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The Glue Stick That Binds

Jon Whittle

Sorry, manly, football jersey–wearing dudes. I don’t want to compare fishing lures or look under your car’s hood. I just want to make a crepe-paper kaleidoscope from a paper-towel roll.

I’m not ashamed to admit I love arts and crafts—although I have reason to be: I come from a long line of carpenters, men with calloused hands and gritty fingernails. Luckily, my parents appreciated my artisan efforts. My father was genuinely complimentary when I turned up in a vest made from zebra-print fabric and rhinestones. That’s what happens when you give an 11-year-old pro-wrestling fan a $20 bill at Jo-Ann Fabrics.

Now Jackson, 6, and Tanner, 4, are my partners in papier-mâché. And here’s something that many families don’t realize: A craft project is more than just the sum of its pipe cleaners. It emphasizes a number of enviable qualities and can even teach parents a thing or two. Here’s just a sampling:

Spontaneous creativity. Last March Jackson’s teacher asked each student to make a leprechaun trap (shown right) for St. Patrick’s Day. While browsing at Michaels, Jackson pointed out a small wooden birdhouse. Of course: With its cone roof and sprite-sized dimensions, it was the perfect starting point. My son fit a square peg into a round hole. 

Stick-to-itiveness. A craft project is like putting together a piece of Ikea furniture: There’s no clear-cut end or set of instructions. You always wind up staring at the Ludvig workstation holding 19 extra screws and washers. For a craft, completion can mean
20 cotton balls or 120 cotton balls. Whatever your child defines as the end brings with it a sense of accomplishment.

Imperfection is perfection. I often catch myself wiping off that wayward splash of paint or puddle of Elmer’s. But it’s the imperfections that make their scribble-tastic masterpieces so totally unique. 

The take-home lesson for the manly men out there: Put down the socket wrench and pick up the glue stick. While you’re at it, take off the football jersey. I love UPS, but you don’t see me wearing thigh-hugging brown shorts.