Recognizing Kids’ Handiwork

One of the things I love about 4-H is the theory. Kids get to make their own choices and decisions and do all the problem solving while creating and learning something from start to finish.

I enjoy helping my kids brainstorm ideas, suggest materials needed and assist with problem solving suggestions to ease their frustration but I try to avoid taking over. Once they know what they want to do, I try to let them own the project as much as possible. It may not turn out the neatest or best quality, but why should it if it’s done by a kid? Anytime a kid is allowed to do their own project from start to finish there’s learning going on, which I encourage.

When I attend a school science fair, I sometimes wonder if people know what a kid’s handiwork really looks like. It’s easy for parents to get too involved in their child’s projects because we sometimes come up with the coolest ideas and know what quality work looks like—for an adult. Too many times parents start out with suggestions and brainstorm some fabulous ideas but before long, the parents end up doing a lot of the work the kid should be doing.

I like letting my kids own their projects because I have plenty of my own to do that require decisions, choices, and problem solving; I don’t need anymore, especially someone else’s. Not concerning myself with my kids’ projects is one less worry on my list.

When my kids start a project, I have to fight hard sometimes to stay out of it because I know my ideas would be great for what their doing, but using mine would defeat the purpose for them. Take our 4-H club’s recent project for example.

For the past several years, our club has provided homemade gingerbread decorations that each member makes for the 1880 Custer County Courthouse Museum’s Christmas Open House. This year, our club’s leader suggested doing something different. Each family was provided with three 4-H bears—they have the 4-H logo embroidered on their chest—to decorate with a Christmas theme.

I reminded my kids their bears had to be Christmas oriented and suggested materials they could use like felt, bandanas and fabric scraps. I could’ve easily swayed them into doing one of my suggestions but I let them come up with their own ideas and do their own decorating instead. The end results were very different than what I had pictured in my mind.

My nine-year old daughter saw some cute hats somewhere that were made from socks, so the main material she used was an assortment of old socks for two of the bears. She found the old socks I told her she could use but I tried to ignore that one of the socks she used hadn’t been washed. One bear had a sock hat with antlers and another had a sock-made vest tied at the neck and a purple sock hat. Yes, I know purple isn’t a Christmas color, but it wasn’t my project.

My son wanted a cowboy bear but struggled with a hat, so his bear has a cone-shaped felt hat with holly sprigs, fastened together with a stapler, and a vest made from a red, thread-bare old hanky. Near as I could tell, the hanky had been washed. All the arm holes of the vests on both kids’ bears were cut with their own hands and they look it. I couldn’t be more satisfied with their work and I didn’t feel stressed over any aspect of the project. I don’t know about any of the other members’ bears, but it should be obvious who did the bear-decorating projects at our house.







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