Keeping kids happy at holiday get-togethers

Members of the Saber Guild, Jedi Knights and Sith Warriors, give a display with their light sabers for the attendees during the 14th Annual Literacy Festival held at Old Town Newhall Library in Newhall on Saturday, 120421. Dan Watson/The Signal

By Caleb Lunetta

Signal Senior Staff Writer

It’s that time of year again when the Christmas trees come in, the lights go up and the family comes home.

While often thought of as a fun, festive and, depending on who you are, stressful time of year, it can often be unknown what to do with the little ones running around while all the preparations and hosting activities are being completed.

Needing something for the kids to do during the annual holiday party, many people turn to crafts or creative tasks for their children.

But what do the experts say this year are the best ways to entertain your child or give them something creative to do to mark the season?

Constructive Crafts

In an article published by Michigan State University, and in conjunction with another analysis done by Pennsylvania State University, author and extension educator Michelle Neff discusses the importance of holiday crafts for young children and how they can lead to an opportunity to develop creativity, and cognitive and physical skills.

“The holiday season is a great time for families and parents to provide a time for youth to do arts and crafts projects,” the Michigan State article reads. “Talking with them about what to do with their projects is also helpful and provides youth opportunities to think of ways to brighten people’s day.”

Through the process of picking colors, supplies and what to create, Neff says it is important to observe and guide children, but not tell them what to do.

“It is important we allow youth to express their ideas as their own and not change their mind,” Neff said. “Also, using open-ended questions like, ‘What do you think you can do with the yarn?’ are great ways to start getting youth thinking.”

In terms of cognitive skills, arts and crafts can help youth gain strong decision-making skills, Neff writes.

“From deciding on colors or maybe when the project is done, this is all part of youth learning cognitive skills,” Neff wrote. “Youth are also able to plan, experiment and problem-solve when a craft doesn’t go as planned.”

And, finally, physical skills — according to the Michigan State writer — such as when using scissors, assist in the development of fine motor skills.

The Art of Crafts

Liza Purdy, senior librarian with the city of Santa Clarita, described herself while growing up as someone who would not be considered an “artsy person,” adding that she might be made fun of for her artistic abilities when she was growing up.

However, that has not stopped her from devoting much of her time to creating and providing children of all ages the opportunity to participate in creative endeavors because, as she’ll tell you, crafts teach important skills and are easy to set up for your children.

“So, like a holiday card, for instance, you’re going to stick out a bunch of stuff — stuff that you might have around little bits and bobs you know that we all have kept away in a drawer somewhere — and just stick that out with some glue and some crayons and markers or paints or whatever nice paper and let the kids have at it,” said Purdy. “That is going to be more satisfying to them. It’s going to use way more creativity than if you were to say, you know, here are the three circles that are pre-cut out for you. And you need to paste them in this order and that will make a snowman and you can draw on them.”

Regarding the question of giving explicit instructions versus not, Purdy seemed to side with the position of those from Michigan and Pennsylvania.

“You want it to be open-ended,” said Purdy. “You want to start out providing materials and then brainstorming together.”

Purdy did say that providing some structure could be helpful.

“You can show ideas: ‘Here’s how mom would make it, kids,’” said Purdy. And that’s another really important thing is creating alongside your child…it’s going to model sticking with a creative process when you hit a wall, which we all eventually do.”

Depending on the age of the children involved, crafts can vary, from keeping it fun but pretty simple with the 5-years-old and younger crowd, to an increased intricacy in design once you reach upper elementary, to even asking teenagers what they’d like to do.

“I think the key with teens is everything to do with relationships,” said Purdy. “Asking them what they want to do, making it something that is of interest to them, and also having that relational aspect to it, then all kinds of things can be fun.”

Purdy said some ideas the library was suggesting for families included bookmarks, holiday cards and snowflakes for kids, while teenagers can use sewing machines, 3-D and other high-tech printers to create.

For ideas and crafting events coming to the library, visit the library’s website at

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