Every year before Christmas I start to think about slightly different things in a slightly different way.
For most people that I know, December is the month of a little bit different perspective - a more abstract and a more generous one. I guess the warm holiday spirit set up against cool weather encourages people to revisit human values such as empathy, sharing, tolerance, love. Being both professionally and personally surrounded by kids, I often wonder what are the best ways to break these abstract topics to them. Since kids learn by following a model, it's always more efficient to give them a message by doing, rather than telling. Especially when it comes to the big and bold notions.
As I witnessed the value of doing crafts countless times and monitored their benefits throughout the years, crafts were the first thing that popped into my mind when it comes to demonstrating the importance of human values. So except for encouraging more family gatherings and the usual 'together' activities, I decided to do crafts with my daughter for half an hour – every day in Advent. I didn't want to make any bold announcement to my daughter, or to myself – I know it can be difficult for busy parents to find the time or ideas that can be realized immediately, and that every single day. But we still took off, without much planning or thinking.
Little by little, we started to stumble upon the values that I mentioned before, all that through as simple actions as cutting, tearing, gluing, coloring.
The first is the most obvious and overwhelming one, yet so often taken for granted. Every day I spent at least half an hour with my daughter. From kids' perspective, all the moments that mom or dad spend exclusively with them (even as short as 15 minutes), show them they're loved and cared for. As simple as that. As for me, it is always nice to witness the beautiful simplicity of giving love and getting it back.
Some days I chose more demanding crafts – the ones that I knew she can't do alone. Of course, when she asked for help I didn't hesitate, nor did Dad in those (rare :)) cases when the two of us couldn't handle the craft alone. So when the time came to tidy up our creative corner, I wanted to see if she would be just as ready to help. Even though she has a pretty rich history of not wanting to clean up after creative activities, this time she didn't hesitate – this proved to be a good way of introducing the notions of mutual help to her.
We reserved a special place for storing ornaments, Christmas cards and all other crafted goodies. As the crafts started to pile up, I started to think of a way to preserve our creative mess and get rid of it at the same time (unfortunately, more than ten crafts at one place = mess). So we decided to take a photo of each one and make an album out of them afterwards. We can treasure these memories forever, and share the crafts with others. We just wrapped the crafts in cute paper and gave them to Grandma, friends, family and anyone we could think of, cause we knew everyone would be thrilled to have it. Not a bad way to show my daughter the value of generosity, but practicality too.
Empathy is the ability to understand emotions of other people. Even though it's an important component of a healthy moral development, it's not easy to make kids feel how it is to walk in somebody else's shoes. That's why every Monday we crafted with one hand, with a patch on our eyes and were not allowed to move our legs. This obviously made the crafting more difficult, which in turn made my daughter see the difficulties that some people experience every single day.
In the end, our crafting December made me discover so many new things that I really didn't anticipate. I witnessed the aspects of my child's personality that I hadn't seen before, and realized how little it takes to do something big. Both of us explored new crafting techniques, and at the end of the craftventure, became better crafters! More importantly, I realized that crafts are probably the most amazing and unassuming way to introduce the big topics to the little ones.