On a recent outing scavenging local thrift and antique stores, I stumbled upon a set of children’s encyclopedias, titled Childcraft: The How and Why Library. Although an incomplete collection, the books were in good shape and decently priced so I happily acquired the lot. (I am a known collector—hoarder, lover, gatherer—of books.)
While modern encyclopedias have existed for around three centuries, the first set aimed at children (aptly titled the Children’s Encyclopaedia) appeared in the early 1900s. The Childcraft books were first published in the 1930s, with updated versions produced throughout subsequent decades. The editions I found were copyrighted 1976, and I was particularly intrigued by the volume titled Make and Do, which is full of simple, kid-friendly crafts, including sewing projects aimed to make learning (and doing) fun.
In the age of digital apps and Pinterest, books like these remain a timeless, tangible resource for introducing the art of making to a younger generation. Make and Do includes a chapter on “Needle and Thread”, complete with instructions on how to create aprons from old dish towels, clothes for dolls, wearable slippers, bean bags, and handkerchiefs. It even provides a basic introduction to appliqué, explained as sewing cloth pictures to cloth. Though the instructions within are not very detailed (and often suggest asking mother for help), the book offers opportunities for inspiration through activities you can do with your children or grandchildren.
I have often collaborated on projects like these with my daughter, Maggie, and she has never lacked for creativity or doubted her ability to make. Even without resources like the Childcraft encyclopedias, there are plenty of projects you can share with the children in your life. Instill a love of making early, and ingenuity and a willing spirit will surely follow.
I loved Make and Do! There were others in the Childcraft series I enjoyed (Mathemagic, for example), but you could clearly see that #11 (at least in my edition, from the early 80s) was definitely the most used in the lot. Ah, those pictures really take me back.
Natalie, I sold World Book and Childcraft door to door and by referral to help pay my way through UNA (Florence State) in the 60s. They are a wonderful product and I used them with my own children. I’m glad you got the books, but if I had seen them first they would have been on my shelf. Love the Journal, Hilda Smith
We have the Make and Do book and The Puzzle Book, both from my husband’s childhood. Our children love to look through both of them. What a great discovery!
I still have my set from the 80s. I loved Make and Do, and all the others, Mathemagic, Stories from around the world, Space, Plant kingdom, the puzzle book etc.
I had “The Book of Knowledge” set of encyclopedia which were also targeted for children. I still find myself looking for stuff in them occasionally. Great literature, poetry, crafts, how things work, history, etc. broadened my horizons. Now they bring back memories.
We had the set from about 1979, and my parents got rid of it when we moved at some point, but these books were my childhood, especially on rainy and snowy days. So a few years ago, I found a collection on EBay for my kids– and a set for my sister’s family. They’re as great as I remember. 🙂
what edition is this?