Today, nearly every child owns a smartphone, tablet, or some other technological device. A study conducted in 2015 found that most children have their first cellphone by age six. They rely on technology to perform even the easiest tasks and immerse themselves in social media, phone apps, and mobile games nearly every second of their waking day. But, even now in this technology-driven world, it’s important for children not to lose sight of the basic skills past generations have developed out of necessity.
Take a look at these health benefits that handwork offers children of all ages.
Since the 1990s, the Craft Yarn Council has surveyed thousands of knitters and crocheters on what they perceive to be the main benefits of their respective crafts. Respondents have routinely listed stress relief as one of the activities’ primary benefits.
Even though children have yet to be exposed to the “real world” of financial woes, job stressors, and heartache, they’re still incredibly vulnerable to stress. According to the American Psychological Association’s 2010 Stress in America survey, almost a third of the children surveyed said that they had experienced a physical health symptom associated with stress in the past month. Children may experience stress from being overscheduled, major life events, such as a death in the family or a move, and numerous other contributing factors.
Needle arts can be a great way for children with anxiety disorders, or any children, to de-stress and find some downtime amidst sporting events, family outings, and the social pressures of school. The rhythmic nature of handwork tends to have a soothing effect on children.
Similar to rosary beads, where individuals may find solace in counting the beads and saying a prayer, the repetitive work of handwork can calm down children. This therapeutic activity was linked to lower heart rates, blood pressure, and harmful blood levels of the stress hormone cortisol. As with meditation and yoga, needle arts can induce a relaxed state where children can let go of any worries and concentrate on their work.
When children learn handwork in a camp or classroom setting, they’re given the chance to socialize with kids their age. They typically sit at a table with other attendees or campers, focused on their individual projects but, at the same time, conversing with other children. This group activity gives them the opportunity to enhance their social skills, and many children find lifelong friends while at camp.
Learning the tradition of needle arts in a class, program, or camp is especially beneficial for shy children. These children may experience high levels of anxiety in any social setting, have difficulty making friends, and actively avoid participating in group activities. In a sewing camp or knitting class, these introverted children can chime in when they feel ready. Working on a project with other children allows them to be a part of the group without feeling any significant pressure to join the conversation. After they’ve been sewing for a couple of hours, they may have settled in and feel more inclined to participate in the ongoing discussion.
When children are learning how to embroider, crochet, or knit, they’re not just learning the craft. They’re also honing real-world, practical skills that will prove beneficial throughout childhood and into their adult years. Following instructions on complex projects, counting stitches, and measuring a piece of fabric are all tasks that improve children’s mathematical skills.
Sewing, knitting, and other kinds of handwork also help children develop patience, fine motor skills, and eye-hand coordination. Learning to thread the needle, knot the end, and sew precise stitches takes practice and helps children build finger dexterity. Handwork activities will provide the foundation children need to learn handwriting, which requires children to properly grasp a writing instrument.
As children progress along the learning curve, they learn from trial and error and acquire problem-solving skills. They make mistakes, learn from them, and use this newfound knowledge to shape their work and decisions going forward. By completing a project and observing the rewards of hard work, they build perseverance and creative thinking skills, allowing them to tackle new problems in constructive ways.
When children are swept up in the hustle and bustle of school events, birthday parties, homework, and a host of other activities, it can be difficult for them to stop for a moment and be mindful of where they are and what they’re doing. Handwork gives children the opportunity to be self-aware and present in their current task.
When they’re sewing or crocheting, children can’t multitask. They need to be completely focused on the task at hand, or they may have to rip out a whole row of botched stitches. This absolute concentration allows them to cultivate a deep awareness of the present. Research has shown that mindfulness can help children and adolescents with ADHD, anxiety disorders, autism spectrum disorders, depression, and stress. It can increase children’s emotional well-being, improve their focus, and help them become more resilient.
Older family members may have little experience with technology. In fact, they might not even own a smartphone, let alone a computer. As a result, children may share little in common with their grandparents or older generations.
Handwork allows children and family members to connect on a different level. While they may have vastly different interests and skillsets, they can at least have this in common. Sewing, knitting, or embroidering can bridge the gap between generations, allowing children to spend quality time with elderly family members. Handwork can bring families closer together by fostering communication and creating lasting memories. They can sit together, working on a project, and talk about what’s going on in their lives and learn more about each other.
Low self-esteem can have a significant effect on children’s academic performance and social interactions. Insecure children are less likely to take risks, volunteer to answer questions, and actively participate in school events. Handwork can help children feel good about themselves and encourage them to interact with others.
When children complete a project from start to finish, they feel a sense of accomplishment and build self-confidence. When they attend a sewing camp or participate in a knitting class, they discover a new skill and have the chance to hone that skill through practice. As they learn more about handwork techniques, they also learn more about themselves and their capabilities.
In this disposable world, where a shirt is discarded when a single button pops off, it’s more important than ever that children don’t forget the basic skills that proved essential to the survival of past generations. Children can use sewing and other handwork techniques as a means to be more sustainable.
Instead of wearing a dress three times, only to never wear it again or replace it with a brand new one, learning needle arts encourages children to recycle, reuse, and reduce. Equipped with handwork skills, children can salvage thrifted or old materials - curtains, leftover fabric, old clothing, and pretty much anything - and repurpose them into new, stylish pieces. Children will get more wear out of their clothing and gain sustainable living skills.
Sewing, crocheting, embroidering, or any other handwork technique will help your children develop and grow into a self-sufficient, mature adult. They’ll gain essential skills, unplug from technology for a little while, and recognize the value of hard work. Not to mention, they’ll have a chance to step away from the pressures of everyday life, allowing them to appreciate the present moment.