When I picture attempting a holiday art project with my kids, I envision us sewing buttons on felt as holiday music plays and a fire crackles away on the hearth. In reality, the kids scream, I threaten to take away their hot chocolate, and the botched ornament looks like a turtle squashed by a candy cane. Is it worth the headache? Yes, in fact—it’s important for you and for them. Here, 10 reasons to get out the glue and the glitter this season.
1. It’s important to make something—anything—with your hands every once in awhile.
Research professor, bestselling author, and public speaker Brené Brown says, “If we can’t make meaning, we need to make art.” Even if what you make is terrible, the act of creating something by hand cultivates meaning. As woodworker and educator Doug Stowe, author of the blog The Wisdom of the Hands explains, “Without the opportunity to learn through the hands, the world remains abstract, and the passions for learning will not be engaged.”
2. Making things by hand can put you and your child into a state of “flow.”
Psychology professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi coined the term flow after interviewing countless architects, athletes, chemists, engineers, musicians, sociologists, writers, and others about the creative process. Flow is a blissful state in which action and awareness merge and self consciousness disappears. (Note: with children, periods of flow may be brief, interrupted by calls for snacks and outbursts of frustration.)
3. Value process over final product.
Whether creating a button and pipe cleaner ornament by yourself (or with a two-year-old who insists on adding a piece of her brother’s hair), let the project unfold in its own organic way. The goal is human connection, not perfection. Remember, Thomas Edison made more than 3,000 versions of the light bulb before he arrived at success.
4. Stop consuming, start creating.
Yes, it’s easier to go online and buy the tree topper you need. And we certainly can’t make everything by hand or we’ll be celebrating the holidays in June. But notice how consuming—buying, taking, getting, acquiring—leaves us feeling depleted, while making things allows us to feel pride, accomplishment, and connectedness.
5. Handmade work teaches children to be original and inventive.
When you make something your own way, comparison, competition and that terrible “less than” sense of shame falls away. It's a powerful message to send children. Be original and be yourself.
6. DIYs let kids use their imaginations, a skill they have in abundance.
We can learn by stepping back to admire the fearless imagination in our children, who have not yet learned about embarrassment and self defeat. As writer George Bernard Shaw said, “Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you will, you will what you imagine, and at last, you create what you will.”
7. Research shows a strong connection between creativity and well-being.
According to studies by Dr. R. Keith Sawyer and others, people who spend their days involved in creative pursuits have a greater sense of well-being and self-worth than those who don't. And remember that creativity isn't limited to the arts; it includes any innovative activity.
8. Accept that we are all creative.
Anyone can tackle a DIY project with their little ones—yes, anyone. The robust creative spirit flourishes in all humans, especially children: we are all natural makers and explorers. David Kelley, founder of IDEO and one of the greatest thought leaders of our day, says that many adults “opt out of creativity” in fear. But he insists that creativity thrives in us all—it’s a skill we can practice, hone and develop.
9. Notice the sense of wonder in your child.
True, your daughter might be taping paper snowflakes onto the dog instead of the window, but she's doing it blissfully. The creative mind of a child knows no rules. Their innovation and originality is like a raging river: organic, free of inhibition, and fearless.
Above: Designer Justine Glanfield with her son at their ad hoc arts and crafts attic via 5 Quick Fixes: The Versatile Biergarten Table.
10. Go head, dive back into your childhood reserve of wonder.
Resist the urge to self-censor, make your project look a certain way, or complete it in a fixed time frame. We all have a bright place inside—our inner creative spark—that can heal us, teach us, shape who we are, and become a source of great happiness for us and our children. All we have to do is remember to turn inward and look for it.
Ready to DIY? Have a look at any of these projects, all great to do with kids: Rope Light Strand, Easy Art Leaf Prints, Wooden Bead Trivet, Painted Pine Cone Ornaments, Gilded Holiday Decor, Dip-Dyed Terracotta Planters, and Wrapping Paper Made by Your Kids. We'd love to see your results!