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Being Creative While Teaching Students About Therapeutic Effects of Crafting

As rates of depression and anxiety among young people in America increase, it’s an important time to teach stress management skills. Getting creative with arts and crafts, especially ones that require extensive concentration and working with your hands (i.e. knitting), have been proven to have effects similar to meditation, and function as a natural antidepressant.

“Neuroscientists are studying other forms of creativity and finding that activities like cooking, drawing, cake decorating, photography, art, music and even doing crossword puzzles are beneficial,” writes Robin Shreeves for The Mother Nature Network. “...When we’re being creative, our brains release dopamine, a natural anti-depressant. Creativity that takes concentration is a non-medicinal way of getting a feel-good high.” Teaching your students to turn to crafting to relax their minds is a skill they will carry with them through the rest of their lives and academic careers.They’ll thank you a million times once they get through their first university-level finals exam study session with the much need brain breaks they learned years ago.

Students will benefit from the therapeutic effects of crafting early in their development. Highlights Magazine noted five skills preschoolers learn from working on crafts:

  1. Following Directions. Encouraging students to make their own creative choices while still “coloring within the lines” can inspire her imagination as well.
  2. Focus and Concentration. Completing a project from start to finish will require dedication and full attention.
  3. Fine Motor Skills. For very young students, using scissors, drawing, or pinching objects between fingers while crafting will help them develop motor skills.
  4. Patience. Some crafts require steps to be performed in a certain order, and your students will need to wait for glue or paint to dry before completing their project.
  5. Early Problem Solving Skills. Experimenting with various craft materials or handling any mistakes or mishaps during the creative process will teach students how to handle surprises and unexpected alterations effectively.

These are all imperative to a young person’s ability to grow up as a confident student, and valued and productive member of their classroom community. As they get older, students will gain skills relating more closely to stress management.

In a report done by CNN in 2014, “Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi first described [the therapeutic effect of repetitive involvement] as flow: a few moments in time when you are so completely absorbed by an activity that nothing else seems to matter. Flow, Csikszentmihalyi says, is the secret to happiness -- a statement he supports with decades of research.”

“Crafting also improves our self-efficacy,” clinical neuropsychologist Catherine Carey​ Levisay told CNN, “or how we feel about performing particular tasks. Psychologists believe a strong sense of self-efficacy is key to how we approach new challenges and overcome disappointments in life.”

Here are some crafts you can do in the classroom that will have a positive, therapeutic effect for students:

Knitting

One of the most talked about forms of therapeutic crafting is knitting. Imagination Soup has a comprehensive guide for how to teach kids to enjoy knitting. You may want to invest in bright and colorful yarns, so students can choose their favorite color from a wide variety, and use big bamboo needles as they first start out. In a similar realm, you can also teach your students to make stuffed animals using felt or fabric, and cotton and pom poms.

 

Origami

Origami -- the intricate art of paper folding -- requires a lot of concentration and precision to do well. “Some therapists have found that origami helps those with low self esteem, anxiety, ADHD, autism, mental retardation, and other conditions,” states the Origami Resource Center. This project is a great way to engage students and boost their confidence in their skills. Origami-Fun.com lists how-tos for beginning origami, like sail boats, horses and stars.

 

Basket Weaving

Creating baskets is a great project for children to learn, and they’ll even understand the benefits of making their own storage spaces. Instructables.com has a good example of how to create small baskets using recycled materials, like newspaper or brown paper. Alternatively, students can create coasters, placemats or bracelets using the same weaving pattern.

 

By Samantha DiMauro, Education World Contributor