Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Question from Reader: Teaching Children Crochet

Dear Dee: I know you probably get this a lot, but I'm trying to teach my daughter how to crochet. She has been playing at it since, well, I can't really remember a time when she hasn't. She's 5 and she is so excited since I told her about a year and a half ago that I would teach her when she was 5. I'm having trouble though. I just watched the video of your daughter crocheting and read that she was 5 when you taught her. Any tips, suggestions, anything?
Thanks, Beata

Beata I think you have a great question, and many of us -- parents, grandparents, Scout leaders, teachers -- have that same question.  How does one go about teaching fiber arts to children?

I think the first thing you need to do is evaluate the child you're interested in teaching.  Ask yourself the following questions:Margaret Hubert sharing crochet techniques with MiniDee
1.  Who initiated this?  You or the child?
    If it was the child, awesome!  It will be a little easier to teach them.
    If it was you then you might need some "coaxing" material (I'll touch on that in just a bit)
2.  What kind of attention span does the child have?  Can the child sit still for great lengths of time (15 to 30 minutes) without needing to move onto another project?  If so, great!  If not, you may need to wait until the child is a little older.
3.  What kind of hand/eye coordination does the child have?  Is the child in the process of learning how to write?
    If the child has great hand/eye coordination then this is good!  But do be careful if the child is in the process of learning how to write!  This is because many Kindergarten and First Grade teachers are spending great lengths of time in training the child how to "properly hold a pencil."  If you teach the child to hold the crochet hook a "wee bit differently" than the pencil hold being taught in school then there is a good chance you'll get a call from the teacher.  No big deal here, I just want you to be prepared.  Yes, this is the voice of experience here; I was called in! (LOL)

So, if you've established that all three questions state your child is ready to learn then go for it!

Teach the basics, such as the slip knot and the chain.  At first my daughter didn't grasp the tension in the left hand so I let her pick the loops off with her fingers.  When she tired of making plain chains, but still wasn't ready to make actual stitches, I coaxed her by having her add pony beads to the mix.  She chained many pretty beaded necklaces (one of which she won a Blue Ribbon & Best of Show for the Junior Division for!), and later her own Rosary that she used in her First Communion (she won a Blue Ribbon & Best of Show for that project too).

To ensure she was encouraged to practice, I'd invite her to come sit close to me so we could crochet together.  I would let a few weeks pass before gently asking her if she'd like to try properly controlling her tension.  If she was content to pick off the loops with her fingers then I let her; if she said she wanted to try the proper technique then I'd show her.  It wasn't until she was 6 1/2 that she properly grasped the tension.  Now with that under her belt her crocheting skills grew -- she was getting faster and her chain stitching more regulated.

I let more time pass, still inviting her to sit with me so we could crochet together.  Finally she was ready -- she asked me to show her how to do the single crochet!  In the two years since she learned the single crochet stitch she has tried many more crochet stitches and techniques including the Bullion/Rice stitch (that requires many, many yarn overs!  ... she's done as many as 20 yarn overs for the stitch with ease!), and the Tunisian technique.  She's starting to look at my pattern books and I think it's just a matter of time before she asks me to teach her how to read them!

I think the key in teaching your own child how to crochet (knit, paint, sew, etc) is to let them go at their own pace.  By letting them do so, by answering their questions when they're ready, and by gently(!) inviting them to learn more, that you ignite their passion and creativity.  I never critiqued my daughter's work until recently, but I always do it with a gentleness to it such as:  "This looks great sweetie, but did you know if you did XYZ that your work will appear neater?"  or "I love how uniform these stitches look, is there any way you can get these stitches to look the same?" A child always wants to please their parents, so wrap the critiques with slight challenges and you'll see them wanting to try it.

Beata, I want to stress that the above is my experience in not only teaching my daughter, but other youngsters as well.  I've witnessed way too many times in my crochet classes where some parents were harsh on their children for not immediately picking up on the lesson. As a direct result the child shuts down their interest in learning and that breaks my heart to see when that happens. I believe that if you offer the lesson wrapped with love and patience, your child will learn much more than mere stitches! 

I do hope that this helps, and I do hope you visit my daughter's website at with your daughter for additional inspiration.

Thanks for the great question!


Anonymous said...

I know you didn't mean to, but believe it or not this entry made me tear up!  (Gosh, I'm getting sappy in my old age!)  It brought about a flashback to when Mamaw tried to teach me how to crochet.  I remember watching her make granny squares, finish one, toss it into a basket and start the next.  It was probably my facination in watching her make these that prompted her to try to teach me.  THAT part is the flashback...the facination in watching her whip these squares out and wondering how she made something so pretty.

I do appreciate this entry (and thank you to Beata for asking).  Not only for the memory I thought was tucked away but in the future I hope to have kids wondering what I'm doing and how it is done.

Have a wonderful day!


Anonymous said...

Another tip would be to have the child pick their favorite color yarn to work with or to use a variegated yarn.  A light or bright colored yarn works better than a dark yarn as it is easier for them to see the stitches.