At a recent Monday Morning Knitters gathering, I found myself with an adorable 3 year old watching me knit very intently. She was still and quiet and focused. I asked her, "Do you want to help me knit?" and of course she thought that was a grand idea.
When knitting with small children or teaching kids to knit, there are some guidelines that I try to follow, keeping in mind all the while that every kid is different and all guidelines will depend on the circumstances at the time.
Introduce them young--if they show an interest. My 3 year old buddy might not remember the details of the knitting we did together (although she might, because she's super smart), but having a positive experience with yarn and needles and knitting will stay somewhere in her memories.
Don't force it. If there is no interest, don't be that annoying grown up that makes them do a craft they don't want to do. It won't end well for anyone.
Work one on one whenever possible. With kids, you can't look away when they are in the middle of a stitch. If you can watch one child get through a row of stitches uninterrupted, you'll do better than trying to manage a a whole group of kids learning to knit at the same time. When I teach classes for kids, I keep them small--2-3 kids is plenty.
Break it down. My young friend wasn't quite ready for a complete knit stitch, so I broke it down into three parts:
- Insert right needle into stitch on left needle.
- Wrap yarn to form new stitch.
- Pull loop through loop and take old stitch off left needle.
When we began, I had her wrap the yarn, showing her once how and when to do it and then turning her loose. She did this for a long time before she decided that it was her turn to work parts 1 and 3 of the process. This meant it was my turn to work part 2, and if I was too slow in wrapping the yarn, she made sure I knew it! The cool thing was that, because she was a) super smart and b) watching me work the stitches, she knew just what to do when we swapped jobs and she took on the more complex steps.
Be patient. I really can't stress this enough. Anytime you're teaching anyone to knit, you simply must exercise the utmost patience. There is nothing more horrible than honestly trying to learn something and having your instructor get impatient with you. Just chill, y'all. If you can't be patient, don't try to teach knitting. Call me and I'll gladly do it.
Repeat as often as possible, for as often as necessary. This works better if you are around the child frequently, of course. Just like grown-ups, kids go through a variety of moods everyday. The trick is to catch them during times that they are interested in practicing their new hobby, otherwise it is bound to be boring or even worse, considered "work."
Tools matter. If you're actually teaching them (as opposed to just having them help you), then you may want to get them their very own yarn and needles. Do think this through--if you get them cheap metal needles that are long and heavy and hard to handle with their small hands, you are setting them up for frustration. Bamboo needles are lighter weight and better for gripping stitches and not letting them slide off. Whenever possible, let them pick out a bright yarn in their favorite color--dark colors make it hard to see the stitches. Start them with a simple garter stitch scarf or washcloth or bookmark or wrist cuff (like a book mark, but sew it closed on the narrow ends) project. A fun knitting bag to carry it all in is always nice, too.
Have fun. If you are too intent on making them learn, they will pick up on your stress and pretty much hate it. Have fun with knitting and make their learning a grand, fun adventure.
How about you? Do you have any tips for someone teaching a little one to knit?