Children’s Crafts as Natural Building

I confess to shopping at the dollar store on occasion, usually to purchase craft supplies for my children.  But recently while sitting at my computer scrolling my way through Facebook’s skewed representation of the lives of other people, I  came across an article about crafts you can make from items purchased at the dollar store.  I recently read an article which aptly reflected my feeling about doing prescribed crafting with my children.  I had already been thinking about the exorbitant number of craft supplies I have on hand for my children to use, but the dollar store craft list exacerbated the impact of this fact for me.  Why am I using dollar store products at all?  The chemicals found in these products are toxic.  They cost way more than a dollar.

Buying from the dollar store generates more stuff.  Crafting is busy work, a distraction from ‘boredom.’   But boredom is a choice.  Quelling that choice with consumerist, capitalist and unethical  craft is only teaching children that shiny new throw away items are the key to happiness.  Not only that but that in order to achieve success, certain things must be purchased and assembled ‘just so’ in order to produce the perfect mechanized product.  Consumerism is at the root of our definitions of beauty being bound to mechanized perfection rather than natural grace.

I have told myself the story that ‘I’m just paying less for the same thing I’d buy elsewhere when I shop at the dollar store.’  Which unfortunately is true in many cases.  But I need to stop shopping there.  And by this I am not suggesting that I shift to buying it elsewhere.  What I mean is that I need to start considering the items purchased, and examine my actual needs.

A closer look at the crafting ideas offered in the article offered insight into how we are lured into a consumerist though pattern when the joy is still there without it.  When I simplify what is available to my children, they come up with their own creative Ideas.  By shifting my perspective only slightly, the list of items constructed out of cheap substandard materials becomes an interesting challenge.  An example from the article was to create a hula-hoop tent to hang from a tree.  Why is the hula hoop necessary?  Why do I need the internet to suggest this activity when my children often make tents out of sheets and don’t need special equipment to make that happen?  Why not use sticks?  Why not just enjoy the shade of the tree?  Another suggestion was to use cut pool noodles and dowels to construct a croquet game.  This one was too much!  Cutting up giant pieces of foam that no one will want to use in the pool afterward in order to stick them in the ground to kick a ball through just seems ridiculous!  How did we get so far removed from Earth’s resources?  Yes, the game sounds fun, but could chair legs work?  Or sticks poked into the ground?  If I got really involved I could paint the sticks too!  Wouldn’t it be so much better to use craft materials found in nature?  Or at the very least my closets, barn, and second hand shops?  Wouldn’t I be encouraging the budding natural builders in my children by only providing natural building materials?  To draw a parallel to our diet, I don’t offer processed food or sugary items, so why would I offer pom poms and stickers to make art?  I have learned through my own artistic journey that re-framing items made in China as art does not leave me feeling satisfied as an artist.  Keeping the materials simple allows for more open ended creativity.

Recently, I attended another trading post.  This time I wanted the children to have something to trade.  We made a fishing game after searching Pinterest for a good idea.  Talk about a consumerist glut!  After selecting something I thought the children could be involved in, I had them choose the papers from my stash of stuff hoarded away from my scrap-booking days, trace the fish and help to put paperclips on the fish, I realized something terrible.  We were making dollar store crafts!  The fishing stick – dollar store dowel.  The string – dollar store.  The magnet – you guessed it!  Could I have used old fridge magnets found at the thrift store?  Sticks from our felled tree?  Twine from used bales of straw?  Would it not have been just as much fun, and perhaps more beautiful?

The spiral of learning can be frustrating, as I watch myself participate in something I don’t want to be doing as I edge in small slow solutions toward more natural building.

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