When the Craft Is a Challenge


Crafts are an important part of any elementary faith formation program, and there are a multitude of great crafts that are perfect for our faith formation programs. After spending just a few minutes on Pinterest, I’m sure you’ll feel overwhelmed by the number of options. How do we select which crafts to use for our lessons? Sometimes, as a catechist in a parish, we might not even have a choice—the craft activity might be chosen for us.

This week, my third-grade class learned about the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. As I was preparing my lesson, I saw the lesson included a craft. At my parish, our Director of Faith Formation, with input from the Manager of Elementary Faith Formation and the catechists, creates the lesson plans for each grade. If there is an activity or craft in the lesson plan for the week, the parish’s faith formation office provides the materials for me when I walk in the classroom that day.

Last year, the lesson on the Holy Spirit included a craft in which the kids created a pinwheel. I admit that I really struggled with this craft. It seemed simple enough: color and cut out a pinwheel pattern from construction paper, glue the corners down to form the pinwheel, stick a pin through the center, and then push the pin into a pencil eraser. It was just awful. The assembly was too difficult for the kids to do on their own. They poked themselves with pushpins, the pinwheels didn’t spin, and there was glue everywhere. With only one aide and over 20 kids, we couldn’t get this craft finished last year.

With trepidation I saw it was on my lesson plan again this year. Our director assured me that the other third-grade teachers loved the craft. They simplified the instructions this year so the children wouldn’t be sticking themselves with pushpins again. I was cautiously optimistic walking into the classroom seeing the materials for the craft in front of me.

Someone had made a sample pinwheel in advance. It was cute, and the kids were excited about it. They liked the flames on it and the way it spun when they walked with it, as if the Holy Spirit was rushing by them. Our class aide set up the materials and got prepared while I taught the content portion of the lesson. I started the craft toward the end of class, and it went well. The children were excited as they colored, cut, and glued.

Somewhere in the middle of gluing, the aide and I realized the kids would need help. The craft called for pipe cleaners to stick through the paper pinwheel. The children needed one-on-one help to to wrap it around the pencil. We ran frantically around the room trying to help everyone with their pinwheel in the remaining minutes of the class. Parents began arriving as we were desperately trying to finish. Most were finished, but none of the pinwheels spun naturally like the sample pinwheel. I felt deflated.

But the children didn’t seem to share my dejection. They had fun, and they were all proud of their handiwork, even if their pinwheels didn’t work. But the craft had served its purpose. This experience reminded me that the lesson is not about the craft—that craft is meant to reinforce the lesson.

How do you plan and prepare your crafts before walking into the classroom? If they are selected and prepared for you, how do you handle the class when the craft is a challenge?

About Lisa Jones 42 Articles
Lisa Jones is a fourth-grade catechist at her parish, St. Angela Merici in Missouri City, TX. She also serves her parish as the director of their Vacation Bible School program and as chairperson of the Faith Formation Council. Lisa blogs with her sister about faith and family life at Of Sound Mind and Spirit. She and her husband are the proud parents of three amazing kids.

4 Comments on When the Craft Is a Challenge

  1. I usually start preparing craft projects 2-3 weeks in advance. I do them first . I learned over the years invest in glue dots and good tape. If working with younger children you might want to start putting some of the difficult pieces together ahead of time. Older children I would ask for a couple of parents to come in and help.

  2. I’ve made pinwheels a couple of times before, and they never worked very well for me either. I think it is one of those things that sounds really cool, but is rather fiddly so is hard to do with a bunch of kids. 🙂

    As for crafts in general, I love a good craft and there have certainly been times where they haven’t worked well at all. Sometimes I go back and change things for next year, sometimes I drop them, and there are a few that I just do anyway because I think they work well with the lesson and the kids love them, so I’ll deal with the bit of chaos they cause.

  3. You said that the crafts are prepared for you…which means they could be prepared sooner. Plus sometimes due to difficulty and time allowed I might preprep some of the steps to make it easier. I also do a practice run myself so I can tell them how I did it if it takes a special know-how to do it. And if I cannot do it or demonstrate it I find something else equally good. Sometimes there is an equivalent but better planned or better explained version on line.

    • KathrynH, Yes, I would love it if the crafts could be prepared sooner so I might have the opportunity to try them out before class time. Unfortunately, it is not something I have any control over in our faith formation program as it is run currently. It is done for me the day of and I receive it when I arrive at the classroom. Most of the time it is something easy to pick up and get done in the class time, but not always. Which makes for an eventful class. Thanks for commenting!

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