One recent afternoon, a large group of children started finger knitting. When I asked the children what inspired their choice, I was told, “they were experts in finger knitting,” liked the process, and wanted to explore knitting again with some new yarn a friend had brought from home. The work, focused on creating long thin chains of yarn and the children said they were trying, “to beat a world record.” Through their work, the children demonstrated the methods of finger knitting as the chains grew longer and longer.
Often, children have skills or interests that we do not know about. I was not aware a large group of children possessed a skill and interest in finger knitting. We have yarn available in the program, but the children were not using it for finger knitting. Through observation and being open to the children’s ideas, this created the opportunity to collaborate and support their re-kindled interest in finger knitting. This created an opportunity for children who have never tried finger knitting, to learn from the children who already have acquired this skill. Moments like this help build our learning community.
Since the children mentioned breaking the world record, for fun we decided to look up the current record holders. Looking online, I found the group finger knitting world record is 66,437 feet, took one year to complete, and is held by a group of 42 children from the Netherlands. The individual record is held by Sofie Myking Veseth of Norway and measures 63,548 feet and took her two years to knit. The children thought those numbers were amazing, hard to comprehend, and kept on knitting.
The children were enjoying the process of finger knitting and no one was actually concerned about world records. The child who mentioned the record was excited about knitting and was verbalizing the energy the work was providing the group. Children when excited about the work they are doing are more verbal, and socializing is a big part of the work itself. The children shout out ideas and wonderings all the time as they work. These ideas enhance the experience for the group and lead to further exploration and social connection.
The next day, one child pulled a new skein of multicolored yarn from his backpack and started finger knitting. The child created three long chains out of the red, brown, green, and gold yarn then set them aside. Then the child tied them together and said, “This is my triple.” Next, the child invited three other children to grab one end of the triple and together pull the three chains of yarn. The finger knitting was strong and did not pull apart. This appeared to be a strength test, but no explanation was offered when I asked. Then the child went back to creating new strands and offering to teach others how to finger knit.
The elementary children have goals and ideas they are working on that are not always shared freely with the educators. As I sat and watched the entire work session I was not offered any insight into the process. I could ask questions about “how” something was being done by the “why” remained a mystery during this entire work session. It made me wonder why they were pulling on the yarn. I could guess, but making assumptions about the children’s work and motivation is not authentic or valuable like having a real conversation with the creator.
By watching other children work from afar, the oldest children in the program became interested in finger knitting. On day three of my observation, the older children started using most of their free time for knitting. The older children experimented with different types and colors of yarn. One of the challenges for the older children was improving their knot making skills so the finished work would stay together. At the same time the older children became interested in creating a yarn ball. They discovered one yarn ball, and became very interested in how it is made. The older children were using a traditional skein of yarn to knit. Occasionally the skein would become a tangled mess and the older children realized a yarn ball would help with this challenge. I showed them how to start a yarn ball and encouraged them to try it. One child shared their first attempt, and as I was watching is still working on mastering this skill.
During the journey of learning a new skill children discover new ways of undertaking their work. As the children become proficient in the initial skill they are trying to acquire, then they investigate deeper into the next phase of the work. The children frequently face challenges during their work and can become distracted by the problem. Our role as an educator is to guide them past these bumps in the road with ideas and methods that encourage the work to move forward.
As quickly as finger knitting became popular it vanished into the unknown, but the story did not end. The children still finger knit. The techniques they learned are used occasionally. Every once in a while, I notice children sitting in the corner with a ball of colorful yarn, moving their fingers, talking, and creating long thin chains by repeatedly moving their fingers. In the learning community, the skills children acquire are always available to create new possibilities and future work.