In the Occupational Therapy world, we speak of this as "occupation as a means and an end". This means that we use occupations to build specific skills. In addition, the ability to engage in desired occupations can also be the end goal. Handicrafts are the perfect example of occupation both as a means and as an end. Each skill needed to complete a handicraft can transfer to other parts of learning. However, learning the skills ie knit, cross stitch, and hand letter are also desirable occupations!
Charlotte Mason, a famous philosopher in the homeschool world, emphasized handicrafts as a means by stating, "Emphasize the habit of best effort, slipshod work should not be allowed," She further goes on to state, "The children's work should be kept well within their compass." She addresses handicrafts as an end by encouraging the end product to be useful. She writes, "children should not be employed in making futilities such as pea and stick work, paper mats, and the like."
I've broken down some of the smallest skills each provides. The list is huge:
Higher-level cognitive- cognitive flexibility
Attention- sustained and divited, concentration
Memory- working memory
Sequencing- regulating the steps, speed
Visual- visual stability, visual scanning, convergence, binocularity
Proprioception- awareness of ones body while completing the handicraft
Touch- descrimination and touching various textures
Joint range of motion, joint stability
Eye hand coordination
Fine and gross motor control
These tiny skills build into larger skills such as transfer of learning, and social interaction. Right now, we are all in quarantine for COVID19. Many of our conversations surround the change in lifestyle, fear of what is to come, and worry for frontline workers as well as family members. Having these handicrafts can not only divert attention, but also promote positive conversations. My son and father both have a love of leather working. My father used to make belts and knife pouches as a boyscout many years ago. My son stumbled upon this last year and the two of them have shopped together, talked about techniques, and even built a box to hold leather tools. This social skill across generations is absolutely beautiful and brought about by a common love of a handicraft.
Like many of us, my daughter's peer interactions are currently over zoom calls or the social networking. They too have conversations consumed by COVID19. However, on Wednesday, I witnessed them replace these conversations with crafting yarn dolls together over the screen. My daughter turned hers into a dog toy. Handicraft as a means and an end!
In Charlotte Mason's time, which interestingly coincided with the founding of the OT profession, having handicrafts as an end often lead to a profession. This is not so much the case these days, but these skills are still warranted and can not only lead to beautiful decorations for the home, but most importantly, help to lead to a beautiful, happy, healthy lifestyle!
Collins Academy Therapy Services is an occupational therapy consulting service designed to coach and empower home school families. Discussing the addition handicrafts into your specific homeschool, or recommending and adapting a specific handicraft are part of this service. Please contact me for more information and set up a consultation!