I mentioned last week that Elisabeth learned to knit this fall. Knitting is an important part of the first grade curriculum we're using, with the goal being a balance between head (academic), heart (artistic), and hand (coordination) in learning.
Knitting is also an extremely beneficial developmental activity for a child at this age, because both hands are used and it is a "midline crossing" skill, which is so very important for reading. (You might have heard about children who don't learn to crawl as babies having trouble learning to read later -- this works with a similar principle.)
I really wanted Elisabeth to be well-prepared for her knitting adventure (I'll admit that because I'm a knitter, I felt some pressure to teach it to her in a way that she'd really love it, and not just half-heartedly commit to it), so I sought out a sheep farm in our area that we could visit as an introduction to working with wool.
The four of us spent a really beautiful September afternoon looking at and touching sheep, watching the farmer spin, and really experiencing what wool is. The farmer was so sweet to spend so much time just showing us things, and she sent us home with some raw wool to play with. We washed it and cleaned the little bits of grass out of it and dyed a little bit of it. It was really fun to see how the wool reacted to all of this.
Then Elisabeth learned how to use a Knitting Tower (a.k.a. Knitting Mushroom, Knitting Nancy, or Knitting Spool). I was really, really surprised by how quickly she got the hang of it -- she quickly became very good at it!
We spent some time winding hanks of yarn into balls, and then we made a pair of knitting needles, using the directions from Kids Knitting by Melanie Falick. (I had intended to make size 8 needles using a 3/16" dowel because the fall issue of Living Crafts magazine had an article about teaching children to knit and one recommendation was not to use too large of needles, although size 10 with bulky yarn seems to be pretty common. But when I was buying the dowels, the 3/16" one just seemed too thin and flimsy, so we made size 10 needles with a 1/4" dowel.)
When it came time to cast on and learn the stitches, we used the verses from A First Book of Knitting for Children by Bonnie Gosse and Jill Allerton. And from there, Elisabeth has just taken off!
She had asked to knit a few times over the last year or so, and without intending to put her off, I just never got around to showing her. But I am really amazed by how quickly (and how well) she has picked it up since we actually began. Often it's the first thing she does in the morning, and she'll usually spend quite a while in the afternoon on it. She even came to me a few days ago with a circular needle and some yarn asking to make a hat for the new baby! I consulted a few resources about gauge, and then quickly made up a simple pattern. She has knit a couple inches on it already!
Anyway, we're all very excited by this new element to our days, dreaming about the many things that could be made with two knitters in the house. And James is already talking about when he gets to learn. :)