How to Teach Children to Knit

Mother helping daughter (10-11) with knitting
Compassionate Eye Foundation/David Oxberry/OJO Images Ltd/Digital Vision

Teaching children to knit can be a gratifying experience, but it can also come with frustration if the child isn't ready. Trying some different approaches can help make the process more successful.

When's the Right Time to Teach?

Some children learn to knit around age five or six, but many kids don't have the necessary hand-eye coordination (or attention span) until they're a few years older.

Knowing the child you're working with plays a big part in the teaching process. If they're engaged when they see you knitting and express interest in learning, it's time, no matter their age (though they may still have trouble with their fine motor skills).

If, on the other hand, the main interest in having them learn how to knit comes from you, you may find your student bored, unmotivated, or easily frustrated. Be willing to let go of the lessons for now if they don't seem to be working.

Beginning Lessons

When starting with very young children, some knitting teachers suggest having them begin with finger knitting. This method can be worked on two fingers, or, for more coordinated kids, all four fingers of one hand.

Next, you can try using a knitting knobby (sometimes called a knitting Nancy or a spool knitter), a tool used for making an I-cord. It features a few hooks or pegs that are worked with a pick or crochet hook.

The idea behind starting with these methods is to get the child practice working with yarn and a bit of dexterity that will be useful in handling the needles.


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Supplies for Kids

Wool is the fiber of choice for learning to knit because it's forgiving, easy to work with, and feels nice on the hands. Medium or worsted weight yarn is ideal because it's not too big and not too small.

Good quality acrylic yarn works fine for learning as well, and choosing a light-colored yarn can be helpful to make it easier to see the stitches. Or, if you're using a light-colored pair of needles, you can try darker colors (or let the child pick).

Some people suggest using larger needles than the yarn might call for (up to a size 10 US) for kids because it may be easier for them to hang onto big needles. Bamboo needles are also a practical choice because they're warm and a little easier for both the yarn and little hands to hold.

First Projects

An optimal first project for a child is a simple garter stitch swatch. You may want to cast on for the child, so they can focus on just forming the knit stitches. Once the knit stitch is well established, you can add purling, ribbing, casting on, and binding off.

You'll probably want to teach the child whichever knitting method is most comfortable to you, and remind them that it's normal to feel awkward and make mistakes at first.

The key for both teacher and student is to be patient. Kids tend to pick up things a lot more quickly than adults do, so don't be surprised if your child is comfortable with knitting in no time.

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