Pieces: How Building Plastic Model Kits Benefits Our Mental Health

With the current pandemic giving people more time to stay in their homes, building plastic model kits have been a reemerging hobby as time has become available for the very much time consuming hobby. The President of Revell USA, Lou Aguilera, claims to have had a spike in sales of their model kits during the COVID-19 pandemic (Channick, 2020).

But what exactly are plastic model kits? Plastic model kits consist of numerous molded parts which are normally molded in sprues, where you snap the part of the sprue, and assemble the kit yourself. The difficulty of each model kit may range from simple snap-fit assembly to difficult builds that require glue and paint. Before plastic, however, model kits were originally made in different materials, mainly wood. The process of building wooden model kits was varied, this includes stamped outlines on the wood, which the hobbyist cuts the wood themselves. Other model kit producers provide just the wood and leave the detail and scaling to the hobbyist. It was only in 1936 when a british company named FROG (Flies Right Off the Ground) produced the first plastic model kit, and plastic has been the main material of the model kit industry ever since.

Now with that out of the way, what are the psychological benefits of plastic model kit building?

1. Improved Hand-Eye coordination

With delicate parts to snip off the runner and putting the pieces together, a lot of hand-eye coordination is involved. It improves your coordination skill as you learn which pieces go together, focus on applying details and delicate parts, and reading the manual back and forth. The process of building is quite a mental workout even if you’re just sitting there, making it quite enjoyable when you prefer to stay indoors and kill time.

2. Stress reliever 

Building model kits is a great way to relieve stress when you have time to spare. The building process can take hours, and occasionally even weeks, with the payoff being that certain satisfaction of having a beautiful model kit completed by yourself or with others. It can also be considered an outlet for one’s creativity as you can step it up further by painting the model kit yourself or kitbashing it. Kitbashing is the process of modifying a model kit by mixing and adding parts from other model kits. An interesting example of this are the infamous Imperial Star Destroyers and other crafts seen in Star Wars, which are a result of kitbashing during its production (Lambie, 2018).

In a sense, building plastic model kits is akin to art therapy. Art therapy is described as the integration of psychotherapeutic techniques in an art process to improve the physical and mental well-being of the client (Cherry, 2020). By building a model kit, you get to express yourself, gain new insights, and engage in an outlet to cope from stress.

3. Socialization
Photo by Jopwell on Pexels.com

The model kit community is broad and wide, but given enough time and access to the internet, one is able to form new friendships with others within the hobby.  Socialization can take the form of sharing pictures of your model kits, exchanging information on how to customize it, and occasionally building a model kit with family or friends as a way to bond. Being able to share the hobby with other people provides an outlet to express yourself to others, helping feed that need to be connected with others, which in turn may benefit your mental health.

Even with all the benefits in mind, it is still important to remember that this can be quite an expensive hobby and can easily drain your wallet dry. There are, however, cheap model kits available in the market, making model kits more accessible than they ever were before.So to wrap it up, why not take a shot at it?You may be able  to discover  a new piece to add to your puzzle. 

Sources:

Channick, R. (2020, May 04). Plastic model kits get boost as coronavirus shut-ins turn to old-school hobby for ‘something to do. Chicagotribune. Retrieved from. https://www.chicagotribune.com/coronavirus/ct-coronavirus-illinois-plastic-model-kit-revell-20200504-dlehia2b5bfbnbfws4kszy5jvy-story.html

Cherry, K. (2011, May 11). How Art Therapy Is Used to Help People Heal. Verywell Mind. Retrieved February 4, 2021. From. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-art-therapy-2795755

Funk, J. (2010, June 4). Scientist Says Building Gundam Models Makes You Smarter. The Escapist. Retrieved February 4, 2021. From. https://v1.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/101126-Scientist-Says-Building-Gundam-Models-Makes-You-Smarter

Lambie, R. (2018, May 4). Greebles: How Tiny Details Make a Huge Star Wars Universe. Den Of Geek. Retrieved from. https://www.denofgeek.com/movies/greebles-how-tiny-details-make-a-huge-star-wars-universe/

Military History Matters. (2011, April 13).The History of Airfix Modelling. Retrieved from. https://www.military-history.org/articles/the-history-of-airfix-modelling.htm

Scott, P. (2008, October 16). Modelmaking: How This Hobby Makes You Smarter. AARP. Retrieved February 4, 2021. From. https://www.aarp.org/personal-growth/life-long-learning/info-04-2009/modelmaking-a-great-hobby-for-your-brain.html#:%7E:text=%E2%80%9CBuilding%20models%20helps%20my%20hand,hobby%2C%E2%80%9D%20agrees%20Andrea%20M

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