Kids these days generally get a lot of practice with hand-eye coordination in the form of videogames, but it’s not quite the same as doing more tangible activities, like learning to play catch, drawing in a sketchbook, or making crafts. Knitting is one of those skills that can fill this need and can easily be learned by kids, even in early elementary school. Waldorf schools, for example, teach kids how to knit in the first grade.
The We Are Knitters folks have put together a kit for kids to learn how to knit called the Dinka Scarf for Kids kit. Once kids complete the kit, they will have a scarf of their very own that they knit themselves. The kit comes with chunky yarn and large knitting needles, which makes it easier for small hands to hold and manipulate. There is also a sheet of fun stickers, and an instruction booklet aimed toward kids explaining how to knit and specifically how to knit the pattern for a very simple scarf.
I’ve gotten We Are Knitters kits before, and their materials and tools are of very high quality. How did this latest one compare? Quite well, with one exception. Keep reading.
First of all, a parts list. Inside the paper kit bag comes:
- 1-200g yarn ball of 100% Peruvian wool (your choice of color – I chose Honey)
- US 19 (15mm) wood knitting needles
- Knitting pattern
- Two metal craft needles of different sizes
- Embroidered We Are Knitters label
- Fun sticker sheet
How It Compares to We Are Knitters Regular Kits
This kit was pretty similar to the non-kid-oriented kits I’ve tried, with a few minor differences. The other kits didn’t have sticker sheets, and the instructions for the other kits were much less in depth. Regular kits assume you know some amount of knitting basics, or that you can learn them quickly. The Dinka Scarf for Kids kit goes into more depth with step-by-step instructions and diagrams on how to cast on stitches, how to knit the garter stitch, and how to cast off and finish the scarf. (They don’t address purling.)
The garter stitch, while not the prettiest knitting pattern, is definitely the easiest to do. Knitters simply knit straight across, turn, and knit straight across again. This shows alternating rows of the front and back of the knit stitches.
Every bit of yarn and fiber that I’ve seen from We Are Knitters is lovely. But the wool that comes with this kit isn’t tightly twisted and is a one-ply that looks like a cross between yarn and roving. So it’s quite easy to split the yarn strand with the knitting needles, which may make the learning-to-knit experience a little trickier. Encourage your children to knit slowly, especially at first. Plus wool will felt, so try not to undo stitches too many times.
It sounds like We Are Knitters put some extra effort into creating instructions for kids that will not only look more kid-friendly but be easier for kids to learn from. But did they succeed? The pamphlet is very attractive with clear drawings, but the way it said to cast on wasn’t at all intuitive for me (and quite different from how I do it), but it does work. The knitting instructions have clear drawings as well, but suggest winding the yarn around in the opposite direction from how I do it, and at one point they say to drop the yarn from the right needle when I think they meant the left one. The casting off instructions, though, are quite clear and easy to understand.
The instructions require enough intuitive leaps that new-to-knitting kids would need an adult or someone with knitting experience to help them through it the first time or two. Then they could manage it on their own. But the instructions could have done with some beta testing by some people new to knitting.
How Easy Is It for Kids?
I could only truly evaluate the kit from the perspective of someone who already knows how to knit, so I also enlisted my 14-year-old son’s help, since he’s the only person in the house who doesn’t already have this skill. He’s good at following directions, though, so I thought it would be a good test.
So, I handed my son all of the materials, tools, and instructions, and said, “See what you can figure out on your own, and then I’ll help you.” He started reading, and was lost pretty much immediately, right from the casting on instructions. He was starting from a place of knowing what knitting looks like but having zero knowledge of the actual mechanics involved. So, while the instructions are more detailed than the ones in the usual kits, any child (or adult) without previous knitting experience will likely need some guidance.
Once I showed my son how to cast on, however, he found it easier. He also picked up the knitting pretty quickly after I showed him that too, but the instructions in the booklet were confusing to him. So, know your audience. If you know how to knit and can be there with your kids, you could consider one of the regular knitting kits (unless the kids really want the sticker sheet). Otherwise, especially if you’re giving it as a gift to someone outside your family, the kit for kids is a good idea, but I also recommend having them watch some YouTube videos on how to cast on, cast off, and do the knit stitch.
In the end, though my son picked up knitting extremely quickly, he thought that doing 116 rows of the knitting would be “arduous” (his word), so I let him off the
hook knitting needle and worked up the scarf myself in a more interesting stitch than the recommended garter stitch. I used the stockinette stitch (*knit across, turn, purl across, turn, repeat from *) and then doubled over the scarf so only the knit side showed. I then sewed down the length of the scarf and closed both ends. This helped hide any curling of the scarf, and amounted to a short but squishy scarf that was still quite easy to knit.
Once you get kids oriented to the skill, though, they’ll be knitting independently pretty quickly. Muscle memory is a wonderful thing.
The Dinka Scarf pattern is a fantastic one for kids to get started with. It’s simple with only one stitch, uses large needles and bulky yarn, and only has eight stitches per row, so kids will see progress fast. The 116 suggested rows sound like a lot, but they will go quickly once kids get started. If your kids are older and want to mix it up a bit, you can also teach them the purl stitch to combine with the knit stitch for any number of interesting patterns.
Get Kids Making
In the end, however you get kids knitting or creating, get them using their hands. It helps develop motor skills, coordination, math skills, hobbies, and it can even be relaxing. Plus, they’re making something physical, something tangible, which is important in this day and age of All Screens, All the Time.
Any of the We Are Knitters beginner kits would be great for kids to learn on, especially if there was a more seasoned knitter nearby to help with technical support and getting started. This kit for kids is a solid choice, especially if you’re giving it as a gift (and can recommend some YouTube help). But, if you’re willing to sit with your child and help them learn, any of the beginner kits will do just fine.
I encourage parents and grandparents out there to knit or craft with their child or grandchild. You’ll be setting a good example while creating something with your own hands. I’m looking at you, dads, as well as the moms.
The price of the Dinka Scarf for Kids kit is a bit high ($55) for my taste, but the company says that is because effort went into developing the instruction booklet (and, I’m guessing, the sticker sheet!). Plus, the craft needles included in this kit are two in number, instead of the one I received in previous kits, and they are metal and in different sizes. (The previous We Are Knitters kits I tried came with one plastic craft needle.) Not to mention the quality of their yarn and knitting needles is high.
If you enjoy making things with your hands and can help your children learn, check out the We Are Knitters beginner kits, and particularly the Dinka Scarf for Kids kit. You may end up receiving scarves for your next holiday gift!
Note: I received a kit for review purposes. All obsessions with crafting are lifelong and entirely my own.