6 Tips for Raising a Maker
Let me be the first to tell you I’m not an expert in parenting (far from it), but I did happen to make a pretty awesome maker. In our digital age, when it seems like kids have cell phones before they can walk, I think raising a maker is a rather special accomplishment.
So how did I do it?
Sometimes I think it was entirely by chance; other times I look back at my kids’ younger years and recognize there were things I did that made them makers. My daughter Lauren, 14 years old and the youngest of 3, is my craftiest kid. She knits, crochets, sews, and draws, and agreed to let me share these photos with you along with details on how I’ve raised her to be a maker.
1. START THEM YOUNG
It’s a pet peeve of mine when I hear adults say, “oh, I’m just not crafty.” I firmly believe anyone can learn to make things with their hands; someone just needs to show them how. I set out to teach my kids that they could make things as soon as they had the dexterity to hold tools in their hands. Lauren was introduced to knitting needles and crochet hooks around the time she was learning to properly hold a pencil and write the alphabet.
You can ease little ones into knitting as follows: Start with a basic garter stitch scarf, be okay with no 2 rows having the same stitch count, and accept the scarf will probably never be finished. It’s more about the act of making than the finished object when they’re little. Once they show an interest in working on something start to finish, You Can Knit by Stephanie White is a great book to get a tween or teen introduced to knitting.
2. DON’T DUMB IT DOWN
Another thing I’ve always done with my kids is to use and teach them the right terminology for the craft they’re learning. Kids are smart and they’re sponges for information. There’s no reason to dumb things down. We don’t put the stick in the hole; the needle goes in the stitch.
The importance of teaching kids the language of craft was reinforced for me last summer when Lauren started taking drawing lessons with a local artist. After her first lesson, her teacher said how much she loved that she could talk to Lauren as if she were a college student taking an art class, not the young soon-to-be 8th grader she was at the time. She knew what it meant to shade and contour, even if she wasn’t quite sure how to do it.
I’ve knit Lauren a few pairs of mittens over the years and her favorite pair is a thrummed set where she helped: she made the thrums for me. As I showed her how to make thrums, I also showed her all the parts of a mitten. She learned what all the parts are called from the cuff to the thumb gusset, and she learned that thrums she made will felt over time to provide extra warmth. If you’re looking for a fun thrummed mitten pattern, Kate Atherley shares a great how-to in her soon-to-be-released book, Knit Mitts. It also happens to include an entire section on sizing mittens for kids!
3. ENCOURAGE CURIOSITY
It’s a bit cliché, I know, but it’s true; you need to encourage kids’ curiosity around crafting. When you’re doing something you love and a kid wants to know what you’re doing, show them! Let them feel the yarn, put the needles in their hands, ask them to throw the yarn for you on a couple stitches—make crafting feel accessible to them.
This goes for anyone interacting with kids while they craft, not just parents. I was knitting a sock in an airport terminal while waiting for a flight when I heard this voice from a few aisles over say, “Mom, what’s that lady doing?” I replied, “I’m knitting a sock. If it’s okay with your mom, would you like to see?” He shouted “MOM, SHE’S MAKING A SOCK!! How is she doing that?” The little boy came over to see what I was doing up close then ran back to his mom and again shouted about my sock-making. I’m convinced that boy will someday knit a pair of socks himself.
Anytime Lauren has been inquisitive about my making, I welcome her into trying it for herself. That usually means I have to stop what I’m going and let her experiment, but that’s okay. It’s part of the process when you’re raising a maker.
4. DON’T KEEP CRAP
If you’re doing it right, you’re starting them young and you’re encouraging them every chance you get, you might end up with a lot of, shall we say, less than stellar items made by kids’ cute little hands. I’ve taught my kids that if everything is special, then nothing is really special. So, we don’t keep everything. We keep the things they’ve put their hearts into and they’re okay with it!
5. SHARE CRAFTING SPACES
Whether it’s the local yarn shop or your personal studio space, I think it’s important to share sacred crafting spaces with kids. You don’t need to take them every time—I get that places become sacred to mamas because they allow for a few kid-free hours. However, in the interest of raising a maker, you need to show them how awesome these spots are and why.
Lauren has learned over the years that when we go on a family vacation, I’m going to drag her to the LYS in the area. She was actually mad recently when I went to the grand opening of The Black Purl and didn’t take her.
When I had a working jewelry studio, Lauren spent countless hours crafting with me and meeting other makers.
6. KNIT & HOPE
In the end, when raising a maker, the one thing I’ve done more than any other is knit and hope. I’m always knitting (or crocheting, or weaving, or sewing) and my kids see that. I’m showing them that you can still make with your hands despite working full time, managing a household, and keeping up with 3 busy kids. I hope by the time they’re my age, with families of their own, that they’ll model the same behavior for their kids.
I would love to hear if you’ve raised a maker. Do you have any thoughts to share on how you’re doing it? Please tell us in the comments below!
Editorial Director, Books
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