There’s a place for me, somewhere a place for me… (A.K.A. the one where I ‘fess up to my crafting ineptitude)

I’ve been feeling a little blue about Story Seekers recently.  Most of this is down to a lack of time to actually *do* most of the things I’d like to do, but a lack of time is something that afflicts nearly everyone so really it’s something I just need to get over and stop fretting about (I find that a rousing chorus of the Fireman Sam theme tune with C and H usually helps, or failing that, I give myself a large poke with one of the many random sticks / xylophone beaters / pretend hoses we have lying around).

It’s probably not interesting or relevant for me to list the rest of the many Story Seekers-related worries I have, but the one I’m focusing on here is something that’s bothered me for ages and for some reason always makes me feel like I’m failing as a parent and a Story Seeker.  I’m Just Not That Good At Crafts.  There.  I said it.  I gather that admitting there’s a problem is the first step, so perhaps things will improve from now on…

Though I suppose I would call myself creative in some ways, I am most definitely not artistic or nifty with a knitting needle.  I am also not that great with mess.  I desperately try to overcome these things for the sake of the boys and they do both at least enjoy colouring and sticking things.  However, beyond that I feel a bit limited.  I see many book blogs with people sharing all the amazing crafts they’ve undertaken linked to their favourite books, but at the moment the bare-faced truth is that even when I do attempt to recreate these things, C and H are not actually that bothered.

There could be many reasons for this.  Clearly, my own lack of crafting confidence will play a part, but it still remains the case that C and H would much rather do many other things before they’ll sit and make imaginary creatures out of loo rolls.  These things include:

– cooking

– running

– rumbling

– pretending to be Fireman Sam

– pretending to be any member of the emergency services

– pretending to be dinosaurs

– pretending to look after their soft toys

– pretending to do just about anything

– ‘reading’ to each other and to their toys (in inverted commas because neither of them can officially read yet)

– colouring

– eating (this is probably their bestest and most favourite thing to do EVER).

I’m really happy that they enjoy imaginary play so much and that books and stories are a big part of their lives.  I have no daughters, so I’m not in a position to comment on whether their current emphasis on very physical play is a gender thing or just down to their individual personalities.  As long as they’re happy, I’m happy.

So in terms of other non-crafty ways to expand on the stories we read, we often act them out and then perhaps come up with new endings, or maybe build scenes from the stories using Playmobil characters.  Every so often we’ll make food linked to stories we’re enjoying.  We do an AWFUL lot of talking about stories and discussing them, so we are are getting ‘good value’ out of the stories that way even if there is no tangible output at the end of it all.

My worry is just that, if and when I ever start up Story Seekers classes / workshops / events, I will probably have to get a lot more into crafts and things.  Whilst the main aim of the sessions will be to share a love of reading and encouraging children and families to enjoy books in whatever way they choose, clearly there are some practical limitations I’ll have to consider.  These will rule out such C and H favourites as ‘sliding down the Mummy pole’ (not *quite* as dodgy as it sounds – I merely have to let them use my leg as fireman’s pole while they launch themselves off the windowsill……….) and crashing multiple vehicles into each other to create ’emergencies’.  We’ll therefore have to tend towards more manageable crafty activities, so I’m going to have to get at bit braver about it all – chin up, chest out and all that.  All this is also to say nothing of what I’ll need to dream up for the babies and very young toddlers group, as I’m guessing they won’t be bothered about either crafts OR drama in the way that I’m using the terms here…

Having such a long time before I can get Story Seekers going is hard in lots of ways (though I’d never want to sacrifice this time with the boys) but for me personally, having so long to think and plan is actually boggling my mind a bit too much, hence this somewhat rambling post.  It’s inspiring and scary in equal measure to come across so many great people, blogs and organisations fighting the good fight to promote reading for pleasure and it’s easy to let myself feel insignificant and unnecessary, but hey, I’m sure everyone questions themselves sometimes, right? Right?  I’ll avert my eyes from the tumbleweed blowing across the floor…

Anyway, I’d be really interested to hear about how other people bring stories to life (but would secretly also like to hear from anyone else who feels that crafting is outside their comfort zone 😉 )

TTFN

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11 comments

  1. bookaholicmum · · Reply

    I am so not a crafty mum either so I totally understand this – particularly as craft activities feature so heavily in parenting blogs. Occasionally I feel like I should do something crafty with the girls but I end up getting stressed and feeling uptight about the mess! But I don’t think its that necessary for storyseekers – thinking about the best library rhyme times I’ve been too … None of them have had crafts, a good range of stories, rhymes and songs are the foundation. But looking on the bright side of your time – you can use it to research simple but effective/manageable associate activities which may or may not be craft based!

    1. That’s so true, Charelle – thanks so much for your comment! I’ve been meaning to do some market research (via Survey Monkey or something similar) about what sort of thing people would expect from a Story Seekers type session. I suppose I feel that if they’re paying for it (as some people would be, for the ‘classes’ side of things) then it should offer noticeably more than any free sessions available at places like libraries, but there’s no reason why that should necessarily take the form of crafts, I suppose. Great food for thought – thanks again 🙂

  2. Yes – we all question ourselves all the time! Probably the single best piece of advice I ever got was someone early in my career as a freelance creative person, who said ‘however far down the line you get, you’ll always feel like a fraud’. I think this applies whenever you’re making things happen for yourself in your career, because we live in a society which teaches us to obey rules and be part of a hierarchy. So don’t ever feel that you’re alone in that. Secondly, surely no child wants an adult to come along and be perfect at something craft based, when probably all they want to do is make a massive colourful sticky mess?! I suspect you’d be far more fun to a child by simply providing the materials and letting them run riot, than by providing them with a perfectly reincarnated toilet roll that looks like a woodland animal, which they a) won’t be able to re-create, and probably won’t want to and b) will have limited their imagination there and then. I’m aware that means getting over the mess thing, but I’m sure that’s doable (maybe with some hypnotherapy or something…). Your ability to ignite the imaginations of little people is so obviously there, and I think being good at crafts is neither here nor there. And I BET I know two small emergency service men who would agree wholeheartedly (one through actual speech and one through emphatic pointing and a heartfelt ‘Duh’)

    1. Jo, thank you so much for taking the time to write such a wonderful response. It means a huge amount to hear from someone like you and your advice is so useful! On top of all that, you have also got my boys down to a tee 😉
      I agree completely about the ‘limiting imagination’ bit – at the moment I feel as though any organised craft activity I do with the boys requires so much planning and instruction that the fun is drained out of it for all of us.
      Clearly, undertaking crafts at home with the boys is altogether different from any crafting I might attempt as part of my Oxfam storytelling sessions – or indeed as part of any future Story Seekers sessions – but people’s responses to this post have made me feel so much more positive. It won’t necessarily be people’s expectation that their child will come away a beautifully crafted item each week and I feel confident about exploring other ways in which we can play with stories now.
      Thanks again for your thoughts on this, you’ve made a real difference.

  3. For me Lolly, the important thing is to engage with the story and bring it to life – whether that’s with craft or art or music, or some physical activity or drama or simply finding out more about the topic in another book or online … all of these are great ways to extend a book and give it another layer of meaning and enjoyment. To help people (parents and kids) feel the story really coming to life. Storyseekers could still have story extensions but just not ones which involve glue and mess. Perhaps you could have an amazing dressing up box to encourage drama and retelling of stories. Perhaps you have a wonderful toy box (playmobil, lego, soft toys etc depending on the age of your groups) for them to play out the stories with toys. Perhaps you do a disco on the same theme as the book (I try always to include matching musical links for the books I review as the kids – and I – love to prance around). Perhaps sensory play more general is a way forward for your younger target group. Also, to be honest a kid who comes away from a session (any sort of session, not just yours) with a “beautifully crafted item” probably hasn’t been really _playing_ and being creative – this is getting into the debate a little over art vs craft, but I definitely feel it’s much more enjoyable and meaningful (at least for younger children) to explore art than create craft. Unfortunately this can mean more mess and less safety. I’d definitely go for a table with sheets of paper and paint any day over a bunch of craft packs from Baker Ross.

  4. Liz Hogan · · Reply

    I think you are worrying unnecessarily, and parents will see that the clue is in the title: ‘story seekers’ no mention of craft based activities at all! I understand why you may think this would be a time filler or an interesting way to add another dimension to the story, but often the link between the craft and the story is so tenuous that the purpose of the activity is lost.
    Having been reading your blogs recently you have inspired me to look more in depth at the stories themselves through discussions with my children, this is clearly your forte. I often find myself reading a story to the girls and then moving quickly onto something else (usually tidying, cooking or another mundane task) but feeling righteous because I have ‘done’ reading.
    You have the ability to give parents guidance on how to do more than just read the words, bringing it to life, looking beyond the text, discussing pictures and alternative endings surely these are far more valuable skills to learn than being able to paint a loo roll and say its a Gruffalo. Guiding parents on how to use a toilet roll puppet in an imaginative and entertaining way is an incredibly important skill.
    Please don’t be blue, just recognise where your talent is and be confident enough to use it…leave the crafty bits to the crafty people!

  5. From having read many of your posts and the responses from others, my understanding of the essence of Story Seekers is to bring stories alive for children, beyond ‘just’ the reading itself.

    I don’t need to repeat either you or others above in terms of the number of ways that can effectively be achieved and creating ‘crafts’ is only one of those ways. When considering the practicalities of running a class/session with multiple children, for me, crafts falls down the pecking order because of the time ‘they’ (being general) would take to explain, to set-up, to actually do, then to clear up the aftermath in the surroundings and inevitably on the children. Whether or not you like mess or not, intuitively all of that will take time and potentially take the children’s minds away from the point of doing it in the first place – making linkages with a story.

    Set the above against the lesser time it would take to dive into a fancy dress box or to discuss in more depth the illustrations and how they add to the story or make the children feel, or to act out an alternative ending – for no less impact. All of these also allow children to feed off each other (depending on their age, obviously) – something that in my experience happens less when kids are focussed on their own crafting.

    I also think the fact your boys spend so much time pretending is fantastic – clearly they have fired up imaginations. And rumbling has to be one the best activities ever too…

  6. Thank you to everyone who’s commented here – your responses have given me so much to think about that I’ve decided to write a follow-up post rather than respond here, if that’s OK? I really do appreciate you taking the time to read through my meandering waffle and to then involve yourselves further by commenting. I know how busy everyone is and it really does mean a lot!

  7. […] by Barney Saltzberg (published by Workman Publishing) – had sprung to mind as I was writing this post about my lack of prowess in the crafting […]

  8. Just wanted to add a very late comment – I used to do crafts for a playgroup and something Zoe said rang a bell, when the crafts come out beautifully it is when there is often a lot of parental involvement/direction – some of the best ones for the kids we did were just sticking out a load of materials and letting them get on with it! Definitely agree enthusiasm is mre important than the ability to make things perfectly (talking about you here!) Equally I love all the ideas for non-craft activities coming out of this thread. Oh, and another bonus of not doing crafts, at least not every time – no gluey, painty stuff for parents to try to get home in one piece 😉 I will go read your next post now 🙂

  9. Hee hee, I think you’re spot on with everything you’ve said, Helen! I think that there’ll definitely be a place for crafts in some Story Seekers sessions (albeit more along the lines of what you’ve described above, rather than anything too structured) but I definitely now feel more confident about them not becoming the main focus of the activities we undertake.

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