Teaching handicrafts to little ones

I made a realization today. I really enjoy crocheting!

I haven't done it since I was in university, and only for a very short period of time at that. I made one lovely, dark sage green, very soft lap blanket which my son uses in his crib, despite the fact that it is entirely uneven due to continually dropping or picking up extra stitches. Today, however, I pulled out my old hooks and some yarn that Abbie and I found cheap at a thrift store, watched a couple of tutorials to freshen up my memory, and rediscovered this relaxing hobby!

Basket of yarn
Now that I know what I am doing once again (well, sort of), I am trying to teach Abbie how to crochet. It was a little bit frustrating today, though. It's very difficult for her to put all of the different elements together- holding what she has already crocheted, plus the yarn she is using, plus the hook. It's just a bit too much for her, and I guess I didn't realize that it might be.

Any tips on how to teach it, so that it's easier and less frustrating for a little one? Do you think that four is maybe too young to be able to have the coordination to put it all together? 

I'm really eager to start teaching Abbie some of these types of handicrafts (crocheting, sewing, knitting, etc.). We've done a little bit of simple stitching and that seemed to be a lot more child-friendly. I was hoping that crocheting might be similar, but maybe I was wrong.

Any other ideas? How have you introduced crafting like this to your little ones? Any good resources to share? And on a side note, where can I find a pattern for making those adorable, crocheted dish cloths? 🙂

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  1. How ironic! We started to crochet today as well (I’ve got to get my pictures on line). I have been knitting since childhood, and crocheting for a few years. My 8 yo son and 6 yo daughter decided that TODAY was the day to learn. Hard going. It IS really hard to hold three things simultaneously, each with different tension and purpose. My daughter actual achieved chain stitching, but my son was near tears. At four, I don’t know if I could have taught them! We began with finger knitting, and then my a daughter graduated to using a knitting nobbie (spool) that she LOVES and creates long and pretty chains (I suggest a variegated yarn). She also loves embroidering on paper, where I punch the holes in a pretty shape (like a heart for valentine’s day).
    Good luck – looking forward to seeing more creativity together!

  2. I second the knitting nobbie – once she gets a chain going, just sew it in a spiral to make a nice doily-thingy (I’m sure she’ll find a purpose for it!)

    Sophie & Beka learned how to knit last year (ages 7 & 5 then) from their oma. I refused to teach them, because of how much WORK it is for mom when they’re that little. Surprisingly Beka (5) caught on quickly and loves to knit, so you never know.

    Beka’s also into embroidery and handsewing. I’ve got a box full of scraps for her projects – pillows, bags, doll dresses (or more appropriately shrouds). I picked up some basic white embroidery cloth and some lovely thread and she experiments with different designs on them. She has no desire for following a pattern, but wants to create her own pieces. The only work is periodically threading a needle. Works for me. (Oh yeah, and keeping track of her needles… cringe)

  3. Hi Again!
    All three of my girls began crocheting at 4 to 5 years of age. I sat right behind them and held my hands over theirs…. got them going and then let them have at it (just doing it to the best of their ability). They loved it and by the time they were a few years older…. they were making “real” things besides “baby blankets” and “dolly house rugs”. Don’t get frustraited…. just let Abbie try and enjoy it and sooner than you think…. she will make her Mommy a really nice gift!

  4. I know the Waldorf educators figure kids can start knitting in kindergarten, but it wasn’t a success for us. Then again, the Waldorf-inspired curriculum I was using at the time assumed the home educator already knew how to knit and was capable of teaching another person.

    My daughter is now 7, almost 8, and we have actually had a lot more success with a weaving loom. So far we’ve only made a pot holder but it was a *lot* less stressful for me!

  5. Just a thought/idea about teaching crafts. What if this time period maybe until she is a little older is a time she can tough and feel and experiment and just play with the stuff? So that she isn’t turned off by “not getting right” but being familiar with it and excited about it so that when she actually can do it will be a joy to be just like mommy? Again just a thought. Each child is different and their abilities and interests. I guess I am all about play here with 3 little ones. God bless you today.

  6. My two older daughters love to crochet and knit… they were a little older when I taught them (10, 12)

    Last week my two youngest daughters (8,5) practically begged me to teach them and I resisted for about an hour knowing how much more difficult it would be and I didn’t want them discouraged. I finally gave in – and it WAS hard.

    I like the suggestion Cynthia made about standing behind them to show them. (I sat next to them.) I’ll have to try that!

  7. I’m wondering if your little girl needs to develop some of her fine motor skills first. My children started with sewing cards at an early age (2-3), then weaving boards, then knitting spools, and then crocheting. They also enjoyed embroidery samplers (a pillow case with “scrap” transfers ironed randomly all over)at about 6-7 years old. I think that a hard, small tool (like a crochet hook or a smaller embroidery needle)combined with the soft, pliable yarns or threads creates challenges for smaller hands and brains not yet developed or trained to handle the different elements. Therefore, working up to the more complicated process of holding soft with one hand and hard and stiff with the other is a good idea. But, I also realize that everyone is different and has different and sometimes untapped skills and strengths at an early age. And Cynthia makes a valuable point that patient, “hands-on” teaching with an emphasis on fun and not perfection will go a long way toward encouraging enjoyment and skill in the textile arts. I’m an older granny and am excited to see that there are still mommies who see value in teaching their little ones to learn and enjoy creative and practical needlework. Leah Claire

  8. Amanda Soule’s book “The Creative Family” is so worth getting b/c of all the resources she gives you for teaching handicrafts to your kids. A piece of burlap from the fabric shop, a $1 6-inch hoop, a blunt tapestry needle and some embroidery floss (30 cents!) is all you need to teach a young one to start embroidering! “Kids Knitting” is a great book (and is at our local library) to learn knitting basics…very well done.

  9. I was also going to recommend finger knitting, yarn embroidery (similar to the Soule recommendation, above) as well as beginning weaving – I remember weaving yarn on straws when I was little, similar to this:
    which can make basically little scarves or belts or bracelets. These might be good starter projects to work your way up to crocheting (which I still have problems with! 🙂 Maintaining even pressure is tough even for me sometimes!)


  10. The knitting nobbie or spool would be a great thing for this age. Some children ‘get’ things like knitting/crocheting faster than others too (and it doesn’t mean they will forever be challenged in that area either. I was one of those children and sew and quilt all the time now.

  11. Oh, a knitting nobbie… I had forgotten about those! I have a vague memory of using one as a little girl, and I think that would be much easier!

    Keep the great ideas coming, all! Really, you are a huge help to me! 🙂

  12. My mom taught me to crochet when I was young. I think the best way is to not use yarn at all. My mom made about 3-4 inch wide strips of cloth, folded them in quarters to make thick stips and ironed them. We helped in this process. You just keep sewing them together (before the ironing part) until you get a pretty large ball of the cloth-yarn. Then we made rugs for the whole house out of them. We used really large crochet hooks and the stitches were really easy to see because the cloth-yarn was so big. Also, not a lot of stretch and give to the cloth so tension was not as much of an issue. Our little hands could grasp it better somehow. Mom would start, then hand it off to us to work a few rounds. We also made crocheted rugs out of the plastic grocery bags, but I don’t remember how she did that. They did last a very long time. Best of luck!

  13. I had a hard time when I was taught (well they tried to teach me) at 8 in the girl guides group I was in. Then again I had issues at 20 at a camp I was working at…then I finally got it at 23 LOL I think it definately is a hard skill to learn. I never have figured out knitting. I don’t think I am very good at these types of things though. I prefer sewing on a machine.

    I used a thing as a kid I think its what others are talking about…it was a simple wooden spool with some nails in the top (all things we had at home) and it made a “snake” that could be shaped into things or just left that way, I LOVED it. I used varigated yarn. I have also seen these for sale as plastic but mine was all homemade. However wooden spools for thread are not common these days.

    Using plastic canvas and yarn and a big kneedle meant for yarn might be another idea. You can make all sorts of shapes and 3-D things.

  14. Another recommendation for The Creative Family by Amanda Soule. I haven’t tried it yet, but I very much like the burlap intro sewing idea she mentions.

  15. I remember being happy to crochet long chains at four years old. You can use them as hair ribbons, garlands in the room, or even wrap them around poles or houseplants to make up a purpose for them. Very fun!

  16. I don’t know how to knit or crochet, so I won’t be able to teach Abigail that, but I’ll also say that it is ironic that you mentioned teaching handicrafts because Abigail and I started on our first sewing project on Sunday. We’re going to make a fabric book for her new baby cousin (due in April). She’s been really interested in learning to sew.

  17. Have you ever finger crocheted or finger knitted? (If you haven’t, I’m sure there’s a tutorial online out there somewhere!)

    That’s what I did with my 5yo a couple weeks ago when she saw me crocheting and wanted to do it too. It suited her temperament, b/c she was ‘crocheting with mommy’ but it was also something she could start and stop and do on her own. 🙂

    It’s so fun when they are interested in what Mommy does. It’s neat you want to take time to teach her!

  18. I’ve gotten my children into embroidery just by giving them a (slightly dull) needle with floss and some fabric in a hoop. It’s such instant gratification (relative to, say, knitting…which hasn’t been such a huge hit with them) that they just love it. I’ve taken up crochet myself lately, and I do think that it would be a lovely craft to share with my six year old 🙂

  19. I stumbled on your beautiful blog from The Small Notebook. I just love it! I write a similar blog (I’m a newbie) on homemaking and my Christian walk, although I don’t have any children of my own yet (praying on that one). Your beautiful blog header sucked me in-love at first site!

  20. To find a pattern for just about everything crochet, I Googled “free crochet pattern.” I was able to copy and print more patterns than I’ll probably ever use, but the ideas are there! Also, about.com has a lovely selection of crochet and knitting sites for any ability, I’m sure you’d find dishcloths.
    Hope this helps.

  21. I too recently started crocheting again. I did some in highschool but then got busy with other crafts…and life. I’m also teaching myself to knit so I can share in your daughter’s frustrations with fingers not doing what I want them too. I don’t have any ideas for teaching little ones other than start with large hooks and thick yarn but I do have some sites I love to get patterns from.

    I started with patterns on lionbrand.com. They had lots to choose from, almost all free, and it is easy to search for “easy” patterns. I have found that their easy patterns truly are easy. Some places say easy but I don’t recognize half the instructions.

    Ravelry.com is another great site. You have to request an invitation then wait a few days for it to be emailed to you but once you are registered you can easily search for patterns, many of which are free. Good luck!

  22. Stephanie:
    You brought to mind a picture I took of you when you were a very little girl stitching with an embroidery hoop. I will look it up and send it to you to show Abigail.

  23. I think crochet is harder than knitting, myself. 😉 However, an idea for teaching kids knitting that I read about once would transfer over to crochet– wrap little prizes in their ball of yarn, and as they keep going along every now and then a little reward plops out. This was, I think, originally an incentive to get the kid to keep knitting all the way through the cuff of a sock, but you could make the ball of yarn really small. 🙂

  24. Wow I’ve just started getting really interested in crochet too! But I’m 22… My mom taught me afghans when I was younger, but I was probably already middle-school age by then. You’ll update us on how the lessons and tips play out for you, right? I’m curious to see how it goes 🙂

    I’ve always wondered… is knitting easier or harder than crochet? The prospect of two needles instead of one hook always looked daunting.

  25. I haven’t tried teaching anyone younger than 11, but if you want a fun, quick crocheting project (I just can’t seem to put together enough time to do a whole afgan or baby blanket) you can get some flour sack towels and thread crochet the edges. They’re great little gifts and are really handy around the kitchen.
    You can get washcloths pattern books for pretty cheap at Michael’s or JoAnne’s ($4 or so-ish).

  26. i think that latch hook rugs could be a perfect craft for a kid that age. crocheting might be a bit old for her. i’d think more 7 or 8 for that…

  27. I don’t have advice on teaching small children crochet, but I can help with a pattern! For a very simple crochet washcloth, I chain 24, then start my pattern. I like to just do a simple single crochet (so ch 1 more and then work your way back) and then a half-double or ruffle border. YouTube has some great visual tutorials for fancy borders!

  28. I started teaching my kids around 8. Two of them have learned so far, but my 10 yo has no interest. My 8 yo loves to weave on her loom. My oldest at 13 really likes her knitting looms. It’s just easier to manage all the pieces for her. Me? I wish I could devote more time to my knitting and my crocheting. Someday, I’m sure.

    I would recommend a knobbie for you daughter, too, or a simple loom. That age can be hard because it really requires a lot of help from mama.

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