‘Pass-It-On’ parties teach children skills, offer fun activity

Tina Riley leads a group of students through a hot cocoa kit activity, as part of her crafting classes through her art business, IMAGINariums. Delaware State News/Brooke Schultz

SMYRNA — When Tina Riley began “Pass-It-On” parties, she wanted to give back to the community.

“Growing up, in my generation, you always learned something from somebody in the neighborhood,” Ms. Riley said, after her second class of the day completed their craft. “Ms. Mary down the street might teach you how to sew. Your mom might teach you how to cook, but she’s not just teaching you, she’s teaching all these other kids in the neighborhood that are just hanging out at your house. Mr. Jack taught you how to whittle and how to build a birdhouse. I just want to keep that alive in my community.”

In the studio, tucked into her home in the Green Meadows neighborhood, a group of girls put together two jars of hot cocoa mix.

The idea of the class is to pass on skills to the children in her neighborhood, but the jars the group made Saturday were also meant to be passed on as gifts to loved ones — like grandmothers, sisters, mothers, the girls said.

Samahrah Kennedy, 10, glues craft paper onto her hot cocoa jar during the class Saturday.

After measuring out cocoa, powdered milk, their preferred flavor — be that chocolate, peppermint or peanut butter — and marshmallows, the class decorated their jars with craft paper and stamps.

Ms. Riley reminded them that “there are no mistakes in crafting,” as they made their jars.

“That’s the great thing about crafting,” she said as one student put her on spin on the design. “You can do whatever you like.”

Ms. Riley said that crafting develops skills that carry over into the classroom, and life itself.

“I think it builds your confidence,” she said. “The way that I do it, I’m not just working one-on-one teaching a child how to do a skill, how to paint or whatever; it’s group activity. I think it fosters collaboration, which these are all life skills that children will have to know.”

This class had a holiday focus, but other Pass-It-On parties — which are through Ms. Riley’s business, IMAGINariums — include cooking, sewing and jewelry-making. Ms. Riley also offers classes to adults through IMAGINariums.

Salome Kennedy, 11, decorates her hot cocoa jar during class Saturday.

Working with children is near and dear to her heart, she said, for the idea of fostering community.

“With the gift giving, I always try to promote that we are here in this community, we’re all we have. We have to help each other,” she said.

For the girls, it was a fun activity during their winter breaks.

Salome Kennedy, 11, said that she enjoyed the making the hot chocolate.

“It’s fun to get to craft and do things,” she said.

Lashay Waters, 11, agreed.

“It’s really fun. We get to do stuff for people and bring things home we can keep,” she said.

Samahrah Kennedy, 10, enjoyed the crafting, especially the stamps, she said.

Tina Riley helps Samahrah Kennedy with her craft during class Saturday.

Ms. Riley’s programming has seen more than 100 children. The “first wave” of students she had is graduating from high school, she added.

Ms. Riley, who is a mixed-media artist, said her work began when she was injured in college and bedridden. She began doing art; at that time, it was very solitary. Now, her art helps connect her to others and her business, which can be mobile, allows for her to extend those connections.

“It’s bigger than only the children,” she said. “Art is a vehicle for everything. Connecting — connecting people to me, connecting people to each other, connecting people to their community, to God, to nature. I think art heals and I think art is very important as a vehicle for making connection.”