How to Teach Children to Crochet
Teaching a child to crochet is a rewarding experience that can have lifelong benefits for the budding crafter. Many of us learned to crochet at a very young age, and although we might have dropped it for years at at time, the craft stuck around in our memories as something helpful. With benefits in both the short-term and long-term, it's a skill worth taking the time to teach children of almost any age. But just how do you go about teaching a child to crochet?
This crochet unicorn pattern showcases the whimsy and imagination of children, which is precisely what will inspire many of them to want to learn how to crochet.
Why Teach a Child to Crochet: The BenefitsThere are some immediate benefits to teaching a child to crochet, not the least of which is that it gives them something interesting to occupy their hours. Just a few short-term benefits of crocheting include:
- Children are able to express their creativity in a new way. Although crochet is a structured craft, it is also widely open to interpretation and choice, giving children ample opportunity for self-expression through color choice and other project-making decisions.
- Learning to crochet can boost self-esteem. First, there is the satisfaction of learning how to do something new. Then there is the possibility of making functional items for self and others, which brings about so much pride.
- Crocheting hones motor skills. Kids may find a hook and yarn craft a little bit unwieldy at first but as they practice it their motor skills will improve, and the craft will become easier.
- Crochet can also mean practicing other skills. Older children can practice learning to read, following instructions and even basic math through working on crochet patterns.
- Crochet is an excellent analog alternative to spending time on phones, iPads and other gadgets. Research is starting to show that children's developing brains are greatly impacted by too many hours spent on screens. Memory and attention wane when there is always the instant gratification of the Internet. Taking time to crochet helps a child slow down and develop those areas of the brain that require offline stimulation.
The Child's Messy Bun Hat is a beginner crochet project that children can aim to advance to when they learn how to crochet.
At What Age Can a Child Learn to Crochet?One of the first questions that parents ask before trying to teach a child to crochet is whether or not their child is old enough. There is no specific age at which a child can learn to crochet, because of course all children learn at different paces. That said, most children can learn the basics of crochet around the age of 5, and they can advance to really working on crochet patterns around the age of 9. The Waldorf curriculum emphasizes handwork and offers a lot of great information about what yarn skills kids are likely to learn best at any given age. That curriculum actually begins with knitting, around the age of 6, and then progresses to include several years of focused crochet lessons beginning the following year.
Steps to Teaching Children to CrochetEveryone crochets in their own style, so the most important thing is that you take a look at your own method of crochet, and try to break down each step into a bite-sized chunk for a child to learn. Feel free to adapt the following steps accordingly to your own style and the needs of the child you're teaching:
Step One: Let the Child Show Interest FirstIt's not usually a good idea to "force" a craft on a child. What will stick with a child so much more than the instructional steps is the true joy found in crafting. Crochet often around your child and be ready to teach him when he first shows some interest on his own. If that interest isn't forthcoming, you can make materials available or suggest it as an activity among other options.
Step Two: Handling the MaterialsGive children time to get used to the feel of the materials. Children work best with a medium-to-large sized crochet hook (size H or above). They work best with worsted weight or bulky yarn. You may want to make several crochet hooks and yarn options available for the child to choose from. If you do, be sure to include only those that will facilitate a child's easy learning (smooth yarn in a solid, light color, hooks with a comfortable grip). Err on the side of bigger is better - large hooks and fat yarn. For very young children - or any child having difficulty using a crochet hook - you may want to try finger crochet first.
Step Three: Learning to ChainThe first step for kids learning how to crochet is learning to chain. You can make the slip knot for them and get the hook set up, and you may even make the first few chains to get them going. From there, it's just yarn over and pull through, a repetitive motion that they should practice until they get the hang of it. When teaching crochet, you'll want to break everything down into the smallest steps possible, showing the child how steps build on each other to result in a finished project. For chaining, the steps are:
- Yarn over
- Grab the yarn with the hook
- Pull through
Step Four: The First StitchOnce a child has mastered the crochet chain, it's time to learn how to make a crochet stitch. Some people recommend beginning with a single crochet stitch, while others suggest starting with double crochet. Double crochet is easier in the sense that it's easier to find the right place to make your next stitch, but single crochet requires fewer steps to complete a stitch. Use whichever feels best and try the other if it's not working out. You may want to make the first row of stitches for your child. This is a way of demonstrating the task. It is also typically easier to work into a stitch (such as the top of a double crochet) than it is to work into a chain. Although you should show a child how to work through both loops, it is more important at first that the child learn to make the stitch than learn the exact placement of the hook. This is especially true for younger children.
Step Five: The First ProjectCompleting a first crochet project can really lend enthusiasm to the craft. A child can complete a project as soon as she has learned how to crochet a chain. Crochet shoelaces or a simple crochet necklace can be made with just a chain. A child who has learned single crochet or double crochet can make square / rectangular projects that don't require increasing or decreasing - potholders and skinny scarves are good choices.
Continuing On: Filling in the Blanks and Next StepsA child can practice the crochet chain stitch and their first basic stitch for a long time. If he remains interested in crochet, and wants to keep developing those skills, then it's time to fill in some blanks. This is when you can go back and teach the child some basics that you might have skipped over, including:
- How to make a slip knot on your crochet hook
- How to work stitches into the chain
- What a turning chain is and how to use it
- The anatomy of a stitch (front and back loop)
The Tea Party Cardigan is an easy crochet pattern for you to work on while your child is practicing crochet beside you.
Additional Tips for Teaching Children to CrochetHere are some other things to keep in mind as you teach a child to crochet:
- Adapt! You may always use an inline crochet hook but your child may work better with one that's tapered. You might hold the hook like a knife while your child works best holding it like a pencil. Try out different yarn options and hook sizes. Show your child that there are different ways to crochet and they are all okay!
- Use the dominant hand that your child will be using. If you're right-handed and so is your child then teaching them means showing them what you already do. But if you're right-handed and your child is left-handed then you need to adjust. Your child will need to learn left-handed crochet. You can learn it yourself or get help from a friend or online resource to demonstrate what crochet will look like using this "other hand".
- Use age-appropriate words that the child already knows. Do you remember the first time that you looked at a crochet pattern and it seemed like you were reading an entirely new language? Remember that befuddlement when talking about crochet with children. When teaching children to tie shoelaces, we often use the "over, under and through - Bunny Ears method", and you can use similar language when teaching young children how to crochet. The Craft Yarn Council suggests talking about "fat worms" and "hungry worms" when referring to how tight a crochet chain is; this will make more sense to children than talking about yarn tension!
- Hold the yarn for your child. Heart Hook Home makes the great suggestion that you can hold the working yarn for your child as he first learns to work the crochet stitches. This relieves the difficult step of learning how to hold the yarn and create the right tension until he's gotten a grasp on the first part of the lesson.
- Be patient. The point of the exercise is for both of you to have fun crocheting. If you are getting overwhelmed or stressed out by the teaching process, take a moment to compose yourself and find that joy.
- Praise, praise, praise. The benefits of crochet often come from feeling creative and productive so make sure to praise all efforts by the child.