I volunteer at a youth group for secondary school-aged children (11-16 years). Every week for an hour and a half in the evenings, a community centre in my city opens its doors. Some of the kids are from deprived backgrounds or have chaotic home lives.
Boredom in these kids can be an absolute nightmare so we try to make sure there is plenty to occupy them. For some time now I've been in charge of the craft table, and I've been able to observe the impact art and craft can have on the kids that visit us. The results have been really surprising.
The girls do join in, of course, although a lot of the girls are quite happy to sit and chat, play on their phones or with a tatty card deck we put out. The boys are the ones that really seem to benefit from the craft activity, something I never would have guessed before I started going there.
Funny really, how just having something to do with your hands opens up conversation avenues. I get to chat to the kids in a way that would be much harder if I just went up to them when they are lounging on the easy chairs or round the pool table. A lot of the time, at the end of the night, the boys aren't interested in keeping the thing that they've made, they toss that night's project on the table and walk out. It seems the process itself matters more than the outcome. I don't think this is a problem, as long as they are enjoying the process of making something, that's all that matters. As I start to make a career change into teaching, all this observation is really valuable. It may not sound surprising to those that work with kids full time or have a better knowledge of the therapeutic effects of art and craft, but still, I've learnt a lot at this youth group. I struggle sometimes to think of craft ideas for boys, but I may put together a list soon of crafts I have tried with lads that have gone down well. I'd love to hear from other people with thoughts about this.