- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Like a lot of teenagers, 16-year-old Geno Saenz of San Antonio spends his fair share of time watching television and playing videos.

But the high school sophomore doesn’t want to waste all his time in front of a screen. Nearly every day after school, he heads to the public library, where one of his favorite activities is making crafts.

“They’re really fun, and it really helps kill time when I’ve got nothing to do,” says Geno, citing a recent calendar he made featuring the character Master Chief from the video game Halo.

He also likes the social aspect of crafting. “It’s better than just sitting at home and watching TV. I have so many friends here,” he says.

Persuading teens to step away from their laptops, iPods and gaming consoles can be difficult, but crafts can be a way to get them to slow down and express themselves.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re creative or not — you do what you like to do,” says 17-year-old Erika Maldonado, who participates in many of the same activities as Geno. She gives some of her crafts to family members and friends instead of buying gifts.

“That comes from the heart,” she says. “I think that’s something better.”

Recent teen craft events at the San Antonio Public Library have featured clay charms and bracelets from bubble-gum wrappers (an “eco-friendly fashion piece”). A scrapbooking session on Sundays is for teens and adults.

Listening to what teens such as Geno and Erika want is what gets them to participate in crafts, says Jennifer Velasquez, coordinator of teen services at the library.

“Again and again, they want to make stuff that’s personal to them,” she says.

Tina Coleman, co-author of “The Hipster Librarian’s Guide to Teen Craft Projects” (American Library Association, 2009), says TV shows such as Bravo’s “Project Runway” have brought crafting back in vogue. One of the most appealing aspects to teens is being able to reuse and recycle things, she says.

“Kids really respond to the idea of taking something that’s going to be trash and turning it into something beautiful,” she says.

Rod Buttermore, youth services librarian at the public library in Grimes, Iowa, says he gets up to 10 teens at a time at his craft workshops. They are most interested in items they can wear, he says.

“I think crafting is definitely in right now in terms of the cool factor because it’s another level of self-expression,” says Mr. Buttermore, whose projects have included making wallets from duct tape. “It’s definitely something that sets you apart from the crowd.”

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