Sunday, September 13, 2015

More on Handwork in the Early Years

Oh my goodness, I had no idea that the article I put up yesterday, called Handwork in the Early Years, would spark so much interest, curiosity and personal response. This is a topic of our times.

Notes have come in from all over, some are simple, “Great article, thanks!” “Yes, I totally agree,” and others are more detailed with questions about small motor development, hand-eye coordination, following directions, and how dare I criticize the macaroni necklace and “What’s wrong with Mr. Potato Head,?" as well as questions about the role of beeswax in Waldorf education and, “Are you totally anti-crafting in early childhood?"

I’ll try to answer all of your questions and since there are so many, it’s likely to take a few days.

When I sat down to write yesterday’s piece on handwork in the early years, my intent was to convey three messages regarding children under seven:

1. to advocate for self initiated play and movement over planned pre-determined sit down activities
2. to reassure parents that their child need does not need to be doing all the crafts seen on social media platforms
3. to validate that healthy development that takes place in the course of an ordinary day in the home and situate handwork within the “ordinary” everyday activities of home life

I guess I really missed the mark with my post, and I apologize for that. I suspect I may have generated confusion. Lots of it. So I’ll take the next few days to attempt to clarify what I sat down to convey in the first place.

A warm thank you to each person who wrote to me. I appreciate your comments and willingness to discuss this topic and share different perspectives.

I’ll begin with the question, “Are you totally anti-crafting for the child in the early years? ”

I am wholeheartedly for making things with our hands. I love to cook with my hands, garden with my hands, draw and paint, write, knit, sew, give back rubs and massages, hang laundry on the line and fold clothes. I love making toys and puppets. I love to dye fibers. I love the handmade and seek it out over the alternatives. I am all for handwork. It is more of a question of what and when and why and how.

I’m very much for “everything in its own good time.”

The first seven years of life are a time of enormous development for the human being, of faster and greater development than at any other time of life. In the first seven years, the child is developing a physical body, growing organs. The child learns by doing, through activity. The limbs, the arms and legs are nearly always in motion, from the newborn’s turning of the head toward voices and the breast, to the seven year old delighting in tag. The body is in motion. One of our tasks as parent/teachers is to help support the development of the limbs, all the way down to the tip of toes and the fingers, to help the child develop into the body.

Movement is essential. Free self initiated movement. 

When we look at the four foundational senses of the human being, we see movement as one of the four senses that are so important in the first seven years of life. They are:
  • Touch
  • Life
  • Movement
  • Balance
Children are spending less and less time in free play and movement and more and more time indoors, in front of screens and on the move, doing errands and going places. Fewer children are around during the day and able to go out and join in play with other children. The ability to play, with free self initiated movement and exploration is getting lost, while anxiety, sensory issues and learning challenges are on the rise.

How many children have enough time each day for free, self-initiated free play, everyday?

Here’s an article by pediatric occupational therapist, Angela Hanscom, via Valerie Strauss of The Washington Post on the importance of play and its decline, The Decline of Play in Pre-schoolers and the Rise in Sensory Issues.

Let the children play!

Keep the rhythm flowing!

If there’s a choice between crafting, and free self initiated play, I’m for play.

If the choice is between crafting and doing something that supports the daily rhythm, like chopping vegetables or kneading bread, I’m for chopping and kneading.

We’re talking about the first seven years of life, for the child.

I am not against crafting at all. I am concerned about what is being displaced by crafting.



(I’ll be back with more on this topic.)












1 comment:

  1. Hi Lisa, I loved your first post and this one as well. Refreshing to give mums the option of relaxing a bit and letting childhood unfold on its own, with support for rhythm and the need to imitate as a means of knowing the world. I feel that you did achieve your goals in the first article but welcome the further clarification you offer just because it's so eloquently put! Rock on!

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