I put together this hand-sewing kit for my girl as a Christmas gift last year, when it became clear that she wanted to exercise this type of fine motor skills. I also figured it would fill the need for some quiet, focused time that would benefit us both.
Here’s what I decided to include in the set – a pin cushion, spools of colored thread, a couple of needles, a thimble, a handful of decorative buttons, and a package of small quilting squares for her to practice with. I also later got her this set of alphabet beads on the right along with some sparkly elastic cords, as I figured she’d enjoy the combination of spelling and threading. I also got her a crochet hook and some yarn, but she hasn’t gotten into that yet, although they did some finger crocheting in the Waldorf kindergarden and will be doing some knitting in first grade.
Here’s why we think handwork is important:
Besides their obvious practical use, manual skills benefit the brain, as well as foster the ability to transfer the objects and solutions imagined onto the physical plane. It is of utmost importance that our kids’ education is not limited to – and by – purely abstract learning.
Although I myself grew up in the Soviet Union and obviously had no access to any kind of alternative education, I was taught basic sewing and crocheting at Josie’s age, and, by grade three, made my own hair-pieces to wear to school. Later, when I hit my teens and became conscious of style, I fashioned my own funky jewelry out of beads, leather, and even twine utilizing some of these same crocheting and sewing skills.
While I no longer make cute things to wear, the DIY confidence I gained in the process ultimately led to the ease with which I later taught myself all the things I now share on this website, starting with the language in which it is written. If my kids someday walk through life with similar self-assurance, I will have done my job well.
Also, it’s important to know how to fix holes in your socks and clothing. I do all the time!
While Josie, who’s six, hasn’t spent much time with her sewing kit at first, she began to use it more and more as the year progressed. She has since learned a couple of kinds of basic stitches and how to sew buttons.
This is the baggie she made out of a quilting square.
Here she re-attached the pin-cushion decoration element that had come unglued by sewing it back on. OK, this is not really elegant work, but it’s a start.
These alphabet beads are a big hit with her, too.
Of course, there’s an obvious question of safety when using sharp needles at a young age. Like with knives, it is important to make sure that kids learn safety techniques and understand potential dangers – don’t let them lose those needles!
There’s also the question of readiness, as different kids will be ready at different times.
Still, I find it important that we let them do these things at some point or another – important for their self-confidence, important for their intellect, and, ultimately, for their lives as self-sufficient adults.
How about your kids? What are some of the handwork projects they enjoy?