Around Town: December 2018
Young Entrepreneurs Unite! The Kids Craft Fair at the Boys and Girls Club
What if you could find a school that would teach your child applied creativity, organizational skills, project management, math, money skills, entrepreneurship, social skills, and marketing… all in three hours?
Look no further than the annual Kids Craft Fair at the Boys and Girls Club in downtown Santa Cruz the first Saturday of December. Each year this event draws kids from all over the county who make and sell holiday gifts and food.
And if you go as a shopper, don’t think of it as charity. These kids aren’t kidding when it comes to quality.
“All the bath products are great and really professionally packaged,” points out Rebbie Higgins, Operations Coordinator at the Club. “There are kids that make bath bombs, lip balms, soaps. They’re great for presents because they’re really attractive. The hand-dipped beeswax candles are gorgeous and make great gifts.”
“To be honest, things that look like they were made by a child generally don’t sell as well as things that look similar to what you might find at a adult craft fair,” says Heddi Craft, a local homeschool educator and crafter whose daughters have taken part for the last six years. “But there are people who will go around and buy something from every kid that’s there. It’s nice to see them support even the smallest kid.”
That Entrepreneurial Spirit
The approach to the fair varies from family to family, but most make it all about the kids’ entrepreneurial spirit. The parents invest in materials and act as support; the kids come up with the ideas, make the crafts, and sell them at the fair.
“I’ve talked with parents and they’ve had the conversation with the kids about, ‘you made the jewelry but you made me buy the beads, and you’re going to pay back for the beads’,” Higgins explains. “That’s an awesome opportunity for understanding how business works.”
Heddi Craft agrees, describing her daughters’ experience as “a mini- economy, complete with loans.”
“Molly has become much more aware of things like, how much am I spending on materials? How much do I have to set aside from this craft fair to have enough for next year? In the beginning I would front her the money, but she makes enough now to set aside money for the following year.”
Kids learn quickly that the successful sellers at the fair have created products that buyers would buy at stores—for higher prices.
“Some of the girls doing little embroidered Christmas tree ornaments—it’s stuff you would totally expect to drop twenty bucks on in one of the fancier artist shops in town!” Higgins says. “The prices are great, the kids know the value of their stuff.”
“All of Molly’s things have been very successful,” Craft says. “She makes Metal Clay jewelry, yarn dolls, things out of Sculpey and Fimo. She usually sells out by the end of the day. Erin found the most lucrative thing she did was last year when she sold sandwiches and lemonade. It’s kind of a captive audience. You have a whole roomful of people at an event that goes through lunch!”
Shop 'til You Drop
So if you’re planning to attend as a shopper, what might you find? For gifts, look for such items as beeswax candles, homemade soaps, bath bugs, potholders, decorative mason jars, handmade greeting cards, custom Lego sets, crystals, succulents in charming pots, seashell magnets, bookmarks, jewelry, sock snowmen, felt creatures, hand-sewn cloth bags, and wallets.
After that, you might get really hungry, so look out for the baked goods, peanut butter cups, hot chocolate, and coffee. (Sometimes there’s chili, too!)
Don’t go until you’ve checked out all the holiday decorations for sale, including cards, gift tags, ornaments, and wreaths.
Newly Empowered Kids
Amidst it all, be aware that you’ll be competing for the best stuff with the kids themselves, who, newly flush with their own earnings, like to support their fellow entrepreneurs.
“The most impressive thing is how empowered the kids feel,” Higgins says. “Usually you have to go and ask your mom and then she’s like, ‘no, you can’t have sugar.’ Unless the parents figure out something where they’re going to restrict the kids’ spending, it’s the kids’ money, they earned it!”
Craft points out that empowerment can turn into actual paying work. She knows of one child who went on to sell at professional craft fairs, and her daughter Molly received a custom order from a shopper who asked her to specially design a necklace for his wife.
The Boys and Girls Club celebrates its 50th anniversary next year. Higgins admits that no one is quite sure how long the craft fair has been going on, but lots of grown kids in town remember it fondly as the first place they learned the power of creativity.
The Kids Craft Fair December 1, 2018 11:00 am–2:00 pm Boys and Girls Club Downtown Clubhouse,
543 Center St., Santa Cruz
“I Am Jazz” Community Reading
This month Santa Cruz families will come together to read a book at the library. Yes, this happens all the time, but not with this book and this message.
“I am Jazz” was published in 2014, co-written by 14-year-old Jazz Jennings, a transgender activist whose life had been profiled in a television documentary. Although the book deals with Jazz’s life and challenges in a child-appropriate manner, it attracted the attention of anti-LGBTQ groups.
After a group succeeded in forcing a Wisconsin school to cancel a reading, the community came together, packing 600 people into the public library for a reading.
Each year since that event, communities have hosted readings to foster awareness and acceptance of transgender children. Awareness of transgender people has increased since then—Jennings is now a popular YouTube personality—but the challenges of being transgender, and parenting a transgender child, have not gone away.
A More Accepting World
“What I get from the book is how happy Jazz is to be affirmed,” says Michelle Brandt, one of the organizers of the event and the mother of a transgender man who came out at 15. “I see that comfort and joy about being yourself, and not having to hide, to be affirmed and seen.”
Psychologists confirm that affirmation of a child’s gender is the top thing that adults can do to alleviate the common problems exhibited by transgender children, including self-harm and suicidal ideation. Children whose families and communities use their gender of identification and a gender-appropriate name show fewer signs of psychological distress and have overall happier childhood experiences.
Introducing this book to the broader community, organizers say, is a way to create a more accepting world for their children.
“The book is a big deal to our family,” explains a mom of a young trans child. “I read it two years ago when my child was questioning her gender. It was like her coming-out book. It wasn’t until I read the book to her that she said, ‘That’s me, I’m a girl.’ It put language in a kid-friendly way to her lived experience and allowed her to feel comfortable claiming that she was transgender.”
A G-Rated Kids' Book
Brandt is the director of the TransFamily Support Group of Santa Cruz, one of the groups sponsoring the reading. She points out that kids already know their gender—families don’t have to fear taking their kids to this G-rated event about inclusion and acceptance.
“I’d like parents to leave with a broader understanding of gender as a spectrum and more comfort with having gender discussions with their kids,” Brandt explains.
Jamie Joy, Youth Program Coordinator at the Diversity Center of Santa Cruz, another sponsor of the event, also hopes that the event will draw parents from the broader community who don’t necessarily have transgender children.
“Talking about gender with young kids is so important because they are already receiving messages that reinforce harmful stereotypes,” Joy explains. “Books like “I am Jazz” are a great way to connect with kids and help them understand the beauty of diversity. The more we teach our youth about celebrating difference, the less violence and bullying there will be in our community.”
The emphasis at the reading will be on community and fun.
“We’ll talk about gender stereotypes, read family-friendly kids’ books, and do an interactive activity around gender,” Joy explains. “I want the parents to walk away knowing their kids can be who they want to be, or give them a little more freedom to not perpetuate the whole girls-have-to-wear-pink and boys-don’t-cry thing.”
Transition in Place
The organizers point out that community support is the point of this gathering, and they are grateful for our public library’s willingness to host the event. Community support is of vital importance to trans children. Because of the typical arc of children’s understanding of their gender and parents’ comfort with transitions, most children don’t transition until after they’ve been in school. Without support from the adults around them, the result is often that children’s education gets disrupted.
“It’s more comfortable for kids to transition in place,” Brandt explains. “You’re the same person, and the only reason you’d have to leave your school is if you’re not being affirmed in your gender when you transition.”
Santa Cruz’s self-identity is of a liberal, accepting place, but even here it is common for trans kids to leave their current school environment when they transition due to lack of support by the adults and students around them.
Understanding is Key
Although it can be uncomfortable for families with transgender or questioning kids to put themselves in the public eye, the event organizers believe that it’s necessary that at least some families ‘come out of the closet.’ The more our community understands the needs of transgender people, the more information and resources will be available.
Michelle Brandt points out that with more information, she would have known that she had a transgender boy when he was four, rather than the ‘tomboy’ she thought she was raising.
“I would have liked to have more information about the gender spectrum,” Brandt says. “I would have liked to have more information about what the options were for transition. You’re not on a path that is so predetermined as you think it is. With enough information, I could have had a conversation with him as a boy instead of ‘Isn’t that sweet, my gender nonconforming girl?’”
Above all, a public reading of “I Am Jazz” should help parents understand that supporting their children is not forcing change. Gender differences are a natural part of the spectrum of humanity, and affirming children’s gender identity will only make our society a safer, healthier place for everyone.
“The Diversity Center hopes to educate and support people of all ages and identities in understanding gender as a spectrum rather than a binary,” Jamie Joy explains. “We do this through community events as well as trainings and presentations. Please reach out to us if you want to learn more!”
- Interested in more details about the scientific understanding of gender? Check out our companion article, “Gender is Not a Binary.”
- The Transfamily Support Group of Santa Cruz has monthly meetings and a website of resources to support the families of transgender youth and adults. Find more information at http://www.transfamiliesca.org/
- The Diversity Center of Santa Cruz County offers support and information for those on the gender spectrum and their families. Find more information at http://www.diversitycenter.org/
- The Santa Cruz Public Libraries host a wide variety of community events. Find more information at https://www.santacruzpl.org/
Suki Wessling is a local mom and the mother of two teens. She writes articles on parenting, education, and life, teaches online courses for kids and parents, and performs with the jazz ensemble Persephone. Learn more at www.SukiWessling.com.