Teaching knitting to very young children not only gives them a way to busy the hands so the mind can calm, it opens them to creating. They aren’t just expressing as they do in so many arts and crafts. Teaching a child to knit can be an exciting experience for them as they see their simple actions produce a fabric. Knitting is transformation.
We’re continuing our celebration of lambing season, following last week’s instructions for making felted wool balls.
The Right Age to Start Knitting
The right age to start depends on the child. I was 3 years old when I started knitting with needles, and I also spent years knitting cords on a knitting spool. I saw my mother knitting every day, and I wanted to knit as well. I waited until my children asked to knit, and they did ask when they saw both my husband and me knitting. We started by making our own needles. Now, many days during homeschool my 15-year-old daughter, 12-year-old son, and I are all knitting while we read to one another. On their own, my children plan and carry out knitting projects, asking for help when they need new skills to create what they can imagine.
There isn’t a right age. Three years old worked for me; eight years old might be better for someone else. The best time to start is when your child asks to knit. If you push, no matter what age your child is, you might meet resistance.
Spool Knitting for Beginners
A lot of parents start teaching knitting—and hand-eye coordination—through finger knitting. Start with finger knitting, knitting spool, or big homemade needles. They are all quite different experiences, and you could try them all to see which your child likes.
I like the simplicity of a knitting spool, and I love how quickly a child will see progress.
A knitting spool is sometimes called a knitting Nancy or a knitting mushroom. They are called spools because they were made from empty wooden thread spools with nails around one end. My first knitting spool was one of my grandmother’s old thread spools.
Now, you can buy knitting spools from a small, 4-pin spool for a child to a plastic hoop with dozens of pins and a hand crank. We’ll keep this simple. We carry a wooden knitting spool with 4 metal pins and an all-wood knitting spool with 6 pins.
Choosing wool. A soft, 100% wool yarn is perfect for the beginning knitter. Worsted or sport weight works well as the knitter learns to pull the yarn over the pins. I love single-ply wool, but I find that it pulls apart easily in children’s projects. To avoid that frustration, I prefer multi-ply wool for children. I also find that beginning knitters tend to choose variegated yarn. It gives a bit of color variety. If that makes the difference in keeping their interest, great.
- Knitting spool
- Pick or crochet hook (or just use fingers)
Spools come with simple instructions to get you started. If you make your own spool, you can watch basic instructions.
All of That Wool Cord!
If your child gets interested in knitting 4-stitch cord with the knitting spool, you might end up with bundles of cord and a need for a new project. I have a few ideas.
Edging. Sew your child’s cord to the edge of a favorite sweater. They will probably be very proud of their contribution to the sweater.
Weaving. You could move on from knitting to weaving, and weaving with cord makes those early weaving efforts quickly satisfying.
Knitting, again. If you use giant needles—giant, as in the size of broom handles—you can knit with cord. My son likes to do this. It amuses him. He just makes scarves.
I hope knitting gives your children the kind of stress-relieving outlet for expression that it has for my children.