The Barb Brown: Catch ‘Em Young, Train ‘Em Right – Part 1
I read a number of knit lists and knit groups. A question that comes up often is“How old does a child have to be before you can teach them to knit?”People write in with varying answers:“Not till they are 6,”“they have to be at least 8,” etc. etc.
Here’s my opinion on it: I admit that my stance is based on how old I was, how old my Ma was, the age a good friend learned, and (pictorial evidence included) my own granddaughter.
A child is old enough to begin learning to knit the day they say“Can you teach me to knit?”or“Can I hep you make that?”I began learning when I was about 3 years old, my Ma was about 5, my friend was around 4, and my granddaughter was 2.
I can hear many of you right now….”my kid wouldn’t sit still long enough,”or“I tried and they got too frustrated,” and “a child that age can’t concentrate long enough.”
I am going to share my Ma’s wisdom on this. She would say, “When you’re 20 years old, you are expected to concentrate on a subject for a full hour. Your child is only 4. That is 1/5 the age. So, 1/5 the age means 1/5 the time, which is 12 minutes. You never want to be too optimistic with a child, so call it 10 minutes, including the time to get them settled in.”When Ma began teaching me, she had a 10 minute sand timer. When the sand ran out, I had to put down the needles. I was allowed to finish my 10 stitch row, but that was it! Needles down. I didn’t get frustrated, knitting remained a treat, and I still knit all these years later.
There are children like my granddaughter, who, when she was 2, wanted to help me knit. She didn’t want to learn, she wanted to help! So I would sit her on my knee, and she would wrap the yarn around the needle. She would concentrate very hard! and sometimes she was ready to quit after 2 stitches, sometimes 10. When she was done, I thanked her and off she went.
When she got a bit older, she wanted to help more. She would put the needle in, then wrap. As she got older, I added steps. Sometimes she would get a bit frustrated because she couldn’t quite accomplish the next skill, and I would tell her, “Wait till your hands are bit bigger.”
Her learning progressed on these lines, and when she was 4 she would sit on stool between my knees and knit. Sometimes she knit 1 row, sometimes 3.
And now that she is 7, she takes her knitting out when I’m not even there, and knits a couple of rows. We are going to cast on a hat shortly!
Here is a list of things to remember when teaching a child to knit:
- They are little. 10 minutes is a long time! If they want to stop, let them.
- Do NOT fall into the“it’s just for a kid, this will do”trap when picking the yarn! Let the child pick the yarn. Take them on a tour through your stash, or on a trip to your LYS. (If they go for the cashmere silk blend, tell them it’s lovely, but costs a bit more than you can spend. Kids understand that!) If you have to justify the yarn (or the tools) with the word“just”, then they aren’t the correct choice.
- Remember that their knitting does not need to be perfect.
- If they want to knit a scarf for their cousin, let them try.
- The knitting fairy used to make visits to my house. I would wake up and my little dolly scarf would be longer than I remembered.
And the very very best first project? It starts out as just stitches. Then it gets longer. Then they are just about sick of it! So teach them to cast off, show then how to attach a cord, and there you go. One luggage identifier! Attach it to a suitcase handle, and you’ll have no trouble figuring out which black suitcase is yours on the airport carousel.
The final, and most important thing to remember: Knitting is FUN!