Friday, April 10, 2015

Wallets Crafted by Kids!

Sewing Activity for Kids ~ Customized Wallets

Early Childhood Activity to Refine Fine Motor Skills

For years, I have been teaching kids basic stitches with large needles, and sure enough, my students have shown remarkable progress in their fine motor skills within weeks.  I find that foam sheets are a great start to introducing basic sewing stitches as it does not take much effort to push a needle through this flexible material.  Using large plastic needles are great, but children also work just as well, if not better, with the largest needles found in an assorted needle kit.  This has been a successful and demanding activity for all students in my Montessori studio with children ages 3 through 6.  For the best results, I recommend this lesson to be taught in small groups or individually when being introduced for the first time.  This definitely needs some prep time and takes patience.  I usually give myself 15 minutes of prep time to get a few wallets started for sewing. 

Preparing Foam Sheet Wallets for Kids to Begin Sewing

  • Cut foam sheets into rectangles just small enough to fit in a child's pocket.  Choose multiple colors to give your students options.  I usually offer two different colored rectangles of the same size to choose from for the child to stitch together.
  • Cut out a long and narrow trapezoid on the long edge of one rectangle per wallet as seen in the image below.
  • Offer multiple colors of thread to choose from.  I find that embroidery thread is perfect for the larger needles.
  • Prepare threaded needles for younger students who have not yet been taught how to thread a needle.  I usually measure my thread at least 2 feet long before threading it.  
  • Layer your rectangles and begin a basic stitch such as the running stitch or overcast stitch, knotting the thread off just as I have below.  Most of my students do not yet know how to knot, so this gives them a head start.  
  • Draw a line for children to stitch along with a sharpie, about a half inch around, leaving the end with the trapezoid cut-out shape as the opening of the wallet.  You can either show the child how to stitch along the line by demonstrating about a half inch between each stitch or to make it even easier, you could make a dotted line instead.

Beginners Sewing Lesson to Make Customized Foam Wallets

  • Be sure to have prepared extra wallets; one for you and one for each child.  Have the children watch you sew an entire wallet before offering them to choose their own.
  • Give a rundown on safety with needles.  If you are a teacher, be sure to check with your school if needles are permitted.  We like to use felt sheets or rugs to place under the wallets for the child to push the needle into the soft surface.  Most children prefer working on the floor on a rug.  This is a great way to prevent them from encouraging them to hold the wallet in their hands and accidentally poking their fingers with the needle.
  • Demonstrate a running stitch and/or an overcast stitch.  An overcast stitch is what I typically show, since you never have to flip the wallet over.  I usually say something like this:  "Push the needle down into the line/dotted line, pull the needle and thread all the way through, and push it back into the line with a fingertip of space in between (or if the lines are dotted, show the child to go into the dotted line).  If you want to be more playful, you could treat the needle as the head of a snake or worm, and instead of telling your student to push into the foam with the needle, you could say "burrow the worm into the ground, pull his body all the way through, and dig another whole along the line/on the next closest dot."  
  • My students sometimes go back and forth between different types of stitching, and this is perfectly fine in my book, since they are just beginning to learn.  You will need to be available to them sometimes to show them how to get "unstuck" when they forget to pull the needle and thread "all the way through."
  • When the child has finished, knot the end for them and cut the extra thread off.  
  • Offer markers for coloring and customizing their wallets.

It's okay for beginners to go back and forth between basic stitches.  The whole point of this lesson is t to begin building coordination and it isn't easy at first.  

Some of the results might look a little muddy-- err, "abstract" is a better word, but the children take pride in building something functional :)

I hope this was helpful.  Please ask questions if I was unclear on something!  

I will warn you that if the child pulls the thread too hard through the foam that the foam could tear.  Have extra foam available for them to try again as we don't want to discourage them.  I find that when young children begin using a needle with thread, it forces their little finger to hold the needle in a way that compliments the way that we hold a pencil to write.  My students who have struggled with holding pencils have gained coordination through sewing, showing much improvement in holding their pencils, markers, and crayons.  

I hope this was helpful!
Angelique Bowman

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