Sewing with Preschoolers: felt heart activity

This week, I’m sharing a new tutorial each day to help children develop a love of sewing. If, like me, you are currently facing the demands that COVID-19 has introduced into our lives by juggling childcare and work, you may be looking for ideas of activities to do with your children (I certianly am!) I hope my posts this week give you something useful to share with your children at home, and that nurture a life-long interest in this fabulous hobby.

My daughter has been naturally curious about sewing from a very young age, and when she was three she asked to have a go. So, not entirely sure of my approach, we developed this little activity between us. If you are looking for ways to encourage your children to get into sewing (and us sewists are all so very aware of the many benefits of teaching children to sew), I can attest that this is tried and tested, and works really well.

The first thing to hold in mind is that all children develop differently; my daughter’s fine motor skills have always exceeded her gross motor skills. So holding and manipulating a needle came very naturally to her from a young age (getting up and down a slide in the park was however a completely different matter!) So there is no ‘right or wrong’ for what age and stage children are when they can start enjoy sewing activities.

The other thing to remember is that less is more; to begin with, my daughter would only manage a few stitches here and there before the activity came to a close, and that was absolutely fine. Over time she has been able to concentrate for longer and longer, and her skills are developing organically along with that.

And please don’t get the impression every activity I try goes like a dream; we have plenty of ‘no’ days and general ‘shouty days’ where nothing interests her, just the same as everyone else!

Finally, never leave young children unsupervised with pins and needles and scissors – kind of goes without saying.

Basically, as long as they are safe and happy, its all good.

You will need:

  • Felt
  • Embroidery thread
  • Embroidery needle
  • Scissors

To begin with, I let my daughter choose the felt and thread she wanted, and let her cut the thread while I held it. I threaded up the needle, with a nice big knot in the end, and got her started by passing the needle through the fabric. I then showed her the next step, to poke the needle back the other way, before handing it over to let her have a go.

It can be a tricky concept to keep turning the fabric back and forth, and its highly likely that a few stitches will loop over the edge when your child forgets. Its also very likely that the needle will come off the thread several times as they pull too far. But as long as you are on hand, paying close attention to all that is going on and stepping in gently as required, bit by bit a few stitches shall appear.

So here is one of my daughter’s first pieces of sewing! Like I said, just a few simple stitches and we were all done for the day, but how proud we all felt at the result.

Since then, this has become a regular activity; every time mummy gets her sewing box out I am asked ‘can I do sewing too?’ Now I don’t need to think twice about how to let her get involved, and every time her stitches become a little more accomplished.

I’ve gone on to ‘capture’ each of these little attempts by sewing her stitches onto felt heart backgrounds, and we have a collection of little ‘first sewing’ keepsakes to treasure. I might use my rivet punch to turn them into heart charms and gift them to family at Christmas.

And the activity itself has evolved over time as my daughter has grown. Here she is pinning, snipping and stitching two pieces of felt together…

…and this has introduced her to the concept of sewing fabric pieces together…

And here she is a few months later choosing to stitch one of the hearts I created onto a piece of felt to make a blanket for her dolls.

The finished piece – don’t they look snuggly!

So, whilst we have had different shop-bought toys to encourage threading with the pre-punched holes and laces, in actual fact these have never really appealed to my little girl. Whereas this activity has proven a favourite, and I believe is giving her an introduction to sewing that is authentic whilst encouraging greater choice and opportunity to develop her creativity.

I hope you find it works well with your little ones too.

And if you yourself enjoy sewing, you are very welcome to join my Creative Sewing Challenge. You receive a monthly prompt to inspire your sewing, and I keep everyone updated with ideas and tutorials tied to our theme. Its free, fun and open to anyone. Find out more here or sign up below:

And here’s a handy pin for later…