Basic Kid Needlepoint

Art, Kids
Girl working on flamingo needlepoint

Introducing basic kid needlepoint opens a world of new crafting adventures. Adult needlepoint projects involve embroidery thread (floss), a thin needle and soft canvas with tiny holes; an impossible combination for young kiddos’ little hands. However, changing the materials to yarn, a large blunt needle and firm plastic canvas makes basic kid needlepoint manageable and enjoyable.

My mom (Gigi) taught me to needlepoint and we’ve tackled all sorts of projects over the years, from cross-stitched wall art to winter village houses from. Gigi and I love passing on our needlepoint hobby to my kids. With some practice, the kids learned basic stitches. My 6-year old daughter is now able to needlepoint by herself and has created a variety of projects, ranging from simple smiley faces to a house.

Introducing needlepoint to child working on winter village

For experienced needlepointers, set the child up for success by showing them the stitches, provide age-appropriate supplies, let them experiment and get ready to be patient. If you’re a needlepoint novice, work on the basics with your kiddo and experiment as you learn together.

If you’re looking for more art activities with kids, check out:

This post contains affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission if you make a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost to you. As an Amazon Associate and Mary Maxim affiliate, we earn from qualifying purchases. Thanks for your support!

Early Needlepoint Skill Practice for Toddlers

As toddlers, my kiddos worked on the basic needlepoint action – putting something into a hole – as a basic fine-motor activity. Not only is threading a great developmental skill, it’s also fun. My kiddos loved lacing beads and lacing cards.

Basic kid needlepoint using DIY lacing card

Make a DIY lacing card by punching holes in a piece of cardboard. Use a shoelace to thread up and down through the card and loop over the edges. Yarn is a great alternative if you don’t have an extra shoelace hanging around. Droopy yarn can be difficult to feed through a hole and can ravel. To prevent raveling and give structure, wrap the last 1/2″ with painter’s tape or clear office tape to create a “needle.” As the child grows, number or letter the holes to create a hands-on dot-to-dot.

Threading pony beads onto a pipe cleaner is also great practice for needlepoint. “Knot” the end of the pipe cleaner by twisting the pipe cleaner around the end bead. To make a bracelet, untwist the secured end and connect it to the free end.

Try another variation with Cheerios and yarn. Like with the DIY lacing card, tape the last 1/2″ of the yarn for easier threading.

Needlepoint For School-Age Kids

Around age 4, my kids first attempted needlepoint with a blunt plastic needle, plastic mesh canvas and yarn – large sized versions of adult needlepoint supplies. To start, the kids watched me stitching as I explained the process and goal. Then, I let the kids freestyle stitches without guiding them towards any specific stitch or pattern.

Adult holding canvas for basic kid needlepoint

At first, I held the firm plastic canvas while my daughter or son stitched. Eventually my daughter learned to hold it on her own; my 5-year old son still needs me to hold the canvas.

Basic kid needlepoint practice random stitches

We have the most success when we keep the needlepoint sessions short. Needlepoint can be frustrating, even for adults. The most difficult part of needlepoint for my kids is learning how hard to pull the yarn. Pulling the yarn through the canvas requires very little effort; if the child pulls too hard or for too long, the needle pulls off the yarn and needs re-threading. We haven’t come up with a magic trick to prevent this, which can be very frustrating (for both the kid and adult). However, with time and practice (and reminders to pull gently), the child learns how hard to pull and also how to thread the needle on their own.

Basic Kid Needlepoint – Supplies

Basic Kid Needlepoint – Basics

Basic stitches for needlepoint

There are tons of needlepoint stitches and techniques. Below are simplified versions I used for introducing needlepoint to my kids (4- and 5-year olds).

Thread the Needle:

Cut yarn around 24″ long and use a plastic embroidery or yarn needle with a large eye hole. About 1″ from the end, fold over the yarn and pinch the fold between your thumb and forefinger making it as thin as possible. Place the needle eye opening in front of the fold and push the fold through the eye. Once all of the strands are through the eye, pull the fold through until the short yarn end is free and the needle is on the yarn.

Push yarn through needle eye

Try this alternative to the fold method and see which you, and your kiddo, prefer. Moisten the yarn end and pinch between your thumb and forefinger so all the strands stay together. Push yarn end through the eye.

For either method, if some of the strands snag or don’t feed through the eye, start over.

This can be very difficult for young kids (and frustrating even for adults), so consider a needle threader.

Secure the Yarn:

Knot yarn to secure

There are many methods for starting a needlepoint project. Tying a double or triple knot at the end of the yarn, large enough not to fit through the canvas hole, is easiest. The knot will be bulky on the canvas back, but that likely won’t matter for kid projects. Young kiddos tend to pull the yarn with vigor, so securing with a knot will prevent the yarn from pulling completely through the canvas.

Another option is to pull the yarn through the canvas, leaving 1/2″ at the back. Hold the end against the canvas back. Work the first few stitches over the end to secure. My kiddos aren’t able to hold the free end and stitch, so I hold the free end against the canvas back while they stitch. We prefer the knot.

Once the child completes several rows, secure the new stand under the completed stitches. On the canvas back, slide the threaded needle under 3-4 stitches and pull through, leaving the yarn end buried under the completed stitches. Repeat in another direction so the buried end can withstand young kiddos tugging at the yarn (for adults or older kids with a more gentle touch, a single bury should be enough).

Basic Half Stitch:

Basic kid needlepoint half stitch

Needlepoint stitches generally work on the diagonal with all stitches slanting to the right. Feed the needle up through a hole, cross over the + and insert the needle down into the hole diagonally to the right. Continue this stitch pattern working a row from left to right, then return working the row above and repeat.

Basic Running Stitch:

Basic kid needlepoint running stitch

Feed the needle up through a hole, cross over one or more bars and insert the needle down through a hole in the same row. Come up in the next hole over and repeat. This forms a line of stitches.

Loop Edges:

Child practicing needlepoint looping edges

Covering the canvas edges gives a nice finish. Rather than working the needle up and down through the canvas, like the basic stitch, the loop works all in one direction.

Start at the top and push the needle up through a hole, loop over the edge and push the needle up through the hole below. Continue to cover the entire edge.

Follow Outline:

Face on needlepoint canvas

Using a permanent marker, draw simple shapes or an outline on the canvas. The kiddo follows the outline with stitches, and then can fill in and around the shapes with various colors.


When the kiddo completes a color or 3-4″ of a strand remains, it’s time to finish, or tie-off, the strand. With the needle and yarn on the canvas back, weave the needle under several stitches (about 1/2″), pull through, then weave under another 1/2″ in a different direction.

Clip yarn close to canvas.

Join Pieces:

Make 3-D objects by joining canvas together. Place canvas pieces next to each other, lining up the holes and bars. Start at one end of the edge and push the needle up through a hole then down through the adjacent hole on the other piece. Move down a row and repeat.

Needlepoint Kits:

Child working on flamingo needlepoint kid

Many beginning needlepoint kits are recommended for age 6+. We are right in that range, with my daughter starting her first kit at 5 1/2 and needed a lot of help. For kiddos this young, these projects take a lot of time and patience. We’ve worked in short spurts over multiple sessions to keep the project fresh and fun.

Child working on winter village needlepoint project

Both kiddos like to help with my needlepoint projects. I’ve continued to expand the small needlepoint winter village from Mary Maxim my mom started when I was a kid. My 4-year old helped by pulling up the needle and my 5-year old was inspired to make her own house.

Child's needlepoint house with winter village houses

These are the Fire Hall and Pet Shop from Mary Maxim’s Plastic Canvas Village. We modified by leaving the roof and doors open so the kids could play inside the buildings.

Give basic kid needlepoint a try and let us know what your kiddos create. Please share any tips.

Girl using basic needlepoint to make a flamingo