One year, when I was still in the classroom, I ran a knitting club during lunch. I was surprised to find that many of the students who signed up were boys. More than that – a lot of them were children with learning disabilities or with social/ emotional conditions. Not all of them learned to knit that year, but what they did learn was a great lesson to me as well. The seemingly simple act of spinning yarn into a ball calmed them down almost immediately. I witnessed a room full of children focused, sitting for an extended period of time, and extremely serene.
For whatever reason, handwork is an art that the children aren’t getting enough of in the classrooms. Luckily, at home, we can decide what we’d like our children to practice. Whether in the homeschool setting or in the afterschool hours, handwork, such as knitting, needs to be introduced to children. The therapeutic benefits are just too grand to ignore. However, how can we offer activities such as knitting to a child with fine motor delays? That’s what this post aims to tackle.
Why knitting may be a challenge for children with special needs
- Children with fine motor delays may find the technique demanding to coordinate.
- Children with tactile sensory aversions may find the yarn a difficult texture to manipulate.
Suggestions for adaptations/ modifications for yarn play
- Free exploration. Allow your child to play with strings of yarn in a sensory bin, or simply allow him to play with balls of yarn. If your child struggles with the texture, begin with satin ribbons, then, soft raffia, then rope-like spools. Work your way up to the yarn.
- Wind into a ball. Model how to do this for a few days while your child observes. Then, set-up a small ball for your child, and have him wind the unraveled yarn into a ball. You may need to do this hand-over-hand for a while. Sit behind him while you guide him – encouraging the pincer grasp.
- Create a verbal routine. When winding yarn, you can create a verbal routine like: “Round, and round, and round we go” or sing a short song like “Ring around the Rosie”. Whichever you choose, keep it consistent with this activity.
- Wind around objects. Practice the same skill by winding around familiar objects like blocks and toys. Just ensure that they’re thick and somewhat long.
- Wind around a loom. This time, rather than rolling in circular motion, have your child practice winding sideways around a DIY loom. Also, criss-cross around sticks in a circle. (See images below for explanation). What you want to do is vary the direction the hands go in, even if you’re doing this entirely hand-over-hand like we do. This is, in fact, a pre-finger knitting/ pre-crocheting practice!
- If your child is ready, teach him to finger knit. There are tons of tutorials pinned on Pinterest. Always model first, then hand-over-hand, then let him fly!
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Do you knit? Have you introduced this type of handwork to your child? What tips can you share?
If you need additional tips on how to break down the fine motor practice for your child, I’d love to help you find them.