Even Toddlers Can Sew!

Like most parents, I’m keenly aware of my child’s strengths (and weaknesses, but we’re not going there today!), and N happens to be one of those people who is comfortable with fine motor activities. So, I thought it was high time to give her a little sewing project since she seems ready for it. This easy sewing activity came together quickly using materials that we found around the house. I’m not sure where I first got this idea from, so I’ve gathered a bunch of good resources for you and added them at the end of this post. It’s very likely that each of these fine blogs has played a role in this project, and I humbly add my version to the mix.

Here’s what we used to make it happen…

  • Cardboard Box (recycled from a package)
  • Mesh from a bag of sweet potatoes
  • Stapler
  • Scissors
  • Exacto knife
  • Embroidery Needle (They’re big, with big eyes, and perfect for small hands. You can also get them with blunt tips.)
  • Embroidery Thread (yarn would also work well)

I cut the cardboard box using scissors and an Exacto knife. If you don’t have an Exacto, you could most likely use scissors. The piece of mesh is about 1.5 inches larger in width and length than the piece of cardboard, and we pulled it taught and stapled it down.

We had lots of colors to choose from.

 

I gave a brief demonstration on how to pull stitches through the fabric and then held the frame while my daughter practiced her first stitches. The mesh was super for this on multiple levels: it’s strong and could withstand a lot of tugging, and it’s “transparent” which allowed N to really see what she was doing.

 

A little practice and then she was on her own. She picked up on it pretty quickly, although she wasn’t the least bit interested in following any dusty old sewing rules, and happily wrapped her stitches around the frame.

Thanks for all the comments. Congratulations to lucky #14…a winner has been selected!

Comments

  1. says

    Great timing! I’ve been mulling over how to do just this–I was thinking of getting some burlap, but we have the mesh from the tops of clementine boxes and that will work perfectly and right away. My 2yo asked to sew after the nice owner of our local sewing store gave her a fat quarter. She wants to make pants out of it :) but I think she’ll be okay with starting with a blunt needle and embroidery floss!

    No need to enter us either–loads of sewing materials over here, too!

      • says

        She had a blast and was very excited about it all. I picked up some burlap and Monk’s cloth because I figured the boys would be interested in trying, too, and when/if G progresses beyond the open webbing, it seems like a good progression. N has a sewing project he started a while ago and asked about it, so I think we’ll be doing some sewing over February break!

        • rachelle says

          Thanks for the update, Amy! I’ve been thinking about the progression, too, as I can already see that potato sacks will only be interesting for so long. Monk’s cloth?! Shamefully, I studied costume design in college and I have never heard of it. Now I know it’s “a heavy cloth, as of cotton, with a basket weave, used for drapes, etc.” And I suppose it was used to make monks’ clothing at one point!

          • says

            I’d never heard of it either. It was over by the utility fabrics, though, and it had a closer weave than burlap but still visible holes. Apparently it’s used for cross-stitch? Or something similar? It’s very soft (the one I bought was 100% cotton) and not sheddy, like burlap. I thought it would work out well on the continuum of embroidery!

  2. Jennifer S says

    This is brilliant! In addition to doing projects with my own three children I teach art to preschoolers through 6th graders at a private school. My classroom budget is very tight so I am always looking for projects that use recycled or inexpensive materials. We will definitely be doing this! Thanks so much.

    • rachelle says

      I love, love, love recycled (and inexpensive) materials. It’s so important to teach children about the virtues of reusing and recycling. When I taught art, I was quick to find inexpensive tricks like using meat-packing trays for printmaking. I’m so glad you’re here :)

  3. says

    YOU ARE GENIUS!! I have been trying to device a way for my daughter to “practice” when I mend clothes because she is always so interested in the process that I can’t get through it between the little head getting in the perfect position to block my view, to the little torso making it impossible to move my arm and she leans in, to little hands trying to grab the needle or thread as she murmurs “here, mom, let me try”. This is going to be filed under Cunning Distractions. Thank you thank you thank you!

    • rachelle says

      Haha! I’ll gladly accept your kind accolades, but I honestly can’t take the credit for this. Thanks to YOU, I’ve just added a “Cunning Distractions” file to box.

  4. JenChris says

    Have you tried Styrofoam trays? You can “poke” holes all around the edge first and have the kidlets sew with regular yarn and an embroidery needle. We’d love an embroidery hoop though so we can experiment with our leftover sweet potato bags. Thanks for the ideas.

  5. says

    I might be boring, but I taught my kids on muslin, and they loved it. It also enabled them to see which side of the fabric they were on for backstitch and double running stitch, which is kind of important.

    They love sewing on felt shapes, then sewing them together (and filling with beans or corn) to make beanbags, paperweights and hot/cold packs. They made a bunch for their dad for Christmas!

    • rachelle says

      Boring? No, not at all! I was actually thinking that you may have more faith in your childrens’ abilities than I do :) Kidding aside, how old were your kids when you taught them to sew with muslin? Seeing how my daughter fared with the fat, open weave of the mesh, I imagine that muslin is still a little ways off for her. But maybe I’m selling her short and we’ll just have to try it!!

  6. says

    pretty cool. it would be great for my baby girl to try it too. i love the use of household objects. have been thinking to put some artwork with embroidery hoops we collected from thrift store.

  7. Chelsea says

    Okay, I think we’re ready to sew! I realized today that we don’t even have yarn in my house, much less thread, so I think I’d better enter to win some from you :)

  8. Ruth says

    I love this. I’ve just recently discovered your site and can’t wait to try out some of the activities with my two tear old. They are cheap, fun and develop skills and knowledge. Thank you.

    • rachelle says

      Ruth! I’m so glad you found us, and are now part of the community. Welcome! You’ll have to let me know what your 2 yo thinks.

  9. says

    Count me in! I just found your blog today and I know my daughter would love this. She’s three years old and just starting to show interest in fine motor activities like this.

  10. says

    I am actually a new reader, but am totally in love with your site. I would use this with my daughter, she loves to watch my mother sew and I know she would love to have her own set!

  11. says

    When she’s a bit more advanced, try felted sweater scraps! A tapestry needle slides easily through. My 3 year old loves this. I can’t wait to try the other ideas!

  12. says

    Neat !!
    I have so many of those mesh bags saved up in anticipation (for arts & craft projects, shell and acorn collection). Great way to get my 2 1/2 yr old away from my sewing and hone his fine motor skills!

  13. Melissa says

    Thank you for giving me a great way to introduce sewing to my 3 year old! I’ve been trying to find a way for her to feel like she’s actually sewing, without it being too “baby” for her! :)

    • rachelle says

      thanks for the comment, Mellissa! I hope you girls have fun with this and that she enjoys it. I’ve since tried the shelf liner and it works great too!

  14. Liz Carveth says

    Love your site and love this  this.I’m going to try this with my Artabugs W4ArtClub Workshops for 16months+ but using both yarns and threads but maybe also thin strips of fabric.NB  I always offer a twisted pipe cleaner to toddlers  as a ‘needle’ when threading beads for H+S and then encourage them to  ‘thread’ their own needles and take responsibility choice of materials as well as design.

  15. Rebecca says

    Thank you for this!
    My 3 year old is always trying to “help” me doing my cross stitch – now she can do her own : )

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