Winter is coming. With winter comes varying degrees of hibernation and with hibernation comes too much kid energy, which can lead to kid boredom and parent frustration. Something else that comes with holing up for the winter is the act of crafting. Because of inclement weather that limits or prevents outdoor activities, many people turn to handcrafting during the cold months. Typically, adults are the ones who enjoy creating handmade items, but it can be very enjoyable to stoke the fire, sip hot chocolate, and let creativity flourish by teaching bored children something new like sewing and knitting.
A sewing machine is often an object of curiosity for kids. Children love cause and effect, so to work the pedal on a machine and see how it feeds fabric through the presser foot, and emerge on the other side with a line of stitches is exciting for them.
Because of the machine’s needle, and the potential for sewn fingers, adult supervision is a good idea.
Sewing with children does not have to be expensive or complicated. Scraps of fabric from previous projects can be used, or rifle through boxes and bags of old clothing to see what can be turned into something new. An old, beloved-but-outgrown pullover sweater can become a pillow or stuffed toy and old socks and t-shirts can be used as stuffing, for example. Brainstorm with the children to see what kinds of ideas they have and write them down. Their unbridled enthusiasm is infectious and the more they discuss potential ideas, the more they will want to try this new activity.
It can also be fun to have them draw a few of their favorite ideas on paper before setting to work so they have a plan. Not only will it help them focus, but drawing ideas on paper can keep them busy for a good, long while.
Once plans are in place and supplies have been procured, the act of sewing can begin. Some machines have a start and stop button on the front. This button can be useful for little kids who may not be able to reach a pedal on the floor. If the start and stop button proves too confusing, set the pedal on a small stool under the craft table to help enable short legs to reach.
It can be challenging to remain patient as they learn, but patience is essential for success. Little kids almost demand instant gratification, so it may be necessary to help them finish sewing their projects, then return it to them for final touches, or set the unfinished project aside for awhile and let the kids come back to it when they are ready to focus again, which can sometimes be the next day.
Because there is no such thing as instant gratification with knitting, it might be better to teach this skill to older children, but kids as young as four can learn, too. The difference is the knitting method. Older children between the ages of six and eight can manipulate two knitting needles, but younger ones five and under might have more success with loom knitting or a knitting doll.
Loom knitting and knitting dolls require wrapping pegs in either a clockwise or counterclockwise direction, then using a special tool to lift stitches over these same pegs, which makes it good for kids of all ages since they do not have to fiddle with two pointy sticks. Children can make hats, purses, scarves, or even big swatches of fabric that can be sewn into something else. Brainstorm with them to see what lights the fires of their creativity.
Traditional knitting with two needles requires concentration and patience, which is why most people choose to teach this to kids over the age of eight, but anyone with good motor skills can learn, and many children love the process and emulating the adult knitters in their lives.
Like sewing, knitting does not have to be costly. Craft store yarn can often be found for $2.50 per skein and contains enough yarn to share. Secondhand stores frequently have needles for sale, as do garage sales and eBay.
At first, it may be necessary to hold the hands of the children as they knit so they can feel the motions their hands are supposed to make, as well as see how the yarn moves between the needles. Be prepared to sit with them each time they attempt knitting because the movements take a bit of coordination and a lot of practice to master.
Once children are engaged with, and engrossed in, their projects, the atmosphere in the home can become almost Zen-like. There might not be peace on earth, but with any luck, there will be peace in your house.
Sewing and knitting with children is rewarding and so fun, they may not even notice the TV has been turned off!