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There have been many times over the past few years while searching out amazing crafts for children that I have come across the same argument. Some parents want their children to be ‘creative’ rather than follow along with a ‘tutorial’ or ‘instructions’ while others focus primarily on structured crafts.  Personally, I think there is a place for both but I do tend to err on the side of structured crafts rather than free-form type artistic crafts because I am more of a concrete thinker. {I could probably use a little more creativity in my life}

Perhaps we need to define both…

Many sources say that something they are ‘told how to do’ is a CRAFT, and something that is unstructured with no instructions or format, ART(source). I believe that these two definitions often blur together, especially with children’s crafts. Usually, they cannot help but put their own creative spin on even the most structured of crafts.

So now, I am wondering your opinion…

Do you prefer ‘structured, tutorial/directed crafts for children’ or ‘free thinking creative un-structured art projects for children’?

AND,

Is there a place for both of them to help your child grow and learn in different ways?

Feel free to comment as much as you like, and perhaps even subscribe to the comment thread below so you can see where the discussion heads! I know we have MANY MANY intelligent, ‘opinionated’ readers out there, so lets get chatting!

By Kristen Stephens




Comments

24 Comments so far

  1. Amy on August 7, 2011 5:50 pm

    i prefer structured craft projects. Unstructured ones are too time consuming in preschool :)

  2. Amber on August 7, 2011 5:52 pm

    I think both have their place, you can follow the instructions and it’s still gonna turn out different than any other kids craft. Every kid has their own style and different perspective. I think a kid needs the structure of a craft project to learn the basics of art. But sometimes a kid needs the freedom to express and stretch themselves. I know that some of the most meaningful art projects we worked on were ones that were open to us. Direction is good but sometimes kids want to enjoy creative freedom!

  3. jen on August 7, 2011 6:04 pm

    I like both. I want my child to have creative process artwork but I also think art can be a great and fun way for kids to learn reading comprehension and following directions.

  4. Lindsey on August 7, 2011 6:19 pm

    I consider everything my kids make art! I make crafts. I need direction. We usually start out making crafts or following tutorials, but what their sticky little glitter fairy hands end up creating is art.

  5. Monique on August 7, 2011 7:01 pm

    I think there is a place for both although with smaller children I tend to prefer the unstructured experience. It allows them to explore different mediums and when they are ready, they will better be able to handle the structured crafts/art because they will be familiar with how different materials work (ie glue, paint, etc).

  6. Caren Smith on August 7, 2011 7:24 pm

    For me personally, I like structure so structured would be up my alley. For my 7 year old daughter, though, I would prefer a balance of those things. I think children should be taught the basics of how to do things then let them add their own creative touch(es). At times, it can be VERY hard for me to watch my daughter be creative without direction (especially when it comes to her unique hair styles!). I don’t want to crush her creative side so I suck it up (most of the time) :)

    ~ Caren Smith of http://www.MyScrapbookStudio.net

  7. Kimberly Chapman on August 7, 2011 8:56 pm

    I like both and so does my daughter. A kit craft is a good way to teach a skill and you usually don’t have to require your kid to do it exactly like the instructions say. Then they can branch out with their own ideas on subsequent projects. That being said I avoid a lot of kit crafts just from a frugal standpoint; they’d better be flexible, discounted, and a good kit!

  8. Stacie on August 7, 2011 9:19 pm

    I think both kinds of projects teach kids different things. Structured project teach how to do something specific and build technical skills and unstructured ones teach problem solving and creativity.

  9. Francine Clouden on August 8, 2011 12:23 am

    Great question. I think it also depends on the child’s age and/or personality. My two year old is no where near ready for structured crafts, so I just let him do his thing and enjoy the process. I am guessing as he gets older he will be more into doing the structured projects. But I think there is a time for both things, and not just for kids! Sometimes I am very structured with my scrapbook pages, other days I just let it flow.

  10. Nina on August 8, 2011 1:21 am

    I think both have their place. I do structured crafts, so they can learn a particular technique or material. But I let them expreience with supplies and create what they want about as often.

  11. ScrapGirlfriend on August 8, 2011 2:14 am

    Both methods have a purpose in the creative discovery. A preschooler enjoys both. Who doesn’t enjoy fingerpainting, but without the structure of instruction, the child will not discover the fun of using a paint brush.

    Every time we introduce a new technique, medium, or project, there is instruction involved. Kids are excited about learning something new. To allow my child to express his creativity, or learn from his mistakes, once the instruction is given or demonstrated, I can compliment and then ask him if he meant for the googly eye to be put in the middle of the forehead, just as an example. If the answer is no, I ask if he wants help.

    He often likes to repeat variations of the same project until he decides that he is good at it. He can later do similar projects all by himself & improve his confidence & self-esteem.

    This is what has worked for all of my kids.

  12. jennyleigh on August 8, 2011 4:40 am

    I agree with the previous posters. There is a time and place for both. For me personally, I prefer a structured craft, because I’m just wired that way. I would also rather supervise children in a structured craft. However, there needs to be opportunity for free expression, and that can come with allowing a personal spin on a structured craft or handing the kids some sort of art medium and letting them have at it.

  13. Mary on August 8, 2011 4:41 am

    Both “art” and “craft” are important. If a child is creative, he/she will find a way to add to a craft to make it unique.

    When my older son was in kindergarten, we received a note from his teacher stating that he was having trouble “staying within the lines” when coloring. I sent a note back telling her that we had never purchased a coloring book for him; he was given crayons, paper and scissors to do his own thing. There was never any further discussion about this issue!

  14. KJ@letsgoflyakite on August 8, 2011 4:58 am

    I think about this subject quite a bit. I generally post our “craft” projects and rarely post about my daughters’ “art” or less directed projects, but both types of projects are equally important and we make time for both. I think that blogs are generally more conducive to craft posts because of the format, and art projects are generally more personal. I think that craft projects can teach a number of new skills that may not necessarily be acquired without direction, but when acquired they can be taken in any direction.

  15. Tracey Rediker on August 8, 2011 5:29 am

    even when my kids are doing a “craft” I allow them the freedom to do it as they want. Maybe that is because I am an artist, maybe I am just too lazy to force them to follow the directions.

  16. ShannonR2 on August 8, 2011 6:05 am

    We do projects…I start with a craft project, which each of the kids turns into an art project as they discover their own plan with the supplies I provided.

  17. Carolyn on August 8, 2011 8:59 am

    I have never heard that definition of craft vs art before — I believe that is where you can start out with a craft and then it becomes an art when you’ve “mastered” the technique. Even a painter has to learn how to paint first or a chef how to cook. I feel a child needs some form of structure to start. You don’t hand them a bowl and some ingredients and expect to have a cake come out without learning the basics of cooking or following a recipe.

  18. Pamela M on August 8, 2011 10:22 am

    I think that the more structured the environment the easier to be creative and free. So, providing a structure but inviting creativity especially with young children works best. They have the project and can take it further if they choose. My heart breaks when I hear of teachers insisting that they follow the lines or chiding them for coloring outside of the lines. Really, so sad! and damaging!

  19. Shannon Wynne on August 8, 2011 10:28 am

    I think kids need “ideas” to stimulate their creativity. I have always felt that being creative and being artistic are not the same thing. And, I think everyone has the ability to be creative given the right stimulation – isn’t this what we would like for out children? Being creative can spill over into all areas of their lives if we would just teach (let) our children to be creative in their own way. I think this means that we need to do more than “think outside the box” – this means we need to let them “color outside the lines” if that is the direction their minds go.

  20. Kimberly Jones on August 8, 2011 10:33 am

    What a great topic for discussion! I think it’s important to show a child the basics and then give them freedom to explore and create as they wish. Instruction is always helpful to both children and adults and provides a great way to learn new techniques. But I think a mixture of art and craft as defined in this post is the best way to encourage creativity. Above all it should be fun!

  21. Emma on August 8, 2011 5:01 pm

    to tell you the truth, i really mix them together. I always stray from the tutorial when crafting. and my Art is usually inspired by crafts.
    I did a paper plate- fish with my little brother, inspired by a picture. I let him pick the paints, pieces, and pattern by himself. I don’t think it really matters whether it is considered arts or crafts because i just mush ‘em together.

  22. Tiffany on August 8, 2011 7:52 pm

    My nieces 12 and 8 both love it when I give them a “craft” project to do, but they also love to just do art as well. So we do a mix of both. We have a great time playing with clay and the girls come up with some great ideas all on their own.

  23. CaRoLiNe on August 9, 2011 8:04 am

    As an Early Childhood Eductor we’ve been taught that: Art is an undirected activity that has no set end product and Craft is a directed activity with an end product.
    Children take benefit from art, in that it gives them the opportunity to freely explore not only new mediums but the feelings that go along with that freedom of expression. When they are given the chance to do art as a group, such as muraling or mass collage, it encourages positive social skills.
    However, as much I as am all for freedom to create, I am also aware and respectful of the child(ren) who naturally gravitate towards a craft project. Crafts are a way to build mental and physical skills. Both art and craft is always made available in my classroom with some projects being put in/on a special area for them to continue with the idea the next day….nothing is ever too time consuming!
    We also give the children the ability to use all the (safe) cleaning equipment to be responsible for their environment.
    Also please remember, when your child is in the throws of creative bliss, NOT to stop them and dictate what you think they’re doing wrong….it’s okay for a spider to have 50 legs and it’s okay if all the people in the picture are mad….the world will still keep turning :)

  24. Lauren Z on August 10, 2011 8:27 am

    I feel that crafts teach the skills needed to produce art.

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