Sunday, 16 April 2017

Why I Hate Doing Kids' Crafts

Before I had kids, I loved crafts. Knitting and crochet were my favourites, but I would happily have a bash at other crafts. So I naturally assumed that I'd be one of those crafty mums, always happily creating beautiful artwork with my little ones.

No.

Turns out there's a reason I liked knitting and crochet. They are, in essence, tidying. You start with a big ball of yarn and you make it neatly into something pretty and functional. Kids' crafts are the exact opposite. You take a nice pile of paper, glue and paints safely in their bottles and sequins neatly in a little pot, and you make a horrendous mess in order to be left with a product that has no discernible use and, let's face it, often looks a state.

I know, I know, it's about the process, not the product. Except the process doesn't exactly feel enriching either. Not when I'm getting so stressed out I end up yelling.


Take the above, ahem, creations. These are, apparently, Easter Bunny eggs. They were completed today, but were started a whole nine days ago. That day, that fateful day, the Friday of the first week of the holidays and my last day of solo parenting before the husband went on holiday, we had nothing to do and Eleanor insisted on crafting. Specifically, she insisted on decorating eggs, an activity she'd found in an arts and crafts book. Here is a brief breakdown of the process:

1. Crack the eggs and empty the contents into a bowl. (To make scrambled eggs, literally the most enjoyable part of the endeavour.)

2. Attempt to remember which shells went together and glue them back, which is every bit as fiddly as it sounds and results in wonky, gappy eggs.

3. When the glue has dried, start layering on watered-down PVA glue and pink tissue paper. You'd think this would be easy - they're only eggs, not exactly big. But attempt to papier-mache an egg and you'll realise it's actually quite tricky. Try to show a five year old how to do it, it's a headache. Get a five year old with a short attention span to do it whilst you attempt to calm a very grumpy toddler who is trying to escape out of the ring sling, it's suddenly the most stressful thing in the world and you end up barking at your five year old to DO IT FASTER BUT NOT SO MUCH GLUE CAN YOU NOT SEE IT'S DRIPPING IN IT OH LET ME DO IT OH I CAN'T BECAUSE THE TODDLER IS TRYING TO GRAB IT AND IT'S TAKEN HALF AN HOUR TO DO A SINGLE EGG AND ... ahem. Sorry.

4. Leave eggs to dry,

5. Ask the five year old if she wants to finish off the eggs. Repeat daily only to be met with refusal, presumably because she's mentally scarred from step 3.

6. Manage to persuade the five year old that, as it's Easter Day, it's a good day to finish those Easter Bunnies. Let her paint the faces while you cut out the ears, only to realise that her paintbrush skills are such that the poor bunnies have ended up looking like something from Watership Down.

And this is just one example of what happens when we attempt to craft together. It almost always ends up with me getting frustrated and turning into a shouty mess, grumbling that this is why I never do crafts. Is it really worth it?

Maybe it is. Maybe Eleanor really does forget the shouting and just remembers the joy of creating something. But I can't help but think that the stress it causes both of us is counter-productive.

Even as I type this I can imagine the wonderful crafty mummies out there preparing to advise me on how to Do Kids' Crafts Better, how to make it an enriching and enjoyable experience. But the truth is, I can't do it. Surely everyone is allowed a couple of areas of parenting where they just suck, right? Well, this is one of mine. Just let me be.

From now on, I will select only craft activities that require minimal input from me. Ones that I can more or less leave her to do herself. She does crafts at school anyway, surely that'll be enough, right?

Tell me I'm not alone here - surely there are other uncrafty parents out there who turn into balls of rage over papier mache?!

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