expensive but they don’t have to be. Sometimes if you invest in some scrap leather, fur scraps, or go to an indoor flea market in the winter, or yard sales in the summer you can find bargains on beads, baubles, feathers and wood crafts that you might pay hundreds of dollars for even at discount stores if purchased separately. Alright, now that you have all your bangles and beads, what do you do with them? If you need string or cord, try a discount store or again a flea market or even a craft fair to ask around before you leap frog into disaster with tangled messes that sit in the back of the closet for the next five years.
This is where you and your children can again, effectively use the computer that you still have while the electricity is still on and look up some project ideas. You might try using the feathers to make a Plains Indian dance bustle by gluing them to a round piece of leather with a glue gun or let your children do it by using paste or household glue. The finished project could be used as a wall hanging or something your child takes to school to show what they did with mom over the weekend. The days of expensive electronic gadgets and ready made souvenirs may be behind you for awhile and it may be time to get creative in a very old “new” way. The historic crafts that you can create as a family might prove to be a worthwhile project and a memory to share when you get together with relatives later in life. You can record the results of your research, the activity itself and make a video for future generations. There are patterns on the internet that can be downloaded and saved for future use in subjects such as making a friendship bracelet, beaded belt, sand art, and even making a simple Native Woodland Indian blouse or breechclout.
Some parents prefer that their children play video games so they know where the kids are and can be certain that they are not getting into trouble while others simply don’t want the children to “make a mess.” No one wants sand and glue all over the new carpet. So, find a room in the house, barn, garage, a spare room, big hallway, or wherever and set it up as the craft area. If you need to know the children are not getting into trouble, send them to the craft room and have them construct something for an hour until dinner is ready. That way you know where they are and the activities are contained and confined to one area of the house. Structure time for homework, after school activities, video games and add some historic hands on arts and crafts for your kids and see what happens.
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