What’s Wrong with Copycat Crafts 

 Are all crafts really good for our children? Believe it or not, and I’m sure you believe it; many people don’t even think to ask this question.

They take it for granted that doing traditional “copycat” crafts must be beneficial for kids’ development since most preschools and kindergartens do them as a matter of course. The web  is filled with crafts websites, crafts activities are a mainstay of birthday parties, and anyway, don’t kids just love getting their hands on crayons and paste?

            Well, sure they do, and that’s the way it should be! But our kids shouldn’t be subjected to what I call copycat cat arts and crafts because that’s what it makes them into…copycat robots– and that’s precisely what some educators and parents are doing when they ply their children with crafts of the “paint-by-number” style.

Proponents of the traditional, copycat way of doing crafts claim that it teaches the children direction-following skills and helps them develop their fine motor skills.   That may be so. But at the very same time, it also robs kids of many more basic, vital skills, which we will discuss below.

I want it to be very clear that we are speaking here about traditional crafts  FOR CHILDREN. (not adult crafts)

So what is wrong, anyway, with traditional arts and crafts?

 Think about it for a minute. Aren’t most traditional arts and crafts projects . . .   copycat projects?  These cute little ideas, straight from some adult’s imagination, encourage children to follow exact directions and deny them the thrill of creativity and experience of autonomy.

Most traditional children’s crafts are . . . 

1) Conceived of by grownups, and are thus

2) Copies of a grownup’s model, resulting in

3) Projects that all look exactly alike, which are therefore

4) Not at all age appropriate. 

Take any one of the projects that your child  may have brought home from school, that you’ve seen on the Internet, or that are sold in prepackaged form in any art supplies store, and you will notice that:

  • There is usually a picture to be copied or a model that the finished project is supposed to look like.
  • There are no choices to be made (except, perhaps, for color) and thus no room for initiative.
  • No thinking or problem solving skills are required or developed.
  • Creativity is absent from the activity.

All of this saps your child of some of the most basic skills she/he needs to grow and develop to her or his maximum potential. 

When kids’ only experience in childhood is with traditional arts and crafts: 

  1. They end up feeling really badly about themselves because they sense they’re not trusted to create on their own.
  1. They lose their initiative because they are trained to wait for directions and to feel that they’ll do it wrong if they start on their own.
  1. They lose confidence since only the teacher’s model is considered correct
  1. They absorb the message that they are “ just no good in art” and grow into the adults who say “Oh, me? I can’t even draw a straight line!”

These feelings are usually subconscious at young ages and most kids can’t verbalize them. But you’ll often hear kids saying things like “I hate art” or “Help me, I don’t know what to do” or “Hers is better than mine.” Sadly, remarks like these are all a direct outgrowth of their arts and crafts experiences. 

But you don’t have to feel discouraged, because there is a better way, a wonderful, educational way of doing art with kids. Art that is found on this website Eduart4 kids.com.

All of the concepts you see here are based on the testing and research of a number of child psychologists. We learn from them how children develop and learn which sets the stage for my approach to kids’ crafts and their art in general.

If you want to understand what it is these psychologists discovered then see leave a comment below and I’ll send you some info.

Applying the ideas of  psychological concepts  to Arts and Crafts: 

Based on what we know from this research we can analyze all of the art activities the children do to see if they fit into developmentally appropriate criteria. Plus we can then understand why traditional arts and crafts does not fit these criteria.

 As we want the activities we give our children to fit their needs we know that the art activities we give should have the following components.

  1. Help the children develop a good self esteem.
  2. Allow them to think and solve problems.
  3. Let them grow wise as they make choices by taking initiative.
  4. Allow them to develop a sense of autonomy and independence.
  5. Give them room for their creativity to blossom. 

From the findings of these child psychologists (namely Erickson and Piaget) we deduce that there are five main categories that children need.

1- A good self esteem – A good self esteem is vital for children. It is what makes them feel that they can succeed at anything they set out to learn or accomplish.

2- Critical thinking skills – The older a child becomes, the more s/he is called upon to use critical thinking skills in school (especially in areas like math).

3- Initiative– As children grow, they need to learn to make all types of choices. This requires the confidence and the experience of knowing that they are capable of making the right choices and that if their choices are not right, they can always correct them. This gives them the initiative to make many choices.

4- A sense of independence – Without allowing children to do whatever they want, children need to gain autonomy to help them become responsible human beings, which will invariably help them succeed throughout their school years. (and life) without being tied to an adults apron strings.

5 -Creativity – Creativity is a very crucial skill for kids to develop especially in today’s day and age where creativity is at a premium. I read a book recently that quoted a study that said even prestigious medical schools are giving art classes to hone their student’s powers of observation.

Obviously traditional arts and crafts is sorely lacking as we discussed before and it is a wonder why so many adults give their children and students craft after craft when their benefits are so doubtful 

To give the benefit of the doubt I would like to suggest why this has come to be before discussing the alternatives. 

  • Our society likes success, winning and finished products. Many children’s things do not look perfect enough for society.
  • Lack of knowledge of what’s wrong with these crafts. 
  • A feeling of helplessness as to what can be an alternative.
  • Thinking that by giving children projects that make them follow directions they are learning important direction following skills. 
  • Assuming that anything having to do with coloring and pasting must be creative
  • Inability to let children be children 
  • Worried about others will say if the artwork looks messy.
  • Thinking that the only skills young children need to develop are fine motor skills  

Now that we know what is wrong we can discuss what is developmentally correct for children. 

The answer that is Educational Art. (what this site is all about)

This is a term that I coined to explain how art needs to be educational in that it doesn’t have to TEACH them subject matter but it makes them better learners. What can be more educational than that?

Educational art aside from making them better learner will help children

  • Develop a great self esteem
  • Learn to think and solve problems
  • Begin to take initiative
  • Learn to choose
  • Develop a sense of autonomy and independence unless severely squashed in other areas
  • Have their creativity expand and expand

If they do lots of process art they can also gain an appreciation for art and culture which will expand to the rest of their life and learning and will help them throughout life.

A very important book came out a not that long time by a fellow named Daniel Pink. The name of his book is called “ A Whole New Mind

In brief this book discusses the changes in society that are taking place to the phenomenon of outsourcing.

For years Mr. Pink says the schools have concentrated on the skills and studies to encourage left brain thinking because that is where the jobs were.  All of the math and computers and science jobs needed a lot of left brain analytical thinking.

Outsourcing has changed that all. What an American worker would get paid $75,000 a year for an overseas outsourcer will now take $15,000 to do the same exact work.

This means that it is creativity that is now the name of the game and anyone with the well honed skills of creativity and initiative will be the successful ones of next generation. You cannot clone creativity.

Note how Wikipedia defines creativity.

Creativity is a mental and social process involving the generation of new ideas concepts, or new associations of the creative mind between existing ideas or concepts. Creativity is fueled by the process of either conscious or unconscious insight. An alternative conception of creativeness is that it is simply the act of making something new.

            Now who do you think will far better in this new world of creativity?

Children that have been robot; like making copycat crafts all their lives

Or children that have been allowed to be creative and innovative.

It certainly is something to think about.


(To see article that was published in Mishpacha magazine November 2015 on same topic called No More Copycat Crafts  click here )




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