The Art (and Crafts) of School Projects

By Maryrose Gray

I was initially very excited for the first bit of homework my 3-year-old daughter brought home, a crafty project to make a likeness of her onto a plain poster cut-out. I knew that this project was a chance to connect and spend quality time together. On the eve of the deadline, many things ran through my head. Why did I wait until the last minute to get the supplies? Why is it raining? Why does an Obama visit to Los Angeles always shut down the entire westside? Ok, focus, what are we even going to do with this cut-out?

You might be wondering what this has to do with developing math or logic skills, and I would have thought very little. I had categorized this activity as a purely social and fun activity (maybe my expectations were a little high with the fun part.) Then, as I sat there, trying my best not to do my child's project for her, I realized there were lots of ways to engage with this activity and talk about math concepts as well. So if you are feeling at a loss for what to say during some of these crafty experiences, here are a few ideas for conversation starters:

  • Symmetry.  This is a great concept to introduce to children. A person cut-out has a lot of symmetry to notice. Eyes, ears, hands, feet, bracelets, etc. You can point out lines of symmetry or even just notice that some parts are symmetrical and others are not. This is a great way to elevate a conversation about how to accessorize your art project.
  • Spatial Awareness.  After about 15 minutes of my daughter gluing ever more jewels onto her dress, I just decided that this was good for her spatial awareness, and that we should talk more about that. Do you think we could fit more jewels here? Which jewel do you think would fit the best? How can we maximize the bling in this area?
  • Counting. Shape Naming. Sorting.  These three might seem a little more obvious, but I think it is worth mentioning them at least. You can pretty much always find a way to count, name shapes, or sort objects into groups. As long as your child is enjoying the experience, you really can not do these things too much. Each time your child engages in these activities, it will deepen understanding and broadening vocabulary. Keep it coming!

My daughter finally finished the epic detail on her dress, and I went to bed feeling very surprised at what a fun and engaging activity that turned out to be after all.