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Teaching Kids to Knit

September 3, 2015

I have posted a few pictures of Hunter and her knitting on Instagram and there have been a lot of questions about how I taught her to knit, how old she is, etc. Let me tell you all about it!

Hunter at World Wide Knit in Public (WWKIP) day at 88 Stitches

Hunter at World Wide Knit in Public (WWKIP) day at 88 Stitches

First, a little about Hunter and her knitting. Hunter is 4 years old and showed some interest in knitting. I got her some needles (I think they are 6mm needles and the important thing to Hunter is that they have flowers on the ends), and some yarn from the stash (SweetGeorgia Worsted in Glacier, that spoiled girl). I was also gifted a copy of Annie and the Swiss Cheese Scarf by Alana Dakos. What a fabulous book! All about a little girl learning to knit. Hunter loves it.

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I taught Hunter to knit shortly after she turned 4 with pretty low expectations. I really thought we would knit ‘together’ for a long time, but, boy did I sell her short! At first she was in charge of inserting the needle, I would wrap the yarn, and she would bring it through (we did the last step together at first, but she mastered it quickly on her own). One lesson later and she was doing the whole thing by herself. I find, when I teach grown ups to knit, bringing the loop ‘through’ is the hardest part, but she picked that up immediately. This rhyme helped:

In through the front door

Around the back

Through the window

Off jumps Jack!

Now that Hunter has been knitting a few months, she is kind of bored with her project. She originally wanted to knit a cowl for her brother (it’s a scarf right now and I will sew together the ends together when she is done), but now she wants something new. It may have been too big a project for a 4 year old, since their attention span is pretty small.

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I knit a few rows for her here and there, calling them ‘clean up rows’. I fix the odd dropped stitch and get her a row further on. It is a fine balance because I don’t want to do it for her, but I know she wants to move on to knitting something new.

Here are a few tips for teaching kids to knit:

  1. Wait until they show some interest, no sense in trying to teach them something they don’t want to know (in this case).
  2. Age: when I taught kids to knit in the shop I started with kids who were 7 years old. Way after baby swing stage, here’s my top list of baby swings from Top9rated. If the lesson is 1 on 1 you can start younger on a kid by kid basis. I think 4 is pretty young, I hadn’t planned on teaching her until she was 5 or 6.
  3. Start them with some worsted weight yarn and needles to match (more or less). Sometimes it seems like the bigger the better, but I think it gets a little unwieldly if you have super bulky yarn and giant needles.
  4. A little at a time. Hunter knits for about 5-10 minutes at a time, a row or 2 and she’s off to something else.
  5.  Small project. I learned this one the hard way. Hunter is dying to get onto something new but I have this feeling she should really finish one thing before starting another. The end of her scarf will likely have a few more mummy rows than the beginning.
  6. Fix it. A few mistakes and weird tension are totally fine…maybe help pick up the dropped stitches though. You don’t want the whole thing going totally off the rails. Reviews of the toddlers scooters here for some scooter knitting fun!
  7. I took some advice from Elizabeth Zimmerman: when they hand it to you to fix, do a couple of rows. While you don’t want to do it for them, you can certainly help them along!
  8. Local shops are a great resource for teachers! Whether in a class setting or a private lesson.
Hunter's yarn choice for her second project: Madelinetosh DK in 'holi festival'

Hunter’s yarn choice for her second project: Madelinetosh DK in ‘holi festival’

There you have it! Have you taught wee ones how to knit? Any tips or tricks to share?

27 Comments leave one →
  1. Maxine Pisterzi permalink
    September 22, 2017 3:03 pm

    Need help to teach an 8 yr. old. Where can I find the book that is mentioned and others that might help.

    • September 25, 2017 9:28 am

      Hi Maxine – the book is on Amazon and in book stores, you definitely want to try your local yarn shop, they will know just what to do!

  2. Kristina Almassi permalink
    February 8, 2017 1:51 pm

    I am trying to teach me 6 1/2 yo, but he is struggling. He casts on beautifully but managing two needles just frustrates him. He is left handed, so I suppose that could be making it tricky, it’s part of our homeschool curriculum so I can’t help but feel bad we are falling behind. Any tips on working with a reluctant knitter or a lefty?

    Thanks!
    Kristie

    • February 9, 2017 10:10 am

      Hi Kristina – I started by doing 1/2 the stitch for her. So Hunter would hold the needles and insert the left needle, I would put the yarn around and she would knit it through. It can sometimes frustrate new knitters (both young and old!) how slow it can be to learn. Hunter picked it up quickly but that is pretty out of the ordinary! Normally is takes a few classes and plenty of practice. Knitting is a 2 handed thing, but perhaps your son might prefer holding the yarn in his left hand?

  3. September 10, 2015 8:15 am

    I recently taught my 8yo and 10yo nephews to knit at their request. We made a bookmark, at the suggestion of someone more experienced than I — cast on 15 stitches, knit 8 (or so) rows, cast off, and add fringe. We used the same rhyme, which helped some, but I think our success was mostly due to letting them come & go. They were definitely interested and engaged, but they needed frequent breaks. I had some mini-skeins of worsted and let them chose and wind their own colors. They yarn was quality but new to me and I wished I’d swatched it first myself because it was a little splitty. They’ve recently told me that they want to knit again… “for fun!”

  4. September 10, 2015 6:58 am

    Thank you for sharing all this!! She is a stunning little one and with some talent! Her yarn choices makes me jealous! MadelineTosh LOVE! I hope you share what she makes next, I think I must now find you on instagram

  5. karen m. permalink
    September 9, 2015 8:07 pm

    I am so proud of Hunter! Way to go, big girl! I teach preschool and have read a couple of knitting stories to my kids, but never thought they were able to tackle this; I should know better than to under- estimate our young ones! Ha! I did actually teach some teens/preteens and one sweet young man knit a great scarf for a beginner; I only helped him with dropped stitches- other than that, he did it on his own and was so proud that I taught him how to do that!

  6. September 8, 2015 7:35 pm

    I hope Hunter will share her accomplishments with all her fans at KnitCity in a few weeks…..
    I taught my daughter at a young age; I think she was 2 when we did the “knit together” thing. By the time she was 6 she could make a sweater (Paton’s Back to Basics II pullover) knit flat. The pieces were small enough that they kept her attention. She’s over 30 now and still knitting, even telling people that she can’t remember a time in her life that she didn’t know how to knit.
    she also learned to crochet (which she didn’t continue with) and sew (actual garments) before she was 6

  7. September 6, 2015 6:58 pm

    I am trying to teach my niece, who is 7, how to knit. She is brilliant and wants to learn but I don’t have a clue how to teach her to knit! She got a good bit of yarn and 2 sets of size 8 needles for Christmas. I will buy the book you mention in the hope that the book will teach her on her level. Thanks for this blog post!

  8. September 5, 2015 1:58 pm

    What a lovely post and sensible tips, too. It took me right back to knitting lessons with my Mum. Not that I thought of them as lessons, it was just what we did. I was a few years older than Hunter, though! Go Hunter!

  9. September 4, 2015 11:08 am

    I love this!! My 1.5 year old has already started wanting to sit in my lap and “crochet” with me – aka stab my work with the crochet hook, haha. So far I have been able to get her to sit still long enough for me to hold her hand and work 2 stitches before she jumps up and away again.

    I agree, 7 years old seems to be the magical age to learn to knit or crochet; but my aunt learned when she was 3(!!?!) and she was my teacher when I was 14. I completely agree with everything on your!! Esp the unwieldy needles; I’ve had parents do that for their kids when I teach at Michael’s and I try my best to gently redirect that decision ;)

    I hadn’t really thought about doing a few “clean up” rows but that makes a lot of sense! My dad used to do that for me when I was learning at 7yo and I have done it for my younger students who easily get frustrated. :)

    I’m bookmarking this post and checking that book out from the library. That is going to be so fun to read (with my daughter)! :)

    Oh! As for shorter projects, what about a washcloth or dishcloth that she can gift like in a “spa” set if she is into making gifts? Or little blankets (or “sleeping bags” aka strip folded into a pouch) for her stuffed animals? I loved crocheting anything my imagination dreamed up – and a lot of it was for playing with stuffed animals or gifting at the holidays.

    I’d love to hear how her progress works out! :)

  10. Anya permalink
    September 4, 2015 10:14 am

    My go-to first project for kids is bookmarks. Cast on 8 to 10 stitches, work about 4″ or 5″, cast off. :)

  11. September 4, 2015 7:09 am

    Relax! I have taught grade schoolers and teens to knit, and the older they get the more they stress about “doing it wrong.” When I relax as the teacher, they stress less too!

  12. September 4, 2015 2:55 am

    That’s a great post, thank you !!
    My daughter is also 4 and wants to learn, so I already have the needle and some pink (of course she is a princess :p) yarn.
    But my 3 y o boy wants to learn too !! That’s great, don’t mistake it, just I am not a teacher and not patient at all… well I will try and they will make something small for their best toys.

    So thank you for the advices ^^

  13. September 4, 2015 2:13 am

    Fantastic. I thought my daughter, long after her teenage years, as she was not interested in knitting, crochet or yarns any earlier. She learned pretty quickly. She can now knit, crochet, embroider and sew. I think she prefers to sew and crochet. She is very artistic and loves to design things.
    Well done to Hunter, I can see great designs and projects already in the making.

  14. September 3, 2015 8:27 pm

    It’s also entirely possible that she’s a real knitter and just needs to have several projects on the needles at the same time.😉

  15. rainbowgoblin permalink
    September 3, 2015 6:42 pm

    I can’t wait to teach my kids to knit! I’ve always felt that hats are a better first project than scarves. Joining in the round is very tough, but you (the teacher) can do that yourself if you’re teaching one on one. Working in the round on circulars isn’t particularly challenging, and it’s actually less unwieldy than straight needles, which always get caught on my sleeves. Hats are quick! And by the time they get to the crown they’ll be ready to learn k2tog decreases.

  16. Kate insley permalink
    September 3, 2015 6:37 pm

    (Mrsinsleyohana on Instagram :) ) my daughter just turned three and has been asking me to teach her to knit for months now! I’m glad to hear you are having success with your daughter at 4 years old because I don’t want my daughters enthusiasm to go away after too long of telling her no. I let her hold my needles with me as I knit, and she has “her needles” they are my size 13s but they are pink, I’d definitely get her smaller ones for when I do teach her. And maybe shorter ones. She loves to sit and wrap yarn around the needles and show me her progress :) last night she was laying in bed and I was knitting next to her and she looks at me and said: “mommy, I want to knit like you when I get big!” I melted!!

  17. September 3, 2015 3:34 pm

    So adorable! I think it’s wonderful when kids are able to share in your hobbies, and knitting is such a great skill to have. My oldest daughter is seven, and she recently asked me to teach her. I got her started on a washcloth, which is how my grandmother taught me. It’s a fairly small project, and it’s great for learning new stitches, too. There are so many patterns out there or you can just make up a design of your own. Once they pick up the skills, they can even start increase/decrease by starting on a corner. It’s also a great way to use up scraps from the stash.

  18. Liz permalink
    September 3, 2015 3:28 pm

    Great tips! I’m an avid knitter and 3rd grade teacher. I’m thinking about teaching some of my students. The book you noted sounds like a good one to check out. Thank you!

  19. September 3, 2015 12:56 pm

    My daughter was also rather young (5) when she wanted me to show her. I am a continental knitter and we have the long tail cast on as a standard method and whilst I do teach adults here in England other cast ons first, I felt weirdly strongly about her learning it the same way as I did. So, I decided to cast on for her and start with the knit stitch. She never had a problem to copy my way of wrapping the yarn to create tension. However she only wraps it around her index finger once rather than twice. I guess that is a matter of short fingers and sweaty hands. She picked up super easily how to do the actual stitch.
    Next, I showed her how to cast off and then the long tail cast on. And I was surprised how quickly she got it at that stage.
    I guess, the whole knitting came easily to her because she has seen me so many times doing it. It is definitely a matter of waiting until they are really keen to learn it.
    And I like to take those beginners on my lap and just knit a few rows together to get the movement. Clearly this only works with children. I never took any of my adult students on my lap :)
    She wanted to knit a scarf as a first project and I expected her to never finish it. She started about 10 months ago (and it is only about 12 stitches wide) and it is still not long enough. But in the meantime I could convince her to knit a few bows instead. Just cast on about 10 stitches, knit about 10 to 12 rows, weave in the ends, push the middle of your rectangle together and wrap some yarn around tightly. Put it on a hair clip. Easy, quick, quick feeling of achievement, everybody is happy. She made a few of those for her teachers as end of year presents. So I think, bows are the best beginners projects ever.
    Oh, and whenever she wants me to fix it I do as little as possible. I might adjust the tension if it got far to loose but I never even knit more than a whole row for her. But with those little bows there is no need to do that.

  20. September 3, 2015 9:43 am

    Ha! Your tips will work for the knitting challenged too. Now all I need to find is a Mommy that will fix my mistakes and knit a few rows for me! :)

  21. September 3, 2015 9:41 am

    My daughter is two but has already shown a lot of interest in knitting. She mostly just likes to hold the needles and run her fingers through the yarn, but she will sit quietly with it for long stretches of time. We’ll just do that until she decides she wants to learn. Thanks for the tips!

  22. September 3, 2015 9:15 am

    She’s adorable! I started teaching my daughter when she just turned 6. That little rhyme definitely helped her as well. She hasn’t done any knitting for about a month (maybe more, lol), but I’m thinking of getting her some light blue yarn, reminiscent of Frozen, and getting her started on a cowl for this winter. I will be getting a copy of that book, too!

  23. September 3, 2015 8:24 am

    I wish I had some little ones around to teach :) However, I am going to be teaching a couple of friends who have shown interest soon. I love the little rhyme you used and am totally going to steal it :) I love that she’s learning so young. I was 8 years old when my grandma taught me to crochet.

  24. Elizabeth permalink
    September 3, 2015 7:31 am

    What A good job Hunter! I have been teaching my granddaughter to knit the past few years , she is 8 years old , about the same age I was when my grandmother taught me! Unfortunately she lives far away so our knitting lessons are few and far between!😒

  25. Viki permalink
    September 3, 2015 7:08 am

    When I taught my kids I started with cheap acrylic worsted and it didn’t go well. I figured they weren’t ready. A while later I tried again and gave them leftovers of good merino and cashmerino worsted and they took off. I highly recommend starting them off with good quality yarn like you did. It is so much easier to knit with and therefore learn with.

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