My seven year old has a default answer to almost any craft activity I ask him if he wants to do- NO. It’s just his personality to say no first and then decide. I think this is his defense mechanism, because at heart he is a perfectionist and he wants to get things RIGHT. Arts and crafts naturally involve a bit of risk of not coming out the way you hope they will.
So how do I get my perfectionist interested in crafts?
1. I often select crafts that look fun to *me*. Then I get out the supplies and start working on it without even mentioning it to him. After a while he always wants to know what I’m doing and most of the time- he wants to join in the fun.
This worked particularly well for our Homemade Shrinky Dinks. At first, I asked him if he wanted to try shrinking plastic with me, (I mean that sounds COOL right?) But he was more interested in his legos. However, after I shrunk a batch, I was genuinely excited to show him and he caught on to my enthusiasm and sat down with me to make some of his own.
2. I try not to get too attached to the outcome of HIS art. When we made Treasure Hunt collages the only way the he got excited about what we were doing, was to put his own spin on the activity. In fact, he decided his was not a treasure hunt at all, and he created a statue instead. I think this gave him the bit of control he needed to feel comfortable doing the new activity. The fun thing was that he was there at the table creating with us- he didn’t have to be making the exact same thing.
3. I remind myself to enjoy the creative activities that he already likes. James really likes cooking and he loves building things. Drawing and painting are very hit or miss, but his brother likes those activities a lot. Sometimes I just have to remind myself that that really is ok- they’re different people and we can explore creativity differently. This means that sometimes I save activities for when I only have one of the kids with me, or I do an activity with one child while the other one plays legos nearby.
4. I remind him that he can take breaks or ask for help. For a child with perfectionist tendencies the unknown presents a very difficult obstacle- the prospect of “getting something wrong” can be extremely daunting. My son doesn’t like when he can’t make things just how he envisions them. I might say, “It doesn’t have to be perfect. Art is neat because things are unique. That’s what makes them special.” And, “If you are frustrated you are welcome to take a break and come back to this later or you may ask for help.”
5. Also important- sometimes I just let him be frustrated and sit nearby doing my own thing. Many times he works through his doubt and starts to enjoy what he’s creating.
Do you have a perfectionist at home…or perhaps you are one yourself? Have any tips? I must admit that seeing these tendencies in my son helps me confront them in myself as well! 😉
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