I rather suspect that most of you will not have attempted any projects from children’s arts or crafts books recently. I have. I use these books a lot. They are only one of the many, and growing, sources of anger that I encounter in the area of children’s toys.
Just yesterday I attempted a “curly paper sheep” project. A few years ago the experience would have sent me through the roof. I’d have had an episode of Out-of-control Anger. I’d have ripped the goddam book to shreds. I’d have slashed it with scissors. I’d have pulled the bloody thing apart. I’d have hurled it against the wall. I’d have thrown it on the fire. (See my recent post: How I learned to stop worrying and love my anger.)
The reason? The project doesn’t work. It doesn’t work because the components of the model sheep are tiny and too difficult to assemble. (The picture of the completed sheep in the book makes it look 10 times the actual size.) It doesn’t work because the individual components won’t expand to the desired size. It doesn’t work because the components are difficult to glue together. It doesn’t work because the assembled model doesn’t balance: it falls over. It doesn’t work because the assembled animal looks more like one of Borges’ Imaginary Animals than a sheep. In short, it doesn’t f*****g work!!!!!!!
Children’s craft books are full of projects which don’t work. Another increasingly common fault is that projects are incorrectly graded i.e. they are too difficult for the target age group.
Now take children’s craft materials. Take crayons, for example. As often as not the colour won’t transfer onto the paper without pressing down so hard as to tear the paper. Of course, the paper is often of such poor quality that it tears easily anyway. I have encountered colouring packs with jumbo-sized crayons which are far too big and bulky to colour in the accompanying finely detailed pictures.
The colour palette provided in these packs of crayons can be very strange. How can children learn their colours with these? An analogy: learning to use colours with these bizarre colour palettes is like learning to play music on an out-of-tune piano.
Have you ever actually looked at the pictures in children’s colouring-in books? They are made (or thrown together) using computer clip art. The pictures are surreal. The flower in the meadow is three times bigger than the grazing horse; to fit the mouse into the picture it has been pulled and stretched and distorted so that it looks like a reflection in one of those distorting fairground mirrors.
I could cite as other examples the numerous press-out and assemble packs with pieces that do not fit together and which are provided with insufficient quantities of enclosed paint/glitter glue etc for decorating.
The list is endless. And its getting worse. Manufacturers don’t care two hoots what rubbish they give to children. Whereas I know now that the projects are badly designed or won’t work, children do not. And this is a constant and increasing source of anger in modern society.
PS: I noticed recently that the Scottish government and others, has spend £-millions on a new educational tool. It is aimed at primary age children. One of the supposed benefits of this new and very expensive teaching tool is that it reduces aggression in children. The government is wasting your money. This new tool will not work. It will not work because it is not addressing the sources of anger and aggression in our society, one of which is the appalling abuse of children through badly designed and made toys.