I have two of them. Kids that is. The oldest one is much like other 3.5 year olds and wants to try lots of practical life activities. She sees a lot of sewing going on around here and she asks me to sew often. It is difficult to find time to sit with a needle and thread having a very busy baby around too, but this week we found a quiet little moment.
She loves to do it "all by herself" and sits right on my lap and lets me hold the fabric while she sews. I am brave and she is cautious so we go for it with the real needles of the proper size and pins and tiny sharp embroidery scissors and everything dangerous that would never appear in a "kids" sewing kit. This is more my style, but probably not right for all parents. As she has grown and wanted to do more herself I generally let her try, so sewing is no different. She amazes me every time with her patience, focus, and precision.
This project was a small pillow for her sister. It had to be just like her special "pillowie" that she sleeps with every night, thus required ball fringe around the border. First, I attached the ball fringe by machine to one side of the little square of fabric. She sat on my lap at the machine and asked questions and helped remove pins. Then, off to the couch to cuddle and sew.
She sews pretty much unassisted; from picking out fabric, sewing the seams, stuffing the pillow, to closing up her little sisters new special "pillowie". I am able to help thread her needle, hold the fabric, and offer her some direction, but that is about it.
When it comes to sewing with kids who are ready for a real needle and thread, here are a couple of tips:
1. Sew a line of stitching around the projects where the seams will go on both pieces. Use a contrasting thread that won't show too much when closed up. It creates a really nice guide to follow as they sew.
2. Use real tools. Kids love to use the real materials of life. If they are too young for the super sharp stuff or you are not quite ready to find out if they are really ready, try a metal needle that is less sharp and an open weave fabric.
3. Make it a real project. A small doll, a little pillow, something they will love to have or give.
4. Let them be close to you when you sew. Chances are they won't touch a hot iron or stick their finger under the needle of the sewing machine. You can always let them touch the iron as it warms up to feel the heat and put their finger on the point of a needle. Kids learn from trying things and a little freedom really quickly.
Soon they will be making doll clothes and simple toys for their friends and siblings all while you sit near them and work away at your own projects in the same room happily chatting and creating together (can you tell I have a vision of my future).