Elizabeth teaching from her book, Knitting ABC. 

Photos courtesy of Elizabeth Okeyele. 

In 2012, Elizabeth Okeyele founded Tunnizze Creation, an organization headquartered in her hometown of Lagos, Nigeria, dedicated to teaching handwork to children. Her goal is to teach 20,000 African children to knit and crochet.

Okeyele’s background is in textile technology and she’s a member of the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria where she recently was awarded a professional diploma in education. She is a Craft Yarn Council-certified knitting instructor. She’s also the author of KnittingABC, a book that features 22 patterns for young people to learn from and explore. She’s also one of our Craft Industry Alliance 2023 scholarship recipients.

Today, Okeyele is sharing 9 expert tips for successfully teaching children to knit and crochet gleaned through her many years of teaching crafts to young people. Here’s Elizabeth.

What makes a child love knitting and crochet? After many years, here is the answer I’ve come to: the excitement starts from the happiness they experience while learning to work with their hands and it’s sustained by discovering the many possibilities of what can be made with yarns and some lessons. This excitement is further heightened by having a knitting or crochet teacher who makes those lessons positive, interesting, and enjoyable.

Get children involved

Many kids can learn to knit and crochet sometime between five and eight years old. A rhyme can help with talking about the steps of a knit stitch. One rhyme is “Go through the front door, and around the back, peek through the window, and off jumps Jack!”

From the selection of yarn color and needle type to choosing a project type, get children involved in all aspects of their learning. It’s helpful to choose tools that are easy to work with, worsted weight wool and size 8 needles would be good choices for learning to knit, for example, and self-striping yarn keeps the project interesting. Rather than starting with a scarf which is very long (and boring to knit or crochet) consider having kids make fingerless gloves a headband from rectangles or a hat as a first project.

To make our lessons child-centred we ask participants to choose their own yarn colors and projects. We also ask them who inspires them and who they might like to pass their knitting and crochet skills on to. They also get to choose how to model their finished projects.

We noticed that when we involved kids in the decision-making, they bloomed!

Keep their learning project-based

Project-based learning allows children to demonstrate their capabilities while working independently. They have to problem-solve, communicate, and demonstrate critical thinking skills.

When we asked 20 children recently what they love about their knitting and crochet classes, the majority mentioned the projects they are making. Creating projects and kits that are specifically geared toward children, with skein labels that are child-friendly, can make projects more approachable.

Start simple

Sustaining the interest of children while they learn how to knit and crochet is key! For younger children, we start with finger knitting for the first two lessons and proceed to spool looming before we learn to knit with pins. Finger knitting works with chunky yarns and fingers, providing quick results and children can brainstorm ideas of what to make from chains. Spool looms are simple pre-knitting tools to sustain interests as well. Some children will naturally begin to request to learn to work with knitting needles and crochet hooks as they progress.

It’s absolutely okay if kids want to just knit a few rows and then move on to a new activity. It may be unrealistic to expect young children to focus on knitting for a long stretch. One idea is to work together on a project, alternative turns so that the child knits a row, and then you knit a row. A few weird stitches are probably okay.

Fix what you can so that the project will succeed, but focus on the process of learning together rather than correcting every single mistake. You can also cover imperfections with pompoms, buttons, beads, and flower embellishments.

There are many places to find great teachers

The Craft Yarn Council recommends that new knitters and crocheters use skills charts during lessons as visual aids to support their learning. One time, we had our junior school learners bring their laptops to class to discover new stitches using YouTube tutorials and we were amazed at how many stitches kids experimented with. Encouraging them to explore various stitches and projects through videos on YouTube and craft websites really helps build excitement and improves their learning.

We also recommend Melanie Falick’s classic book, Kids Knitting: Projects for Kids of All Ages, especially for kids who want to continue learning and developing their skills outside of class. And, of course, your local yarn shop is the best resource of all. Stop in and say hello, do some shopping and sign up for a class.

Encourage children to learn from their peers

Large classes with few instructors are a normal occurrence in Nigeria.  Some of the fast learners are eager to volunteer to teach others and can be paired up to help their classmates. This is how I learned to knit at age seven. My friends in grade three taught me to knit with broomsticks!

If properly coordinated, having children learn from their peers shifts the teacher’s role from teaching to guidance, support, and mentoring.

Be generous with praise

It requires effort and persistence to get past the learning curve. For every effort children put into learning to knit, be generous with compliments and praise.

Create for a good cause

Showing children that they can support others through their craft skills is another way to keep them motivated to get past the more challenging parts of the learning curve. From making swatches for Warm Up America to knitting hats for preterm babies, create a list of charities that accept hand-knit items. Discuss with students how they can get involved.

Model finished projects

Sharing the love of knitting starts with you as the teacher. Wear something handmade to show how beautiful knitting can be. One time, I wore a yarn wig to my class!  It generated so much excitement with the children that they went home and shared about it with their parents.

Weave in stories during the lessons

It’s fun to share stories of young knitters and crocheters from around the world, like Jonah Larson, a US-based crochet prodigy. I also like to use giveaways to motivate learning. Leftover yarn balls are a great giveaway.

Hosting an exhibit of knitted and crocheted items and inviting parents to the showcase can also be motivating to get WIPs finished.

Elizabeth Okeyele

Elizabeth Okeyele


Elizabeth Okeyele is a full-time handwork teacher for children with her organization Tunnizze Creation which she founded in 2012—located in Lagos, Nigeria. She has a background in textile technology and Craft Yarn Council-certified knit level 1 and 2 teacher. She enjoys nurturing creativity in children. She and her team have set a goal to reach 20000 African children with the skills of knitting and crochet.  She is the author of a knitting book called, KnittingABC, 22 patterns created for the young to explore.

She freelances as an educational consultant for Haffar Industries Limited, Volunteers from time to time, and loves to speak on children, handwork, creativity, and crafts. You can find her works on her Facebook business page. She’s a member of the Teachers Registration Council In Nigeria. She recently concluded studying for her professional diploma in education and enjoys her scholarship opportunity with Craft Industry Alliance.