Why is learning to hand-sew Poekies beneficial in child development?

• Improves manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination. Obviously.

• Cognitive Development 
Arts and crafts engage multiple brain areas simultaneously and improve bi-lateral coordination between the left and right sides of the brain, leading to immediate and future cognitive development.

• Spatial relations and visual thinking skills
“Crafting encourages key visual-processing skills, such as pattern recognition, detecting of sequences and spatial rotation. Other content areas, like math and reading, share these exact skills. Some experts we interviewed suggested that manipulating materials during arts and crafts may enhance a child’s visual-spatial skills. Geometry pulls heavily from spatial processing.“

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• Hand-writing
Many parents notice that their children’s hand-writing improves when they start coming to the Poekie Nook. Handwriting, especially cursive, also crosses the left and right hemispheres of the brain, connecting synapses.

• Social-Emotional skills
The process of sewing a Poekie at the Poekie Nook involves listening carefully to the teachers instructions, interacting with other children of different ages and loving your own Poekie even if it’s not as perfect as one made by a more experienced child. Additionally, Poekies are frequently used by therapists to help children process difficult events in their family life.

• Confidence building 
No one believes you actually made that Poekie yourself!

• Imagination
Finally, when a Poekie is finished and taken home, countless hours of imaginative play will follow, often inspiring the child to create a world for their Poekie.

The Tao of Poekie

 Words from our founder: Sophia van der Harst

Almost every girl that walks into the Poekie Nook says, ‘I want to make those!’
So the parent signs her up and she immediately gets immersed in learning the basic sewing stitches to make a beginner’s Poekie. Some girls learn quickly and easily, others may take more time, but regardless of how long it takes to master the different stitching techniques, all students are proud of their progress and see that, with some patience, they too will be able to make the cutest animals living at the Poekie Nook.

Before long, parents come in saying, ‘My kid is obsessed with Poekies. She wants to be here every day.’ Why is that?
Due to our member drop-in format, at any time there will be girls aged 6 to 12 with varying degrees of ability and experience, all sewing away at their particular skill levels, inspiring those who are new to keep on practicing their cutting, tracing and stitching abilities as they move up through the different levels of Poekies. Since there is no ‘class-time’ (“Now we all must do this or that”), kids hang out in groups, chatting and laughing, while they learn without the stress of needing to accomplish something within a certain time frame.

The true gratification comes when they bring their Poekies home and can play and sleep with them.

Playing with your Poekies
Everyone knows Poekies are super cute and super sweet and super innocent. There are no mean Poekies. They don’t like war or violence. They all love to swim and play and have parties. Through that innocent playfulness, Poekies help keep the natural innocence in our children alive and foster the imagination, which, as a former Waldorf teacher, I believe to be instrumental in raising happy, healthy human beings.

And yet more thoughts from 20 years of teaching Poekie making:

Psychological and Social Aspects
The Poekies represent that innermost innocence in all of us. It is the two or three year old that is still just concerned with the immediate environment and naturally knows what is right and wrong. It is the most sensitive place that lives somewhere in all of us. It is the part that connects us to God or the Spirit, Source or Tao.
My wish is that we try to prolong that innocent stage in children as long as possible. As a Waldorf teacher, I know that nothing is lost by letting them take their time to ‘grow up.’ There is no need for young children to learn early about the big world, as it is too abstract. Their world is still mostly in the immediate environment, but for many of my 6 to 11 year old students it is a return to that innocence. It seems as if they lost it when they entered Kindergarten and learned about letters and numbers. I believe that at this age these abstract concepts do not yet relate to their intangible Spiritual self, instead they take them away from it.
The Poekie world awakens this inborn sensitivity again by addressing problems through a perspective of simplicity. It is all about what is going on right around us. If we nourish this innocent sensitivity throughout childhood, the person may have a greater chance to stay connected with it later in life. And when you become aware of it later in life, it can sustain you through the worst storms.

The Poekies are a great opportunity to help develop social skills. A Poekie, like most three-year-olds, is pure goodness and very sensitive. You need to be on your best behavior with them. Often a Poekie will come to me and reveal the real issue that is living right now in the owner. Poekies are the perfect tool for taking away any inhibition or embarrassment the children may have. Social problems are solved clearly and sensibly, and with heart, through the Poekies. Children feel free to express their real thoughts and feelings because they can ‘hide’ behind their Poekies. In this way the Poekies allow grown-ups a peak into the sensitive parts of the child, and through the child’s Poekie, they can respond with a wholesome, kind and constructive answer.

Here are some stories from teaching in Poekie world:
• A 9 year-old boy comes to me with tears in his eyes and holding his Poekie he squeaks, ‘Peter’s Poekie says I am being mean. But I wasn’t, I just told him that his Poekie was chubby.’ It is not nice for a Poekie to call another Poekie chubby, however innocent it was meant, it doesn’t sound very nice and the issue is not very important. Apologies are made and the problem is solved.
• At a Christmas party I wanted to sing songs, but these days most of the children are afraid to sing, possibly because they rarely sing in school anymore. However, when I had my Poekie sing in her squeaky voice, then the children happily joined in, singing for their Poekies.
• Once a Poekie came to me and said, ‘My mommie’s parents are separating.’
The world needs people who still remember their innocence and who can go back to that most sensitive place. Everyone wants a sustainable society with all the latest gadgets, and corporations too are not just looking for people who can type, they are looking for people with innovative and creative ideas. Letting the children linger in their childhood and teaching them what they need when they are interested, will raise a generation that can help change our old ways.

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