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Now Here’s a Hot-Button Topic: Why Learning to Sew a Button Matters

All those things we said we’d teach our kids when we had time? That day has arrived, courtesy of the COVID-19 quarantine.

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Way back when we were growing up in the Pleistocene Era, they made us take a Home Ec class and taught us to prepare mastodon stew and stitch up a handy cloak from its skin. Those were the days! But our teenagers do not seem to be learning these life skills—or at least mine aren’t—so we’ve got to find other ways to teach them.

First up: learning how to sew a button.

Sure, this skill is not going to pay your kid’s rent or save their life. But on the other hand, this simplest of repairs is a worldview masquerading as a five-minute fix. Replace that button and get another year or two out of your favorite pants or shirt. Mend your clothes, and you’ll keep them out of the landfill and in your closet. Resist fast fashion and the culture of disposable everything, and you’ll save both your money and the planet. 

Also, research suggests a connection between doing stuff with our hands and feeling happy. When we perform activities that our brains think of as life-sustaining—providing shelter, making food, repairing clothing—our bodies release neurochemicals called dopamine and serotonin, which make us feel good. (That’s your brain rewarding you for taking care of important tasks.) 

As neuroscientist Kelly Lambert puts it, “Our brains have been hardwired for this type of meaningful action since our ancestors were dressed in pelts.” And if anyone needs a little mental reward, it’s our teenagers.

Plus, once your kids learn how, they can replace your buttons too, so you don’t have to spend the rest of the day looking for your glasses. (They’re on top of your head.) 

Catherine Newman

Catherine Newman is the author of five books, including the new release How to Be a Person: 65 Hugely Useful, Super-Important Life Skills to Learn Before You’re Grown Up. She edits the non-profit kids’ cooking magazine ChopChop and writes the etiquette column for Real Simple magazine. She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts, with her family.

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