I often times find myself having conversations about children learning how to use a sewing machine. In most of these conversations, the thing I hear the most is that the parent themself doesn't know how to sew, but their mom or their grandma does/did and their own generation was skipped. Or, they were once introduced to sewing in Home Economics in middle school, but haven't touched a machine since then. In the end, they have chalked up the loss of learning for themselves, but really want the opportunity for their child. So what is the right age for a child to learn? Trying to find the right age to begin using a sewing machine can be dependent on a few different factors.
Learning how to sew is a technical skill that takes practice and lots of patience, but has a very rewarding outcome. Often, the idea of learning how to sew comes with expectations that a child will walk into class not knowing anything and walk out with a dress they've sewn all by themselves. But, this expectation is far too high. There are many steps and techniques that should be learned with many hours of practice before we can jump into learning how to use a pattern and sew our own piece of clothing. It is important that the child understands that it is hard work and lots of practice! And, if they are willing to put in the work, they will grow to create some really great things!
If you are someone who has your own sewing machine and knows how to use it, then you can ultimately begin to teach your child how to use the machine as early as you see fit. But, if you are a parent who does not know how to use a sewing machine then I have two different approaches to finding the appropriate age for your child to learn how to sew.
The first approach is to learn with them. Learning how to thread a sewing machine, sew a straight stitch and a reverse stitch are the most basic first steps in learning how to use a sewing machine and it is the most important. Threading a sewing machine can be stressful and frustrating in the very beginning, so if both you and your child are learning together, then you can continue to help your child as they progress with their sewing skills. If you plan to learn how to sew with your child, then it is possible that a 7-8yr old and older child would be able to learn these skills.
In my experience, ten years old and older are the most general age range where children can work independently on the sewing machine after being taught how to do the basic techniques. They understand the concepts and can decide which technique is used best for whichever project part they are working on. When you have a deeper understanding of the "why" to a technique, then these ideas tend to lock in to memory easier.
If you are planning to buy a sewing machine for your child, look for an establishment that offers a beginner course that comes with the machine. If the place selling the machine does not offer classes, I highly recommend finding a location near you that offers sewing classes and line those classes up first, BEFORE buying the machine. There is nothing more frustrating for a child then to accept a gift that they don't know how to use. Trying to guess how to use the machine will most likely not end happily. We want to keep their interests peaked and give them the opportunity to use their machine correctly right away.
Children's learning abilities are a huge range. I am not an expert on deciding what age ranges are the best, but I am speaking about my experience when I am working with kids and teaching them sewing in a classroom setting. If you have the time and find a good teacher, then your child can really enjoy this skill! It is very exciting to make your own apparel and accessories. Let me know if you have any specific questions or comments!