Have You Tried The Woobles Yet?

If you haven’t heard of them yet, you surely will soon. Crochet figurines (usually small animals) called amigurumi have been around for a long time. In July of 2020, The Woobles company started packaging the concept into all-inclusive kits for beginners, and pairing them with brilliant training videos.

I spent last weekend with my 12-year-old daughter laughing, learning, and making the cutest crocheted animals. Check mine out!

Pierre the Penguin, created with no prior crochet experience

The Woobles is onto something very powerful, and we as parents and caregivers can learn from what they are getting right.  Here are a few things I’ve noticed the Woobles does well, and what I glean as a parent:

Belief in the power of learning a new skill

The Woobles company understands that learning something new is POWERFUL. It’s fun and encouraging to start with a blank slate (or ball of yarn, in this case!) and keep at it until achieving mastery. 

A crucial need that ALL human beings share – adults and kids alike! – is to continually learn and improve throughout our lives. A sense of capability is critical to our self esteem. It gives us a sense of independence and power. Alfred Adler, the father of Individual Psychology, first identified this crucial emotional need back over 100 years ago and in today’s world, it’s still true for each of us. 

Take this sense of capability or power away from a person, and watch how discouraged they quickly become. Kids will often resort to power struggles or battles of will when they feel that they aren’t being given credit for their skills or a sense of achievement in their day-to-day lives.  

Not only do kids NEED training in life skills, it’s a way to engage them in a positive sense of self. Many parent educators use the acronym: TTFT Take Time for Training. 

Not only will it set kids up for success in the long run (no one wants a kid to move out of the house without knowing how to run a load of laundry or boil a pot of water!), it will also send the powerful message that their caregiver believes in them. By taking time to train a child in a new skill, we are saying, “You have what it takes to learn this. I believe that you are ready for this next level of independence. I trust you.” 

Training is best done in a low-stakes environment

The Woobles’ opening videos encourage the user to throw out any plans for perfection. It’s smart to highlight the fun of creating something hand-made and imperfect. The tone is casual and light. It’s a “let’s see what we can learn together here” kind of vibe.

As the “trainers” in our children’s lives, it is best to follow this method and use low-stakes scenarios as the grounds for training in life skills. When we do this, we take pressure out of the situation, and ensure joy and fun are in the foreground.

For example, you may want to teach your kids how to set a beautiful table the week BEFORE a large family gathering, and not try to do it the night before, when relatives are already in town and you’ve got three dishes already simmering on the stove. If there’s too much pressure to get it right and it’s on a tight timeline, save it for another time.

More action, less lecture

The Woobles learning model works: Do it first, then explain the lesson behind what you just did. In the case of my crocheted penguin, I was invited to take the first steps to loop a few stitches. Then, once I had achieved that (woohoo!) and I was feeling good about myself, the narrator took the time to explain what I had just done, and why it made sense that it was done that way. This was more engaging and easier to grasp than if they had frontloaded the concept and the process, and THEN invited me to take a try.

Kids love this method and respond well to being asked to dive right in. So, consider this when training them in a skill. Get into the action as soon as possible. Get the eggs in their hands and let them start cracking, literally. Get their hands in the soil of the garden. Let them play with the pieces of a kit.

This may require some release of control on your part. If you’re like me and you like to keep a clean kitchen and a low sense of chaos, make sure you’ve taken a few deep breaths and prepared for a little bit of a mess. It’s worth it to make the experience fun for your kids. If you’re willing to let go a little, and you’ve created a mistake-friendly environment, you’ll avoid the pain our kids experience when adults tend to explain things to death and control their every action.

Anything can be redone or tried again

If you can set up a training opportunity where the outcome is low-stakes, you’ve got time to spare, and everyone is willing to be in “learning mode,” and not in “perfection mode,” there isn’t much that can’t be undone and tried again. 

When you’re crocheting plushies, you can always unravel your work to the last point you felt confident, and The Woobles encourages you to do just that. They make sure you always have a place marked to go back to, freeing you up as the learner to throw yourself in, without fear of making mistakes.

As we grow throughout our lives, it’s hard to stay as open to making mistakes as the youngest of us are. Babies will continue to attempt to master crawling no matter how often they bonk their heads or flail uselessly along the floor. Same goes for those learning to walk. The persistence and the tolerance for mistakes in young children is remarkable. 

As parents, we can encourage our kids to tap into their natural reserves of resilience. Our resilience doesn’t go away as we age! But, we learn through experience that we’d prefer not to make mistakes or to have to do something over and over again. Therefore, we can experience a loss of resilience and a distaste for the frustration that can come with learning something new. 

We can tap back into our innate resilience throughout our lives through positive learning experiences likes this. And what an incredible gift and life skill it is to encourage your kids to grow in their mistake tolerance! This requires us as role models to get comfortable with our own mistakes. We must demonstrate that early failures don’t mean we can’t triumph in the long run. 

When we take time for training, we can weave in all these life lessons in an experiential way.

Tone is everything 

Learning something new, especially from a parent or caregiver that’s older than you, can be vulnerable. Someone else has all the power and knowledge, and you as the learner might feel you are starting at a deficit. 

That’s why our tone when we are training our children is everything.

In The Woobles videos, the narrator is encouraging but also low-key. They say “Give yourself a self-high five! You just successfully completed your first row of stitches!” and you feel proud, not patronized. It’s a clear message of “We know you’ve got this.” They believe in your capability, and therefore, you do too. 

That’s the kind of posture we want to adopt when training children. When we believe in their competence, resilience, and ability to learn, they will too. When we take care to acknowledge them without over-praising every little step, they receive a genuine message of respect and encouragement. 

Top Tips

Here are a few other best practices when it comes to training kids in life skills:

  • Notice small opportunities for training – they exist all throughout the day!
  • Assume your child’s capability, but don’t assume their knowledge. Just because they have seen something done doesn’t mean they understand it. Start by asking what they already know about something. 
  • Keep training for training’s sake. Separate it from household responsibilities, which should be things they are already trained in. Once something has been thoroughly trained in and practiced, it can go on the regular list of chores. 
  • Always present the opportunity for training as an invitation. Respect that there will be a time and place that works for both you and your child, and they may not always take you up on the offer. It’s ok, you can always ask them again later! 
  • Narrate the learning process. Explain what is happening as it’s happening. Acknowledge steps of progress and learning milestones.
  • Break projects down into small steps. Always include Set-up, Work, and Clean-Up of any activity. 

And our most important tip: 

Remember WHY you are doing this training. Life skills are important, yes. And, connecting with your child, experiencing the joy of learning, and instilling a sense of capability are all more important than the end result.

For more tips on training kids to do household chores and a list of age-appropriate chores for children to learn, check out our previous blog called Splish, Splash…Chores!