The children rarely need any encouragement to use Emma’s hand-operated sewing machine and will usually wait very patiently for a turn to make bean bags.  The children choose their own fabric from a large selection of donated offcuts.  The children turn the handle of the machine and, under Emma’s guidance, change the settings so the machine goes backwards or forwards and learn how to lift the ‘foot’ so the fabric can be turned round.  They chose their filling (lentils, black eye beans, wheat) and used a spoon to fill the bag, before sewing up the remaining side.


What do they learn?  As well as patience and turn-taking, it is an activity that requires good listening skills and the ability to understand an instruction.  Listening and paying attention to safety information is essential as the machine has moving parts which could cause an injury.  The children appreciate that it is a ‘real’ activity and that is definitely part of the attraction.  They are usually fascinated by the way the reel turns round, the thread moves and the needle goes up and down and some children like to look inside the machine to watch the mechanism.  The children also practise fine motor skills (snipping thread, filling the bag, moving levers) and gross motor skills (turning the handle).  Then there is the pride and satisfaction gained from making something that you can take home and play with.  It’s fantastic to see their reactions when parents turn up and see what they have made.  Don’t ever underestimate how much your opinion of their creations matters to them.



·         If you have a sewing machine at home, perhaps you could try making something simple with your child, eg, bunting for a bedroom or birthday party.  It’s quite easy to make a simple ‘sleeping bag’ for a soft toy.

·         Other ‘real’ activities might include gardening (planting seeds for the summer or potatoes) or cooking – see below for some recipes.