The received wisdom is that a child can’t learn to knit until they are about five or six years old. Maybe a keen child can wrap the yarn around while you make the stitch from about aged 3. So what can an 18month old do?
I didn’t sent out to indoctrinate my kids into the fibre arts quite so soon, but the thing is a swift and ball winder is a mesmerising sight to most adults, let alone a small child. You wrap the skein around the swift, which is a contraption that looks a bit like an umbrella but attached with a clamp to a table. The ball winder is, well, a thing with a handle which you turn to wind the yarn into a ball on a central prong. You set both things up and thread the end of the yarn from the skein through a fiddly little guide into the winder. Then, the magic (in most people’s eyes anyway) happens: when you turn the handle, the yarn starts winding into a ball and automatically spins the swift around in a very exciting and dramatic fashion.
Looking for something different to show my baby boy one day, I put him in his high chair where he could watch the process from safety. He was pretty much chewing his finger nails with boredom until it got going. Then he was practically jumping out of his seat to get his hands on it all. Let’s just say it was a gradual process since the idea of letting a 15month old, who at that age can barely walk let alone talk, loose with my precious stash was a little terrifying.
My now-4-year-old can do the whole thing apart from put the skein on the swift. I’m not risking that yet since I know he would have a lot of fun but I would end up with several hundred metres of rats nest. He started out winding 50m of indestructibly bulky yarn, graduated to Aran, and now if he’s in the mood can easily handle 220m of DK. Occasionally he gets near the really good stuff and helps out with 400m of 4ply, but only if he’s got a glint of woolly enthusiasm in his eye. He can thread it all up, wind steadily, and adores squidging the cake of cuddly yarn that results. I think the occasional skeins of 1200m of lace weight will remain my RSI-inducing problem for a while yet though.
Now my 18mth old daughter’s eyes light up at the prospect of doing something so grown-up as helping mummy wind yarn. I hold her hand on the handle and admittedly make most of the effort, but as far as she’s concerned she’s doing it! And that’s good enough for her. She was definitely sick of big brother getting all the glory.
Not quite knitting? Not yet, but I hope knitting will capture their enthusiasm the same way. Or is it just me that thinks knitting is the most fun you can have with some sticks and string? It’s definitely just as magical.