Here at The Yellin Center, we’re always on the lookout for new games or apps that can help kids and teens build up their self-confidence, executive skills, and mindfulness. The “newest” activity taking hold of teens and young adults, however, is actually something many people probably associate with their grandparents. Knitting (and crocheting) has surged in popularity over the last few years, especially among millennials. It’s not uncommon to see commuters stitching away on the subway or even college students knitting while they listen to a lecture. Many young knitters tout it as a stress-reducing hobby that leaves them with a tangible product of their hard work. Educators have begun to look at knitting as a way to help kids engage in a calm, relaxing activity that requires a deep focus and may help decrease feelings of anxiety.
Knitting enthusiasts believe that the craft can help young people engage in mindful thought, which we know is an invaluable tool for growing minds. Some children and young adults don’t respond well to the traditional practice of mindful meditation, which typically requires sitting still, with idle hands. This type of stillness has the potential to increase rather than decrease anxiety for newcomers. When someone is knitting, however, the body and fine muscles are quite active, but the repetitive nature of stitching allows the mind to be both deeply focused and free to wander with its thoughts.
The research on knitting is still emerging, but studies thus far, conducted mostly with adults, have found emotional and psychological benefits of the craft. It has been linked to decreased heart rate and blood pressure, feelings of calmness, and lower emotional distress. Going at it as part of a group, such as with the knitting club written about by Jane Brody in The New York Times, has additional benefits beyond solo knitting, including higher self-reported happiness. School psychologists and teachers are starting to take advantage of knitting’s newfound appeal to begin introducing the practice into the classroom or student support groups. Training the mind to maintain focus on a single activity is a hard feat, and it’s something a lot of students struggle with. Knitting has the potential to improve students’ attention to a task.
Knitting is just one of many hobbies that encourages thoughtful action and deep focus in kids and young adults. Building model planes, taking and editing photos, baking, or another crafty endeavor can lead to similarly positive feelings and a calm, peaceful mind. Knitting is unique, however, in its ability to be taken on-the-go and used in almost any scenario without disturbing others around the crafter.
Photo credit: Derya via flickr cc