Therapeutic Child Crafts

Siproena Johnson

As Poetry Recycles Neurons


Field Study Term Paper


Therapeutic Child Crafts as Chance to Heal-Abstract

How do humans sustain the ambition to learn? What keeps us curious? Do adults teach children or have roles shifted? Can these roles be equal or more circumstantial? Personality; can it be found in portraiture? What is truly lost when the arts are not taken into account as a progressing factor in human development and successful sustainability? Questions compile as we try to find the best teaching strategies among hundreds of theoretical practices. This journey I now share with you traces back to Craig Holdrege and his piece; Doing Goethean Science that invites the reader to look beyond the immediate subject as such and pull out the deepest connections surrounding it. I had the opportunity to follow his 7 steps in my own observations and apply delicate empiricism for my assessment of the situations based on prior knowledge and this current experience. The child’s mind from infancy thrives on interaction whether this is from another person, animal object, or commonplace environment.

Passionate Beginnings

Children inspire me to continue questioning my daily interactions with all these and then some. Children have such a resilient nature compelling me to join them in their folly. The studies and “cognitive-stage theory” of Jean Piaget is widely spread across the productions of child oriented paraphernalia. Items for children, such as the diapers, drink holders, toys, and books to name a few, are marketed using the idea of stages as a measurement of progress. John B. Watson believed that conclusions about human development and functioning should be based on observations of overt behavior rather than on speculations about unconscious motives or cognitive processes that remain unobservable. Both of these theories; Piaget’s and Watson’s have been the strongest threads meshing with my own regarding the way humans have and can learn to engage with each other. Suppositions with little feasible knowledge can and has been a dangerous recurrence in our history of learning from one another. When a child is assumed to have achieved a “stage” as Piaget would put it, pressures to uphold these expectations according to a child’s age can cause a breach in basic skills.  The children I have practiced crafts with have shown what may be felt as a delay in progress when compared to children in their same age group but it must be taken into account that we learn in different ways creating a need for more patience, practice, and exposer to an activity.


My Engagement and Sense of Boundaries

A family that I have had 6 years and counting of experience with reminds me of a timeworn saying but with a twist. This family consists of quadruplets; 2 girls and 2 boys born January 1st to military parents.  They have had the influences and gained knowledge some of the average non-military parents wouldn’t be so blunt as to share partially because the question of mental maturity arises and the quadruplets parents believe it is necessary for the children to receive an honest answer whenever an inquiry is made.  It is said, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” In other words, this means a small amount of knowledge can mislead people into thinking that they are more expert than they really are. I can apply this thought directly with one child in this set of quads who has had some tastes of abstract artists’ work. It was funny to hear these words as a watercolor activity was practiced one evening. “This is how you make real art!” as the paintbrush thrashed haphazardly against the paper with a faint hue of orange. She decreed this statement a few more times presenting her paper to her sister and brothers. I knew this particular child to be the most outspoken amongst her siblings but where does a 6 year old get this? I’ve known the children’s mother to be just as if not more frank and candid in many occasions so the girl’s outburst simply gives me a tickle so I simply smile shaking my head.  Mark Rothko and Michael Mazur came to mind with Mazur’s work Rocks and Water XII of 2002 the strongest in relation to her brush strokes and Fields of 1996 in relation to her chosen color which was orange.

Recycling Neurons: Self in Theory

When we started the arts and crafts evening, it was a time of free form art and experimentation before I found a place to sit down. I agree rules are necessary as a means toward a harmonious state of being in the given circumstances. Experimentation is how learning is achieved even if the outcome is undesirable. Children who
are taught not to try or are withheld from learning opportunities encompassing life’s inevitable obstacles may be losing the chance to apply their highly inquisitive and creative minds to achieve a thoughtful resolution. Experimentation implores those with uncertainties to practice the system of trial and error in order to relieve uncertainties or curiosities completely or at least lessen them to a more manageable proportion. Inactivity can lead to more negative repercussions than it would to at least take the initiative and try new activities in moderation within an individual’s means. I notice that children are willing to voluntarily try something new at least once but then the novelty of the activity becomes lost as well as the interest and is set aside for good or resurfaces when others with the same interest invite the child to try again rather than pressure the child to finish what has already been started. I have learned to grow up as a military child, adolescent, and now a military wife. This lifestyle has a role in my perception whether I am conscious of it or not. For many children in this position during early childhood, the lifestyle can negatively affect their social development by way of frequent relocation of the entire family or deployment of the active duty parent. Some of the older children I have encountered adapt nicely while others rely on each other and activities that can be accomplished on one’s own such as drawing, writing, listening to music or writing their own songs. I was introduced to origami by my second grade teacher and the librarian who selected an origami book from those the library was either donating or discarding due to wear. This craft ultimately stuck and has helped me cope during stressful situations or lengthy melancholy days. The long pharmacy wait periods for instance have been times I can occupy the children’s minds with the origami; the portable paper craft that it is. It comes in handy for the adults as well because it transitions the focus from the anxiety building with wait time, antsy children eager to return to the entertainment they have at home, and possibility of losing the place in line if they leave momentarily for a snack from the facilities found in the ground floor of the medical center. I recall those days while my father, active duty at the time was in the same state; Texas, but I could only interact with him via my mother’s words. He was stationed in Killeen and I was losing trust in these messages because they were often released during times of pure anger and frustration in regard to all she had to put up with. This for me translated into my existence as the problem in addition to my frequently flaring chronic illness. I was not reassured this perception was not at all accurate but rather was told to simply do as I’m told without back talking. I noticed the children working with me to make some origami projects these past weeks seemed timid to ask questions while the parent told an older sibling to often “hush up” as a question was emerging from her child’s mouth.  Our mother’s military background before my brother’s birth was showing during the feuds her and I would have as I grew older and more aware of my parent’s history. I became one of those older children; finding other activities to occupy my mind such as puzzles, drawing, new crafts. As my brother reached 9 years of age, he came to understand me more we became more attached than ever seeing each other as the more compassionate and open minded sounding boards than our own parents. He, from his own experiences alone with our mother, began to see and feel for himself the toxic environment we were growing up in before our parents official separation and divorce while at the same time, attempts to persuade our thoughts of the qualms in this lifestyle as being normal were made. He, although younger, found me to be more than an older sibling; he began to see me as a close friend who he can always confide in.  This ability to grow up with a sibling became a bridge for understanding how to reach the minds of the children I try to teach.

The Art of Writing to Soothe the Mind

In later years, writing became a strength seen by others reviewing my work. I passed these compliments at first with doubt and continued to write short stories and poetry while mixing experience with wishful thinking in the development of each piece. The children’s imaginations in my neighborhood would show as they shared an experience from school or other locations even when their words were hard to initially understand in the speed with which they spoke.  While gaining more experience in teaching the crafts I have found as therapeutic for many years, I found this in itself a pleasant experience and reason to continue writing poetry to ease my mind. Using the imaginative power an oral story can have when a child shares it reminded me it would be good to work on sharing work orally whenever possible to get more feeling across to an audience.  While my primary focus was to teach children these crafts, adults alike began to take notice of the children enjoying the way I teach. There came a point where wishful thinking became more prominent in my pieces as in this piece I call Age.

Poem: Age

Age is simply a landmark in time

For people, there is a beginning and the end of a lifeline

Aged for foods like cheese and wine are perceived as matured

But why does this not in all aspects pertain to people as science claims could

Our minds may perceive age as a level of authority

Often greater numbers receive the higher respect while lower ones minorities are those we could forget

Our behaviors often contrary to the numerous trends or stigmas attributed to a given age

The higher the number does not necessarily mean one is entitled to more power, grace or fame

How one has lived, practices become a key to earn the respect of another living or past being

Age is a number that does not grant automatic respect

Age is a number increasing with every year

It does not grant one with a higher number to impede on an age with lower stature

The age on either end, whether high or low, have experiences to teach one another

These can be shared to move toward positive growth

Positive growth; maturity, like that pleasant cheese and wine

These are composed of ingredients that help the pleasant taste become defined

Trials and errors in a journey are sure to occur

With creativity; ingenuity continuously stirred

The possibility for clarity among each other is no longer a blur


Prior Inspirations and Revealing My Passion

As I began teaching children as part of the curriculum required for my Associates degree from Bates Technical College, I began to see and feel my transformation into the teachers I loved to learn from as a child in elementary schools, and wished other teachers could be in latter K through 12 schools I had attended. A librarian was also a key inspiration for my moth to a flame attraction to the craft of origami alone. The characteristics I enjoyed in these teachers then and find myself more willing to respond to now, would awaken in my teaching styles at Bates. These characteristics include patience, humor, broad perspective, and most of all a love for their work. It has been said that young children and even infants have somewhat of a sixth sense when it comes to people they are drawn to and happy to be with on an ongoing basis because they can feel these positive attributes in new people.  In my experiences so far, this theory has fit from the time I’ve worked as a caregiver in the infant room and preschool teacher in the Bates Childcare facilities to present day interactions.

In the neighborhood I now live, I was still kneeling down or simply sitting with the children to demonstrate a particular step for a project.  The primary instructors in each Bates facility noticed how I kept the children engaged in activities presented to them without any effort while the professional instructors themselves found more trials were necessary to calm and engage in activities with the usually cranky infant or preschool age child with documented behavioral issues.  This came ease of teaching came to the attention of parents in my current neighborhood these past weeks.  I did not realize this at first but it was brought to my attention that I consistently knelt down to the children’s eye level or simply sat down on the floor to achieve this angle. The children could see me as one of them rather than another adult telling them what to do throughout the day and it made it easier for them to have trust and willingness to learn from me as well as with me. Perhaps this practice of interacting at eye level was a positive attribute I gained from those stern talks I received as a child on through adolescence from my military parents although these particular encounters with them were far from enjoyable. Upon completion of this portion of my studies, I still found myself wanting to return to Bates and continue to work as a teacher in the childcare and preschool facilities because this job was more than simply time for a paycheck, it was also very energizing to be among others eager to share their voices and creations. The quads help me once again as I visit them in their home, why I continue to share the various arts and crafts I have learned.

Free Art

Exploration of the mediums, variety draws them in

Each child finds the supplies he or she wants for the arts and craft to begin

One, a girl, first to dive directly into the bag of supplies

Brothers and sister, next to scurry toward the bag and grab what attracts their eyes and minds

The first girl pulls out a pack of oil pastels; I tell her what they are while her expression questions the use

She then finds a spot of her own, immediately depicting images with almost all the colors available to choose

I sit back and watch as the children have their way

This time a boy has trouble with the modeling clay

His brother and sisters hear his cries for some assistance

A sister mashes the clay with a medium rectangular wooden block

The other tries the wedge to divide the piece that she’s got

The brother joins in to help his siblings out

He rolls the dough on the table but the brother struggling has his doubts

He returns to his section of green clay and this time the rolling works

I congratulate him in his persistence to continue despite the quirks

Trial and error becomes the learning process this time combined with imagination

The siblings came together to help their brother complete his creation


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