As new sewing projects continue in our home, I am made aware of the benefits that can only come from giving a child opportunities and freedom to work with her hands from a young age. Of course, the same goes for boys.
It started with her taking random pieces of material and trying to cut, pin or roughly stitch them together to make something of a 3-dimensional object. By the time she was 5 she had some fabric, scissors, needles and thread available at all times.
Her attempts were full of purpose and care. Watching her bent to her task, mothering and dressing her few dolls was both exciting but somewhat frustrating to me as a mom. I remembered my father’s harsh criticism of me at 5 or 6 and how it made me second guess so much about myself. I had to bite my tongue hard and exercise my self-control so I wouldn’t cripple her enthusiasm and initiative to experiment and learn. I had to remember she was just a little girl. It stung that it happened to me as a little girl.
I felt it best to simply show interest, ask questions to find out what she was thinking and make observations that might steer her without showing judgment. By the way, this process as a mom helped me to begin to heal from the verbal and physical abuse I experienced as a child and a part of my spiritual growth.
Huge benefits come with all hands-on experiences in life, not just sewing. All our children were intentionally given plenty of free play, outside work and play on the farm with dad, imaginative games, cooking alongside me (though I’d rather have done it alone), reading great books, wholesome food and sleep. What has surprised me the most were the changes in character that have been specifically enhanced by early experiences around the house and outside with the animals. Expectations were that learning was a growing process – the results would get better and better – and was formative to the character of continuing to try and learn something new with each step.
This is our daughter’s first attempt to sew a doll dress by hand. She visualized something in her mind and felt free to experiment with fabric that was available.
You might be able to see the off-center unfinished neck opening for the doll’s head right (right of center) above the sleeves (with white selvage edge cuffs).
Somehow with God’s help I gave her grace in the sewing department to not be perfect right away, so she was good with it, too.
In just a few years, she left me in the dust.
Model and encourage your child to work with their hands with these goals in mind:
1.) Try New Things and Use Imagination.
We gain a sense of what perseverance is all about by trying something new or difficult. Creative challenges are mentally invigorating and expand the mind.
2.) Mistakes are OK.
I love the story of Thomas Edison. When asked by a reporter, “How long did it take for you to invent the light bulb?”, he stated, “I did 1000 experiments before I invented it”. The reporter responded, “It is amazing you continued on. Wasn’t that discouraging?” Thomas Edison answered, “Of course not – I learned 999 times how not to make it”! So instead of having an attitude of “I can’t” when things go wrong, we say “Let’s keep trying”!
[As a mother, I failed so many times in really being chill with mistakes, but thankfully we serve a God who is bigger than our failures and He uses them to grow us all if we seek Him. Asking forgiveness for our shortcomings is so hard but so good and right. I asked forgiveness a lot and still do. God is in the business of working to conform us to be more like him – gentle in spirit. (Matt. 11:28-30).]
3.) Work Produces Perseverance and Confidence.
With each completed project, perseverance and confidence grow. It is a circular thing, growing with each little success, readying you to tackle more complexity.
4.) Help and Encourage Others ~ like a younger friend.
There is great joy in coming alongside to share what you know and help others to learn the same skills. That is what all previous generations did out of necessity. An example would be to teach a younger girl to knit, casting on stitches and showing her how to knit rows.
The process helps to mature us in our ability to transfer our knowledge into words. It also teaches us patience!
Growth in a child is a long process of early training.
My deep love and reverence for my children has grown after many, many years of working and playing and creating alongside them–sometimes because I truly loved and enjoyed them – and other times purely out of faith. The long wait for children after many years of infertility heightened the richness.
But, as I have said before, as in a garden, whatever you water and nourish the most is what will flourish. If you water the garden of life-giving and beauty, work and play, family and relationships, all bound together with love for the Lord, it will grow and flourish – just know it is a long-term work.
May the days and years of work alongside your daughters (and sons), (including trials, hardships and misunderstandings) inside and outside, in all kinds of projects, be delightful times of learning and growing together. You will all reap the multiple benefits!
“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” ~1 Thess. 4: 11-12