Knitting for kids is a worthwhile hobby. You can make cool things to wear and give to those you love. But more importantly, it is a way to keep your mind sharp and hands happy and is shown to be an effective tool for easing anxiety, even in children.
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Why teach kids how to knit?
Knitting is a skill that requires a lot of quiet concentration initially and a good attention span, but you and your children can make it into whatever you want.
It can be a time for family bonding, a way to drive away boredom, keep hands busy while watching tv, and even a way to calm oneself on a, particularly hectic/rough day. Reduces the amount of electronic device dependence too!
Yes, you can knit with almost any knitting materials, but to increase their success and lower their frustration, try these:
“I have my grandmother’s old metal needles. I think I should use them to teach my child.”
While that sounds lovely and would please your grandmother immensely, save the sentimental needles for when your child is more advanced.
Try this instead: Buy short, straight needles made of bamboo or wood – any size between 6-9 is good. Bamboo needles are suitable for kid hands (regardless if you’re left-handed or right-handed). It’s warm to the touch and grips the yarn very well. But, of course, kids’ hands are smaller than ours.
We don’t want them to feel like they are knitting with baseball bats by using massive-sized needles! Metal needles are for more experienced knitters who want to knit with speed because metal needles let the yarn fall off fast! Which is something that would be very frustrating to beginners wanting easy knitting.
“I found this really cute, fuzzy, and sparkly yarn! Let’s use it!”
I love colors, and the things that can be done using yarn now are amazing. But again, save the novelty yarn for a more advanced project.
I repeat, “Do NOT USE NOVELTY, fuzzy, sparkly, or funky yarn. No matter how much the child begs for extra yarn, say no!
Use this instead: Buy a worsted weight yarn in a light/bright color. Variegated is fine too. When looking at yarns, look for the suggested needle size of 6-9 on the yarn label or the same size as the needles you bought.
For the first yarn, choose acrylic. It is less expensive and holds up better to frequent use (pulling out and redoing). Let your kids know that the yarn is not costly. They’ll have more freedom when they see that it isn’t expensive.
Let the child pick out the color, if possible, and make it fun! Letting them choose will give them a sense of ownership. Get them involved in as many parts of the process as more invested in the project. A tiny decision like this can go a long way in motivating them.
Scissors just need to be able to cut the yarn, nothing fancy. You could use the child’s scissors to contribute to the supplies, already feel comfortable with them, and it’s another way for them to feel connected.
What is the right age to start teaching children how to knit?
Having fine motor skills is essential. Therefore, controlling a pencil well enough for writing is a good indicator that a child is ready. However, it ultimately depends on the student’s maturity and their ability to sit in one place long enough to learn.
If they just aren’t interested when teaching them, it might be a good idea to wait until they can focus more and have the interest level needed for this more hands-on task.
If you have a fidgety kid, teach them while standing up or walking. They might need that other movement to distract them from feeling the need to fidget.
It helps if they show an active interest in learning to knit, such as asking for their first knitting book or knitting kit to learn. Although they may be smart kids, you can’t teach knitting to kids if they’re not interested.
Unless, of course, you’re their teacher and not their parent. They’ll listen to their teacher.
Set a good example:
To be successful at teaching kids to knit, you only need to be comfortable with the step ahead of their progress.
For example, after you get yarn on the needles and get familiar with the knit stitch, you will show the kids how to do the knit stitch. (We adults do the casting on – the process of getting the initial loops onto the needle, it is too frustrating to learn this first. If you start here, they will want to quit asap.)
Kids need to see parents knitting and persevering through the rough bits – dropped stitches, knots, yarn pulls, etc. Parents can also show enthusiasm for learning something new. Learning something together is very special, and knitting is a great way to make crafting together a habit.
Alternatives to what we call knitting would also be an excellent place to start
- Braiding: good old braiding is a straightforward way to get kids to learn how to make repetitive movements with their hands and get good at it. The more they do it, the better their muscle memory will be.
- Pom-Poms: Fun to make with yarn, not necessarily ‘knitting’ but gets kids used to working with yarn in their hands.
- Spool Knitter: Makes yarn ‘cord’ that can be made into other shapes. Rugs for dollhouses, blankets, etc.
- Finger knitting: You knit using one hand, moving the yarn your two fingers or four fingers. To finger knit, make i-cord, show what else can be made with i-cord. For example, rugs, blankets, and dog beds for dollhouses, small purses, coasters, trivets, are great finger knitted projects.
Knitting Project Ideas
If you’re looking for cool knitting project ideas to use your strands of yarn, there are many things you can do, such as trying to knit a hat. In addition, these are some projects you can use to test out your techniques, such as doing a cast-off.
- Fingerless gloves
- Baby hat
Starting to teach
The adult should cast on and bind off for the student(s). To learn basic cast-on stitches, check out “Get Your Own Yarn On the Knitting Needles Mini-Course.”
Casting on can be frustrating even for adults. We want our students to get started with something easy to repeat and easy to learn. Casting the yarn onto the needles is not as easy as learning the knit stitch. If you decide to let the student learn the cast on, be ready for a little more resistance to learning.
Only teach the knit stitch to start. For an in-depth guide, check out “Learn the KNIT Stich: a Comprehensive Guide.”
By knitting all the stitches, you will create the Garter Stitch. A very sturdy and pleasing knit fabric that is a great confidence builder and fun to look at.
Show them the difference between the working yarn and the tail end.
Tensioning yarn is tricky, even for more experienced knitters. Just have the kids hold the yarn pinched between two fingers, such as their right thumb and index finger, to start.
When they get to the end of a row, show them what the final result is supposed to look like.
Teach them to check their work as they go, a good habit of getting into that will serve them well for their entire knitting career.
We are teaching them to count or have another rhyme they can say to themselves while knitting. It will help your kids stay focused and doing things in the proper order.
Tips for keeping them going.
Many kids knitting projects can be made from a super simple square/rectangle like washcloths, dust cloths, placemats, scarves, coasters, etc. You can also sew up the rectangle into other shapes for more possible projects like a small rabbit or cute yarn envelope.
Make the learning process fun without making a big deal about mistakes in a negative way. Maybe make up a little song when there is a mistake or some other recognition but keep it positive. We all make mistakes!
Keep the lessons short in the kids’ knitting workshop, about 15-20 minutes a day. If they ask for more time, then go ahead and do it until either they want to quit, they’re getting fussy about it, or you need a break!
Repeat the instructions often and calmly. Go slower but do not drown the child in information. Instead, do one thing until they understand it well and do it on autopilot, where muscle memory helps.
Reaping the instructions is a good exercise in counting when they are a little more proficient at knitting. Counting the rows every time helps maintain even width knitting, which will help them gain confidence.
If they get frustrated with their knitting, help them recognize the stitches and recognize when something is incorrect.
Help them learn how to organize their projects.
Cute storage containers are perfect for yarn and small items. Knitting only has to take up as much space as the yarn you have and the needles—no need for colossal equipment that sits around like a sewing machine or ironing board.
Keep a “to go” bag – a project packed in a bag that they can grab whenever they need to have something to keep them occupied. My kids have had a to-go bag since they were old enough to know what it was. They usually have a bag packed for when we travel in the car somewhere just far enough away that they would get bored and want to try something else.
What to do when they’ve mastered the knit stitch?
After learning the knit stitch, it is time to move onto the purl stitch. The purl stitch is related to the knit stitch, but you can create infinite stitch patterns and designs by using it. For this reason, we start with just the knit stitch, so we are not overwhelming ourselves or our students’ complex knitting patterns.
Keep going, and don’t let go. The more you practice, the easier it will be to learn the next step!