Little Arts & Lit: Extra Yarn

charly knits12 Little Arts & Lit is an idea I had for sharing good books and children's crafts. I'll combine children's literature with teaching an art or skill to young kids. It came about rather organically but kind of makes sense for me; creating is something I love. Ever since I had children, finding quality children's books and toys has become another passion of mine. My girls love to read and I love to read to them, particularly if the book is witty, has a good story, or beautiful illustrations. Bonus points if it hits the mark on all three. I love Mo Willems, Dr. Suess (the shorter books, some of those are just. so. long) and Oliver Jeffers.

Another children's author I like is Jon Klassen- his books have beautiful illustrations and are quite clever. A lot of the story is told through the pictures and I love discovering bits about the story with my girls as we study the pictures. I recently discovered a book that he illustrated called Extra Yarn, written by Mac Barnett. It tells the story of a girl who finds a magical box of yarn and begins to knit for herself and the people around her. Slowly her town is filled with color as she knits sweaters for trees and houses and trucks- all from this one box of yarn.

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Of course, a villain appears and the plot thickens, and well, I won't spoil it for you, but you really should read it. The illustrations are my favorite, and the texture of the colorful stocking stitches are so warm and lovely.

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You may recall one of my resolutions for this year was to learn to knit- mainly so I can fill my compulsion to make whilst also watching TV with my man. I've made some progress on that front already but haven't had the guts to share it yet because quite frankly, it's ugly. But I will! I'll share it, I promise. I might just wait until I've made something less ugly that I can share along with it:) All that knitting really sparked Charly's interest and she began saving yarn and string scraps and "knitting" them together herself. My mom was visiting at the time, so naturally Nana had to buy this knitting kit when she saw it.

And this idea was born- Little Arts & Lit. I love the idea of combining stories with teaching crafts or skills. I know I've got at least one more book/craft to add to the series, so if nothing else this will be a 2 part thing, but I'm hoping that I'll be able to continue this series as I find more beautiful books to introduce arts to my children.

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Charly LOVES the story of Annabelle in Extra Yarn. I was nervous about teaching her to knit because a) I just learned myself, and b) it takes a lot of coordination and patience. The kit Charly received had a recommended age of 8+, but with a few tips this is a skill that younger children can acquire. Charly is 4, but has particularly great fine motor skills and a good attention span for sit-down activities. Obviously the temperament of your child is more important to note than their age when trying to teach something like knitting. Some 8 year olds would have a hard time focusing enough to make any progress knitting, so know your kid!

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A few tips that helped us when starting out...

  • Rhyme Time! I found a little rhyme to teach each step of the knit stitch on this post. "In through the front door, around the back, out through the window, and off jumps Jack!" When Charly forgets a step I remind her by repeating that part of the rhyme, and it works like a charm! That post on Imagination Soup also has other great tips worth checking out.
  • Cast on first. Until they really get the hang of knitting, it simplifies things to do this step for them. Same goes with casting off, but we haven't gotten to that point yet.
  • Color is your friend. Our kit came with 5 or so colors of yarn, and Charly LOVES being able to dictate the creative direction of the project by choosing colors. We've got tons of tails to weave in when we finish, but the point is to have fun, not have a perfect finished product. It's process art! Half a row of pink, then switch to red? Sure thing!
  • Follow their lead. This should go without saying, but too often I've tried to finish a certain amount of some craft or another and in the process I totally lose her. Knitting is something that is easy to put down and pick back up later, so gauge their interest and follow suit. I'll ask Charly from time to time "do you want to finish this row, or are you ready to be done? Do you want to do one more?" We've been working in short 10-20 minute sessions. She decides when she's done and we all end up happy.
  • Limit distractions. Knitting has become our special thing that we do in that time after Caroline goes to bed and before it's time for Charly to go down. This means no sister pulling out all the yarn or needing attention, no dinner to be made, no toys to clean up. It's a great wind down activity and gives us something better than watching TV to do together in that little bit of time before bed.
  • It's better together. All too often I'm tempted to run and do something when she's occupied with a project, but this is a great time to work together. For the first while we literally did every stitch together, with my hands on hers repeating the rhyme together as we worked. Now she can do the stitches mostly on her own, but I sit with her to help pick up dropped stitches and remind her when she's missed something. Doing it together will also help prevent frustration at tangled yarn or skipped stitches. Plus bonding! Warm fuzzies!

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You can see we've made just a little progress so far, but Charly is excited to make a blanket for her little princess dolls so this one should be done with just a few more rows, and likely 5 more colors :)

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This is her "silly nose face"!

Has anyone else ever tried knitting with kids? Or have a children's author that you just love? Do share!