As the holidays loom, I am constantly being told how lucky I am to have a son who enjoys crafts. How nice it must be, friends say, to have a child who sits quietly, doing something creative.
Oh, how wrong they are. In reality, a craft-mad six-year-old doesn't mean peace and quiet. It means weeping over make-your-own kits that don't stick together, desperate re-kneading of clay models that 'don't look right', and spending hours deciphering instructions that you need a PhD in mechanical engineering to understand.
It means a permanent black cloud of despair hanging over the kitchen table. In short, I hate crafts.
Now, don't get me wrong. I don't mind a) mess or b) spending time with my kids doing something fun.
It's the utter shoddiness of most children's craft products that drives me insane. Their shiny boxes promise fulfilment and fun. They deliver frustration and fury.
Not since some genius decided to use photos to illustrate his fast-food menu has there been such a disconnection between the dream and the cold, hard reality.
Gratifyingly, when I decide to express my craft hatred, I find I am not alone. My confession brings forth a wave of pent-up fury among fellow mums. Mother of two Julie admits to a profound loathing of glitter. "It never sticks to the glue properly," she says with feeling. "And you find it for weeks after in the weirdest of places."
Rebecca carries with her a deep-seated hatred for something called 'sand art'. "I couldn't bear the stuff - messy, ugly, falls apart all over your kitchen," she says. "My daughter didn't seem to mind that the sand came off it all the time, but I did!"
So short of banning the horrible things, what's the best way to cope when what you thought were good crafts turn out to be very, very bad?
Naomi Richards, childrens' life coach and author of The Parent's Toolkit (Vermilion, RRP £12.99) says it's all about managing expectations – even before you open the dreaded box.
"Talk to your child about exactly what you're going to do," she advises. "Ask him how he'll feel if it doesn't go to plan. You could also point out that the finished product on the box will have been made by an adult, so your child's craft will be very different!
"And if there's disappointment at the end, again, talking is vital. Why does your child think that what he's done isn't so good? You might tell him how great it is that he's made such a unique thing – he's made it special. Ask him why it needs to be perfect? OK, it's not exactly how it looks on the box – but does that mean it's not good?"
So the next time I find myself sitting at the kitchen table in a welter of glitter, matchsticks and those weird tiny pink fluffy balls that never stick to anything, I fully intend to remember that even a bad craft kit can teach kids a good lesson. And then I'm going to hide the damn lot of them.
Crafts to avoid at all costs
The Paint-Your-Own-Shark Kit
Perhaps including paint actually suitable for painting on plastic would have been a good idea.The sharks, after all, are made of plastic. "They can be ghost sharks," my son decided, displaying a maturity I found hard to share.
The 3-D Balsawood Elephant
My heart sank when I read the instructions for this balsawood elephant. "How to make your balsawood racing car," they began. Hmm. It sank further as I read on. "Remove pieces from kit. Attach pieces to each other. Paint." However, the kit was not entirely useless. The 350-odd pieces made excellent kindling for the woodburner.
The Popular Children's TV Craft Programme Presenter-Branded Craft Box
TV presenters, please note the following. There is no point having lots of fun sticking activities in your box if THE GLUE DOES NOT STICK.
The Heating Up Tiny Beads To Make a Glow In The Dark Plastic Thing Kit
Take thousands of microscopic beads. Put them on a plastic board in a vague semblance of an animal/face/dinosaur. Add something called 'ironing paper' (which was missing from the kit. We used greaseproof paper.) Apply a hot iron while hysterically shouting: 'Stand back!' to fascinated child. Hey presto! You now have a weird shape which does not glow in the dark and falls apart when you try to prise it off the plastic board. Enjoy the slight smell of burning plastic.
Any book which promises fabulous models made from so-called 'everyday household junk'
Unless your household routinely uses picture wire, wooden dowels of a very specific diameter, and surgeon's scalpels for intricate cutting, quietly pass these books on to your local library or charity shop. Other unsuspecting parents will then have to deal with the fallout.
Does your heart sink when your child receives a complicated craft kit requiring lots of parental involvement and patience?
What's the worst one you've ever tried to do?
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