"I'm so excited Grandma is coming, " said the five-year-old to her mother. Puzzled, the mother asked her daughter why she thought that Grandma might be coming for a visit. The little girl replied, "The sewing machine is out, and Grandma is the only one who uses it."
Our busy lives today leave little time for mending or sewing - and often this skill is left to visiting "grandmas" or the dressmaker at the cleaners, even for simple tasks like sewing on a button. We have limited time, and necessity often dictates how we spend it. Though the quantity of time seems elusive, we know that quality time spent with our children is worth the effort.
So, here are some ideas for ways to slow down and spend quality time with your children while teaching them a skill, and possibly learning something new yourself. As always, choose and prepare the activity before introducing it to your child, making sure you have everything you need for both of you to succeed.
The youngest child of two or three can begin to develop fine muscle control by stringing spools, buttons, or beads. Wrap a piece of tape around the lacing end of the string or yarn to make the threading easier.
Large plastic needles or the large metal variety with dull points are good for beginners as they are easy to thread and hold. Using a hole punch, make holes in felt or stiff paper (construction paper or cardstock) for your child to practice sewing. A loosely-woven fabric like burlap with a thread pulled, makes it easier to sew a straight line.
For a first project, felt is an easy fabric for a large sharp needle to puncture. Mark the felt with a pen to show where the needle should puncture. Or, find a large button for your child to sew onto burlap or felt. Using an embroidery hoop to hold the fabric gives more control as the needle goes up and down from back to front, to attach the button.
My First Sewing Book has ideas and patterns for simple projects. You might use your own scraps of fabric and buttons to create stuffed creatures, pincushions, or small pillows. Once your child has gained some expertise, needlepoint or cross-stitch embroidery might be of interest. Our catalog and website have some of these sewing kits or you can visit your crafts store for ideas.
Many of our kitchens contain that lovingly made potholder created on a square loop loom. Chances are, most of us even made them way back when. After some instruction and practice, a child of six or seven can make such gifts to please any cook. Be certain the loops are made of cotton rather than of synthetic materials which melt when they come in contact with very hot surfaces.
If you're looking for a gift to give your child of five or six, the Knitting Fork is a perfect introduction to the joy of working with yarn. The yarn chain that is created can grow quickly as fingers wrap the yarn around the fork. For a slightly older child, consider knitting your own scarf alongside your child using our Quick-to-Knit Scarf Kit. Or, make a trip to the yarn store together to choose the perfect yarn, patterns, and needles for your projects. You might ask a friend who knits to be your teacher. It is easier to learn when you have an in-person lesson. More importantly, it's positive for your children to know that they can approach others to get help and information.
Handmade projects that you work on with your children create a special time together. For most, this is something to look forward to in the middle or at the end of a busy day. And remember, this is not "women's work, " but something to be enjoyed by fathers and sons, too.
Doing creative handwork is a wonderful way to de-stress, as your attention must be focused on something other than the "to do" list. There are many CEOs and professional athletes who knit, or do needlepoint. The sheer repetition of movements inherent in sewing, knitting, or weaving is soothing and calming for all of us.
"The child of four or five loves to sew and this is a marvelous exercise for the fingers and eye-hand control."
—Elizabeth Hainstock, Teaching Montessori in the Home
—by Jane M. Jacobs, M.A., Montessori Educational Consultant at Montessori Services. She is a trained primary Montessori directress and also a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She has taught children aged 2 to 7 years in Montessori schools, Headstart, and also in a preschool for children with developmental challenges. In her counseling practice, she helps individuals, couples, and families.
—Originally Published 2012