As many of you know, the afternoons in my kindergarten classroom are a very special time for us. During what we call “Exploratory Centers” my students get the opportunity to play, explore, build, create, and develop socially. Our exploration centers normally last anywhere from 25 -45 minutes and are much beloved by my students. When I think through my exploration centers I try to have materials that will speak to all of my students. I have some form of blocks and building objects, a fine motor activity, an open ended art activity, a science activity, and a social studies extension. One of our favorite activities right now is knitting. My boys and girls alike are SO into it!
I have been reading many books lately on the “Waldorf” style of education and have found many of their thoughts and practices to be so inspiring (and important to implement). Rudolph Steiner founded the Waldorf school after World War 1. (This was about the same time that the Montessori and Reggio philosophies also emerged.) One of the practices that he incorporated into his curriculum was teaching “handwork” in ALL grades! In an article written by Patricia Livingston, she stated, “As teachers we must try to help the children become aware of their hands and of the great gifts they bestow on themselves and on others. Their hands need to become skillful, sensitive, and strong so that they can accomplish many wonderful deeds.” (You can read the full article here.)
Teaching handwork not only improves a student’s fine motor skill but also helps them become clear, imaginative thinkers, develop judgement and problem solving skills, and develop a love of beauty.
Now, I will be 100% honest. Before this year, I had never been very good at “handwork” myself. I could not sew a button, could not use a sewing machine well, and had no idea how to knit. However, after reading so many books and articles on the importance of teaching handwork and incorporating it into the classroom, I decided that I would give it a go and teach myself how to use a sewing machine and began loom knitting. I have since developed a LOVE of loom knitting and have created many items for my students to use in our classroom (bean bags, soft books, felt activities, an interactive felt map, and other items which they LOVE.)
How do I incorporate handwork in my classroom?
I started with baking bread. About once a month we bake bread in my classroom. We have made honey wheat bread, pumpkin bread, and other delicious treats. The process of kneading, helps develop my student’s fine motor/handwork skills. Not only does it help develop these muscles, it helps us work together as a team and allows us to enjoy our handwork in a fun way!
After baking bread, I introduced bead work to my students. We also use “loose parts” (A Reggio idea!) to help develop these muscles.
After these lessons, I began teaching a small group of students how to use a knitting fork. They can not get enough of it! The act of knitting calms my students, quiets their minds, and makes them feel so proud of their hard work. It is also truly improving their coloring skills and their handwriting!
My friend Jo from Indigo Inspirations hand paints the most beautiful yarn and is allowing me to give away a knitting fork and hand-painted rainbow ball of yarn for your students to use! Your students will absolutely LOVE this knitting fork and they will “ooohhhh” and “ahhhh” over the magical looking yarn. (My students sure do!!) It is very easy to teach! If you would like a chance to win, simply enter for a chance to win! A winner will be randomly selected on Thanksgiving Day! I know that you and your students will love using it in your classroom!! Good Luck