Intro to Sewing – Sewing Cardboard

As I study Montessori more, I am realizing some areas I haven’t focused on as much at home with my kids. One of them is sewing! I don’t personally sew, so its easy to forget about. We have done some basic threading at home (like with this threading cheese) but no actual sewing. One of the basic sewing activities in the practical life section of a Montessori classroom is sewing cardboard, so it is the perfect activity to start with.

Why do we teach sewing?

Sewing is an excellent way to train fine motor skills in the hand, which is preparation for writing. Small tasks such as threading the needle and tying the knot are difficult for the child and because of that become a point of interest and develop concentration. By developing fine motor skills and concentration now, we are preparing the child to do more complex activities later and building stamina slowly over time so when they start writing they will be able to enjoy it.

How I Made It

I was able to make this activity using materials I had around the house and a few purchases from Daiso. I spent a total of ¥300 to make it because I bought the yarn and needle. Here’s the materials I used:

  • Embroidery needle from Daiso
  • Cotton yarn from Daiso in two colors
  • Empty jewelry box to hold string and sponge
  • Cut sponge as a pin cushion
  • Small tray
  • Cardboard with holes punched in it

I did choose to use a real embroidery needle for this activity. In Montessori we try to give the child authentic experiences with real life objects so they can learn how to use them. If we give plastic needles that aren’t sharp, the child may use them in a way that isn’t safe with a real needle, such as pushing it backwards with the sharp end. By giving a real needle from the beginning, we not only show the child that we trust them to use it carefully but also give them the most authentic experience. I gave this activity to my son who is 3.5 years old and can use scissors safely, so I was confident he could use this needle (which isn’t all that sharp anyway). I could have given this activity to him younger as well. In a Montessori classroom. this activity is the first sewing material introduced as I mentioned which means it could be given from 2.5-3 years old depending on the child.

Cotton yarn, relatively thick so its easier to manipulate than thread.
Embroidery needle, about 7cm long.

Introducing the Activity

When you introduce an activity like this, you will want to demonstrate how to do it first. In Montessori, this is called giving a presentation.

While you give the presentation, you don’t need to explain what you are doing but just let your child watch. Some things to emphasize are:

  • Threading the needle while it is in the cushion
  • Tying the knot at the end of the yarn
  • Pushing down through the hole in the cardboard
  • Flipping the cardboard and pulling the needle through the other side
  • Continuing to thread back and forth until you get to the last hole
  • Cutting the thread and placing the needle back in the cushion

Note: Make sure to punch the holes in the cardboard ahead of time, I just used the same embroidery needle to do it.

You may notice that your child tries to touch the materials while you are showing them. That’s normal! Especially if they aren’t used to being given presentations. Just keep enforcing that you will show them first and then they can do it. Once they are working independently, try not to interfere unless they need help. If they need help with a particular step, tying the knot for example, show them again and then undo it so they can try. If they still can’t do it, you can help them.

For reference, when I introduced this to my son he needed help with threading the needle, tying the knot, and weaving the thread without it getting tangled around the cardboard. So basically all of it! This means it will be something we keep working with until he has mastered it.

If they are able to do all of the steps of the activity with ease, it is time for more something more complicated!

Some Extensions

  • Sewing cardstock with different shapes instead of a straight line. 
  • Sewing on burlap instead of cardboard.
  • Making a sachet bag (like a little pillow with some herbs).
  • Making a tote by sewing the sides and a decoration in the center.
  • Embroidery activities.
  • Weaving activities.

Have you tried sewing with your kids? What are some of their favorite activities?

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