by guest blogger and designer Nancy Anderson
Creative activities are essential in a well-rounded kindergarten curriculum. The benefits are numerous and include development of fine motor skills, creative problem solving, eye hand coordination and confidence-building through achievement based activities. Plus they are just plain fun and young children are so eager to try new things.
Our kindergarteners have been working with Red Heart yarn all year and are always eager for the next yarn-y activity. One of our favorite classroom activities is yarn stitchery on burlap. This is the perfect activity as it promotes the fore-mentioned skills but is also very affordable. We are able to purchase burlap for the entire classroom, (24 students) for under $10 and the Red Heart Super Saver yarn is not only affordable but has ample yardage for a plethora of projects. Plus the color choices get an A+ for kid friendliness. We have never met a Super Saver color that we did not like.
So here’s how we do it:
- Red Heart Super Saver in various colors
- Copyright free line drawing of subject matter, (or draw your own)
- Acrylic paint and stenciling brush
- Sharp scissors
- Masking or duct tape
- Plastic tapestry needles (one time purchase as these are reusable)
- Enough burlap to cut 12” x 12” squares, 1 per child (Shortcut Tip: have fabric store clerk cut the yardage in 12” wide strips then cut the lengths into squares using a paper cutter found in most school workrooms.)
- Cut 12 x 12 squares and tape around cut edges to prevent raveling.
- Make design stencil – find desired clip art line drawing. Scale to fit 12 x 12 area and print. Laminate. Cut out design using sharp scissors. (Shortcut tip: instead of using a stencil make a tracer out of an old file folder and trace around shape with indelible marker.)
- Stencil design onto burlap using acrylic paint and stenciling brush. Apply paint using a tamping method, NOT brushing, going around perimeter of design first. This is time-consuming but can be done by helpful room mothers, if need be. Let dry.
- Cut yarn in 18” lengths. Thread needle for each child. Tie the yarn in a tight granny knot around the eye of the needle or you will be constantly re-threading needles. Likewise, tie a large knot at the end of the yarn.
With kindergarteners demonstrations are better than verbal instructions, especially for this type of activity. For optimal results work with small groups of children, when possible, or enlist the help of several adult volunteers.
Once each child has their burlap with the first stitch completed by you, how do they know where to stick the needle next?
Children are instructed to look at the end of the yarn, is it coming out from the front or back of the burlap? Whichever side it is coming out of, they are instructed to skip a small space ahead and stick the needle back down or up through the burlap. So it’s front/front…back/back, (otherwise known as the “stick-stab” method). Once they understand this method they are on their way.
Another small concern is to teach them to control the tension. They are reminded to not pull the yarn too tightly in order to prevent puckering. We get some of this occasionally, despite the instruction, but they are only kindergarteners after all.
When you first introduce this activity there will be a LOT of calling out for help, (mostly to untangle stitches), and you may begin to wonder what possessed you to try such an activity on such a large scale. A little perseverance at the beginning will reap the rewards and they will be stitching like [5 and 6 year old] experts before long. You will still have to thread needles and tie knots for most of them. As with any skill some of the children will perfect the skill faster than others and will possess the ability to help their classmates, (a win-win situation for all involved).
While our class LOVES this activity, this is not the only way we use Red Heart yarn in the classroom. I have also taught a multitude of students to finger-knit. Most of these have been 1st graders and above but I have taught a couple of motivated kindergarteners in our room to finger knit as well. They were able to perfect this skill in a matter of minutes. The trickiest part to finger knitting is saving the live stitches when you have to stop knitting for a while. We use cardstock paper hand cutouts to keep the live stitches safe until next time, (simply transfer the stitches from the child’s fingers to the same fingers on the paper hand. Fold the fingers down and secure with masking tape).
We also have knitting looms and spools available in the classroom. These are used during free-center play and there is usually a queue to use them. However, this activity does require more one-to-one instruction but it can be done and the children love it.
In addition, as a knitter and crocheter, I make things for the classroom that will hopefully inspire and maybe add a little magic and fun to the classroom. Since our class theme is the “minnows”, each child is given a small crochet fish for his or her backpack. Other classroom projects, (this year and in the past), have included such things as puppets, giant window flowers and a chrysalis that morphed into a butterfly.
Finally, having yarn with me in the class room is as necessary as a box of crayons and it fills me with joy when some of my former finger knitting students drop by for a bit of yarn. I am always thrilled to share with the next generation of Red Heart users and hope that these early yarn crafts may inspire a life-long hobby.
All pictures courtesy of Nancy Anderson, from the kindergarten classroom where she is a teaching assistant.