A few weekends ago Elliot decided he'd like to make his first stuffed animal. I encourage him to draw a picture of what he'd like to make. He quickly settled on a bat and drew one with a colored pencil. When he brought me the drawing, I decided to sit down with him to teach him a little about making a pattern.
I grabbed some trace and placed it over his drawing. I talked to him about symmetry and assymetry (knowing that he studied it in Kindergarten). I pointed out that his drawing was assymetrical, and asked him if he wanted the bat softie to look just like that, or if he wanted it to be symmetrical. "Symmetrical," he said. I asked him which wing he liked better. He liked the larger one better, but liked the point on the smaller one. I told him that we could combine the two, make it as big as the biggest one, but add the point from the smaller one. I traced over his drawing, explaining to him that to make a symmetrical pattern, you only had to draw half of it, then you can fold the fabric in half and cut around the pattern.
We moved on to picking out the materials. I pulled out several fuzzy choices for him, and then we went through them, talking about their qualities. We had some mocha polar fleece, some black wool, some cotton fleece and some soft brown felt. He settled on the brown felt. I asked him if he would like to use polyfil or wool to stuff it. He pointed out that the felt was wool, so we should stuff it with wool. We talked about what color thread to use- regular thread or embroidery floss. Should we use a similar color like black or brown, or a color that contrasts sharply like orange or red? Finally we picked out the eyes, and he decided that he liked the look of mismatched buttons more than matched, and that they should be large and very close together.
He sewed the softie while I took a nap, his Dad helping him to tie off loose ends and rethread as he ran out of thread. When I woke up, I helped him stuff it, sewed the ears together with my sewing machine, sewed the eyes on and placed the ears in the head opening before I stitched it up. In under two hours, his vision had come to life.
I realize that this is a lot of detail, but I just wanted to point out that every day those of us who make things go through decisions like this reflexively, but it's an interesting process for kids, or anyone really, to contemplate every decision. This pattern couldn't be much easier, so it's a great place to start with kids, but pattern making as a skill is something that could serve someone for a lifetime. It's a basic life skill that many of us lost touch with for a while, but it's the kind of thing I want my kids to know.