The Value of Handwork and Handicrafts

“Busy hands, happy heart.”    

 I enjoy creating items with my hands.  I was influenced by my dad who enjoyed to making handicrafts in his free time.  I grew up watching him make beautiful things with his hands.  When he was very young he was ill and my grandparents wouldn’t let him go out to play.  Whenever he was given roller skates or a bike as a gift, the next day the item would be gone because my grandparents feared he might get hurt.  So when he couldn’t sneak outside to play, he would make and draw.  He became an electrical draftsman and made detailed technical drawings.

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     My dad knew how to make all sorts of handicrafts and we had interesting materials in my house which I used to incorporate into my play.   I treasure the memories I have of my dad sitting at the kitchen table making.   One Christmas my parents gave me a large dollhouse.  My dad made all the furniture for the house.  He had been waking up at 5am to make the furniture for weeks before Christmas.  It is very heartwarming and special knowing that my dad had taken time to make the furniture.

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     It is his spirit and enthusiasm for making that I share with my kids today.  This week, I was inspired by the beautiful Grimm’s Wooden Toys I recently came across.  My kids are getting older and I am always looking for ways to keep them playful but I am not sure an investment in expensive wooden toys is necessary.  I decided take the DIY route and make some colorful wooden loose parts for my 7-year-old.

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Painting small wooden pieces is a LOT of work.  I have a new appreciation for my dad’s efforts and for makers of beautifully handcrafted wooden toys.  The pieces need several coats of paint, sanding and a protective final coat.  Memories of my dad and the furniture he made for my dollhouse came into my thoughts as I was sanding.

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     Before I had a chance to finish, my seven-year-old took the small peg people to represent our family and made a house of them (us).  This is his ideal family home, a bedroom for all the kids, which of course is connected to the parents room via an a open door. A room for family movie nights and a kitchen.  This is a sweet reminder that family time and being available to our kids is what they want.

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The handicrafts coupled with some open ended toys, like Magnatiles and blocks, have encouraged him to play with imagination and creativity.  He also asked to help paint the rest of the wooden pieces.

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     Last night there was sudden and energetic enthusiasm for wool felting.  Something, I have been wanting to learn to do.  My son has been doing handiwork in his Montessori elementary classroom and quickly took over the felting along with his older sister.  They spent over an hour researching how to needle felt and began a few projects.  We got excited about this new handicraft and found it wonderfully therapeutic, despite accidentally stabbing our fingers with the needle. Ouch!

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     Carol Palmer, a Montessori teacher, writes about how handwork brings inner peace at Montessori Handwork.  She writes about the satisfaction of creating beautiful and useful items as well as the rhythm and flow of many handcrafts, such as knitting.  One of the reasons, I find it important to offer handwork to children is its therapeutic nature and how it “creates a space in time when the hands are engaged but the mind is free to process and unwind – it naturally slows down to meet the rhythm of the craft, and its natural balance is restored” (Carol Palmer).

I think my dad found peace while making and found it to be an excellent outlet for the stress of being confined to the house when he was a kid.  I am thankful he found this outlet and not only gave me handmade gifts but gave me the gift of making and creating too.

Mis Papas 1995
Christmas in Chihuahua, Mexico circa 1992

 

 

 

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