Handwork is more than just crafting using construction paper and a glue stick. Handwork activities for young kids can help them to learn many things like counting, math, colour coordination, and variation, hand and finger control, finger dexterity, planning skills, grow their attention spans and give them an appreciation for a completed project.
Our culture isn’t one to value these types of activities in favour of many other things. But it is so beneficial for a child to learn these basic hands skills and even perfect a few of them! Studies show that knitting can keep our brains sharp!
Here are 5 handwork activities for young kids that you can easily learn and then teach in your home. You don’t have to be a homeschooler, or even the child’s parent, to teach a child these wonderful skills. I used to love sitting with my Nana while she taught me all sorts of handwork skills!
Finger knitting is a great introduction to knitting for young kids. It takes the hard part of coordinating their hands to use knitting needles away and lets them explore the basic idea of the stitch using their fingers instead.
It’s best to use a chunky yarn so that their small fingers can grasp it easily and it won’t get tangled. A chain is created by the child when they finger knit. This chain can be used to make doll scarves, belts, chunky necklaces, or headbands that the child can enjoy!
Here is a great video that goes over the basics of how to do it.
Wet felting is a favourite activity at our house for both the kids and for me! The kids like it because we usually wet felt over soap which makes all kinds of bubbles that turn into gnome beards. I like it because it’s a “messy” activity that is actually making them CLEAN! Haha! The joke is on them!
Wet felting is the process of taking carded wool and rubbing it with your hands in water until it felts together. Felting is when the fibers of the wool lock together – think shrinking a sweater in the dryer.
The action of your hands rubbing it and going between hot and cold water is what makes the process work.
We like to wet felt over soap to give the bars away as gifts around the holidays. It also makes your soap last longer because the wool allows airflow for it to dry and stops it from sitting directly on the shelf and turning into a goopy mess. Wool is naturally antibacterial so you don’t have to worry about the wool harbouring bacteria like the gross forgotten washcloth from yesterday that’s in the bottom of your tub right now.
Okay, okay, there’s one in my tub, too! Here is a great video about how to do it.
A great way to introduce sewing to children is to put a piece of burlap, or other wide weave fabric, into an embroidery hoop. You can thread a large blunt tip needle with sock weight yarn and they can practice putting the needle in and out.
When they master basic stitches then you can draw shapes for them to follow as they sew. Begin with easy shapes like circles and squares, and then add in more difficult shapes and pictures. My oldest liked to sew the alphabet, one letter at a time!
Weaving on a medium sized piece of cardboard can be fun for many children! You can create a free weaving look using a cereal box by cutting slits into each end and stringing it with yarn. Then the child can get creative about which colours they would like to weave into their piece.
As the child gets older they can experiment by weaving patterns into their pieces as well.
Wheel Friendship Bracelet
I used to LOVE making friendship bracelets when I was a kid. Instead of a lemonade stand, I had a friendship bracelet stand. I’m pretty sure only one nice neighbourhood boy bought one, but I still had SO MUCH FUN making them!
Making friendship bracelets with embroidery thread freehand can be tricky for little hands. But there’s a tool that you can make that will make it easier for them; it’s called a bracelet wheel.
You can make a wheel from the leftover cereal box you used to make the weaving loom above! Below you’ll see that it is a smallish circle with slits cut into it. You’ll want to make it large enough that the child can easily use it, but not so large that they have trouble maneuvering it. I usually make mine about 3”.
Once the child has mastered the basic motion of making a bracelet this way they can even start to add beads to make their bracelet’s more unique.
Here is a video showing you how to do it!
Do you do any handwork activities with your young children? Do they enjoy using their hands to create things? If you could learn a new handwork skill of your own which would it be?