by Lindsay Pettit
I recently had the pleasure of talking with Dr. Leila Yoonessi on the topic of creating fun, intellectually stimulating crafts with children. The information I received is wonderful because you can apply it to any craft idea you have! I asked her a few questions I had come up with, and here is what she had to say! Keep reading on after to find a little mini unit I did with my girls that implemented the strategies Dr. Yoonessi taught me!
The first question I asked was what types of things make a craft intellectually stimulating. Some of the things she had mentioned was to include problem solving skills and reinforcing confidence in the child. Something as simple as, "That's so cool how you came up with that!" can be such a confidence and self-esteem booster. She also said to let their creative juices flow! Let them be creative. Personally, I feel there is a time and a place for structured play and art time, but I also LOVE having unstructured time, too, where their creativity can really soar! One final thing she mentioned to stimulate the brain is actually AFTER the craft is done, and it's in helping to clean up! Dr. Yoonessi states that having the child help sort and put things back where they belong afterwards is a very important component!
Next, I asked what sorts of outside stimuli can help to create a more intellectually stimulating environment. This first thing Dr. Yoonessi said was that you really want to engage the five senses. This is also important because it develops mindfulness in children and helps them to focus their mind and energy. You can include things like aromatherapy and music to stimulate their brains. She did say to be careful of allergies when including scents and that for music, classical is a great option! Taking them on a walk and opening them up to their surroundings is another example she gave as a great way to engage multiple senses at once in preparing them for craft time.
One really interesting topic we discussed was a child's space and the effect of color on their brains. I brought up the fact that I see a lot of playrooms that are very color neutral, with lots of blacks, whites, and greys. I asked if she felt that this hindered creativity in children. She did mention that a child's space should be bright and colorful, because that is what children are drawn to and that we shouldn't project our color preferences on children. They are naturally drawn to bright and colorful objects and spaces. It was a question I had been very curious about, myself, so I was glad to hear her opinion on the matter. I love the idea of a neutral color space (my house is pretty much all black, white, and greys, but we made our playroom bright and colorful! Children need that burst of color for creativity!). I love that their whole play environment is intellectually stimulating!
Here is how I implemented what I learned!
After hearing from Dr. Yoonessi, I quickly got to work coming up with some ideas that involved the strategies she taught me, and I especially was excited to incorporate some outside stimuli. With the current buzz of the Superbloom all around us, I decided to create a craft around that. I focused on all five senses and built my idea around the topic.
First, I started with touch. I created some "petals" out of different colored felt so that the girls could engage their sense of touch with the softness of the petals. If I had more differing types of material on hand (such as silk), I would have included that, as well!
Next, I focused on sound. Dr. Yoonessi reminded me that classical music is great for stimulating the brain. I used to listen to classical music all the time when I was studying for finals in college! So I played a little classical music to introduce it to the girls, and then I also incorporated "Golden Afternoon" from Alice in Wonderland (the song where the whole garden of flowers sings), because I'm a Disney mama!
In turning to smell, I decided to diffuse some energizing, floral scents in my diffuser. I loved having a floral smelling environment as we worked on our floral crafts!
Sight was catered to simply in the diverse colors of the felt petals and in the color selection for coloring the flower stems and remainder of the paper.
Lastly was taste. I tried hard to get creative using this sense, but I didn't want to do anything TOO crazy or fancy, as I wanted to make this easy and accessible for all. So, I decided to keep with the whole plant theme and served them up some fruit flavored water. I just simply added orange slices to a pitcher of water!
For me, the biggest takeaway I got from Dr. Yoonessi was engaging the senses when doing a craft (or really, anything!) with a child. Engaging all the senses creates a really memorable experience for the child. This is definitely something I will be incorporating more into our play and art time!
Thank you, Dr. Yoonessi, for giving me your time to speak with you on such a fun topic! I know your work will have a positive impact by all who work with you!
For more information on Lindsay Pettit and her tips as a mommy of two, follow her blog: Keeping Mommy Life Simple, or follow her on social media @lindsaypettit15.