My ideas on guiding a little one through a challenging project / by Lauren DeMarco


Helping/guiding/mentoring my daughter through multi-step projects or projects which are a little advanced for her skill set has been a work in progress. I have thought about this a lot and try to practice what I preach. Nowhere near perfect, of course, but here are some of my ideas about this…

  1. I always consider what she is developmentally capable of; her fine motor skills, her attention span, and her ability to follow the step-by-step instructions with help/direction are my main considerations. This is important because it helps me with my own patience and expectations. I want to know her limits so I can push them, just a touch. This is how I believe I am helping her grow.

  2. I try to gauge her level of interest at different phases of the project. For example, she will be highly motivated in the beginning because I am paying her full attention and she is excited about the supplies. She will put some effort in, maybe run into a few problems, get through them, and then mentally check out after a few minutes. I tend to continue to model the skill for her as long as she wants to continue to observe me but stop if she physically gets up and walks away. I am sure to check back in on the project later with her, letting her watch if she wants or contribute. I try really hard not to abandon things completely, (again, why #1 is important) she could be developmentally only capable of spending 10 minutes on the type of task at hand but the project could take 30 minutes in total. Would just take 3 sittings instead of one; careful not to confuse expired attention capability with lack of interest.

  3. Troubleshoot out loud as you go; my theory is that this will help her learn the language of problem solving. It also normalizes and provides multiple examples of failures/missteps/mistakes. We push through them together, survive most of them, and learn when quitting is the best choice.

  4. When Chi observes something and then expresses it out loud I try very hard to pause and then come out with the most helpful response. She often observes when my technique is more neat or accurate/idyllic and will say “your’s is better”. I take a moment and say “Hmm, yes my stitches (lets say we are sewing) are more even, I have been practicing for a long time. But see how your stitches are still holding the two pieces of felt together? That means your stitches are doing their job. And they will be more neat and even the more you practice”. I believe that if I say “no, your’s are better than mine” or “no, your’s are just as neat” I am losing her trust. She can see with her own two eyes that my stitches are neater. If she doesn’t trust me she will give up sooner. She needs to keep going, witness her own progress, and talk nicely to herself while she creates to build her own confidence. Which brings me to #5.

  5. I try to model positive self talk throughout the process of making. I will say things like “Wow, my stitches are coming out nice and even like I wanted them to” or “oops, I made a mistake there. Oh well, I can fix it because I am a good problem solver.” She doesn’t find this to be strange and she can really take away some great habits for her future crafting self!

I struggle with grit and longevity as a multi-passionate adult, I enjoy trying to help my kids combat some of these challenges as they develop.