I love to combine a good book or story with an art or craft project. Why do these two go so well together especially when it comes to children?
Children love stories. They love to make up and tell stories of their own (when my oldest was younger I remember listening to him tell stories he made up for what seemed like hours), they love to act out stories, they love to listen to stories being told or read to them and they love to watch stories being acted out by others. There's something irresistible about a good story and it is an invaluable and important way children learn.
Another thing children love to do is create. They are born naturally curious and naturally creative. As mentioned above they usually enjoy creating stories of their own, but you will also find them creating with anything they can get their hands on - from crayons and paint to tape and empty paper towel tubes.
Children are also born with a natural love of learning. They are curious about the world around them and reach out to explore with their hands (and mouth and feet!) as soon as they are able. As a parent and educator it is my responsibility to nurture that inborn desire for learning in my children.
Since children love stories so much, since they love to create and are such visual and tactile beings, it seems only natural to combine learning with a good story and a hands-on project. I've found that my own children and my students remember what they have learned better if they have a hands-on project to go with the lesson. The ideas become more concrete and the memory of the person, place or thing they are learning about sticks with them better. The process of building a pre-historic dwelling out of clay, fabric and sticks involves many of the child's senses so the ideas and information about pre-historic peoples and their civilization or types of dwellings will sink in and become more "memorable". I like to take photos of my children working on their projects or of the finished project and put the pictures in their notebooks for that year. So when they look back at their notebooks its a visual reminder of what they learned.
I've found it especially effective in the history and art history classes I teach to read the children an interesting and engaging story or picture book and do a related hands-on project. We view some great examples of art too of course and take some time to discuss the art, but the story and project really make the artists or time periods we study come to life.
Children need to learn and they need to create. It is vital not only to their mental well being, but to their spiritual well being as well. They become more whole and fulfilled persons when they are encouraged and given the means to be creative. I would like to encourage all educators, whether in the classroom or at home, to incorporate art and craft projects in their students' lessons; and to encourage the children's natural curiosity and desire to learn and create with a good story and an opportunity to make some amazing art of their own!