Over the Easter weekend, I was at my in-laws' farm, with three nephews to entertain. It was snowy and wet out, and we were pretty housebound. My nephews, who are 6, 8, and 10, saw my own knitting project (I was starting my Floe shawl) and asked me if I could teach them to knit. I said yes, thinking that it would probably kill about fifteen minutes, so we dug around in my MIL's sewing table drawers, and were rewarded with some ancient straight needles and some even more ancient yarn. I cast on for them, taught them how to do a stitch, and set them on their way.
The two older boys caught on right away and sat and knitted for several rows, and all I really had to do was fix a few mistakes. The youngest one had a little trouble because his hands were smaller, and he had trouble keeping tension on the yarn as he pulled it through the "old" stitch to make a new stitch, so I made up a story for him: it was about having a fish on a line, and you had to keep pulling the line to get the fish, but the fish pulled harder, and finally the fish got away (and a new stitch was made!). I'm not sure that would make sense to anyone else, but it seemed to make sense to him, and he started to be able to knit right away.
I don't know if there are better ways out there to teach kids to knit, but I also maybe had the advantage that my nephews were really, really interested in learning. The middle one spent the whole rest of the afternoon, evening, and part of the next morning knitting, which was kind of flattering. I didn't think they'd be interested for longer than a few minutes, to be honest. They may not continue to knit forever, but it was a great way to spend a snowy afternoon, and now they've picked up a skill that they could return to later in life.
H keeps asking me to teach her how to knit, but she just doesn't have the motor skills yet. I tried a spool knitter for her, and that was too much for her tiny (but willing!) hands! I might just wait a year or two, but I love how interested she is in knitting right now, because she sees me knitting ALL the time. Have you had any success teaching a very young child to knit? Do you have any tips? I did find this interesting post on finger knitting, so I might try that with H.