Knit Like a 4th Grader

Introducing the next generation of knitters.

I'm teaching a knitting class at my son's elementary school this semester. It's my first time and it was somewhat thrown together at the end of last year. I have 7 students ranging from 2nd to 5th grade. I wanted to limit it to 3rd to 5th, but one very focused 2nd grader was allowed in.

Each week I panic a little before the class. I have a "curriculum" planned, but the first day taught me it might not work out as I planned. Each class I leave full of warm fuzzies. These little knitters are such sweet kids, it's been a joy to spend time with them. I guess knitters are that way at any age. 

We started very simply. I provided them with needles with 10 stitches already cast on and a row or two started. They use bright neon yarn in colors of their choice and and carry it in a fun little tote bag. 

Each week I give them one more step and some other little treat. Last week we made pom poms. This week I gave them a coloring page. 

After the third class I finally feel like we're on to something. They are all at different levels and have begun to work together. One student has me pull out her stitches and start over about 10 times in class because she wants it done right. Another decided to start showing her friend how to finger knit. A girl from Spain who is still a little rusty on her English has plowed ahead, helped her classmates cast on and is thinking about the sweaters she will knit for her dog. 

The best part is - they have no agenda! The adult project knitter in me worries that they are disappointed that after 3 lessons we still are on the very basics. They don't care. They love hanging out, giggling with each other, playing with yarn. They are sad when I say it's time to go. 

We have 7 more lessons to go. We'll make yarn out of t-shirts, learn to read patterns and hopefully finish something to show. Next week we might play Cat's Cradle because when I mentioned it they didn't know what I was talking about. (Kids these days!) It will be fun to see where we end up. 

I may even have enough confidence to do it again next semester and add some lessons for moms. 



Why teach kids to knit?

Sometimes when knitting in public at a doctor's office or waiting for a kid, I'll catch the attention of a child. Some are shy about it and others downright stare at me. I can tell if they don't have a crafty person in their family. They are curious and fascinated. I wish I could sit them down and teach them a row or two.

The response I get from adults ranges:

Sentimental - "My mom/grandma used to do that. I never learned..."  

Sarcastic - "You know that you can buy socks, right?"

Or a look like I might as well be churning butter.

Crafty people get it. In today's world of instant gratification and throw away clothes and toys, it's nice to have something that takes more time, thought and skill to produce. When you sit at a computer all day producing emails and electronic output, it's satisfying to create something you can hold in your hands. 

Numerous studies have recently been shared about the health benefits of knitting. When you sit with your work, your mind and your heart quiets. Unless it's a particularly challenging pattern, you can let you mind wander to think deep thoughts or no thoughts. 

Even creating just a little pom pom brings pride and joy.  (Yarn:  KnitPicks Swish Brights )

Even creating just a little pom pom brings pride and joy.  (Yarn: KnitPicks Swish Brights)

For children, the ability to sit and knit has so many benefits. Knitting increases fine motor skills. It teaches patience, attention and "stick-to-it-iveness". To make something beautiful (or not) with your hands and produce something tangible that you can share with others creates pride like no other. It teaches a little history and a whole lot of math

I don't expect my students to stick with knitting through all their school years. Life gets busy with school, sports, jobs, romance, and college dreams. But, I hope they can turn to it in times of boredom or stress or when they just need to feel something in their hands. I hope they will connect with other knitters of all ages when they wear their finished knits. I hope that those who will put it away will rediscover it in adulthood when they find they need a creative outlet again.

I look forward to starting them on their knitting journey and see what their young hands create.