I (re) started knitting about 10-11 months ago and I found that knitting scarves was the best thing to practice. I found some pretty novelty yarns that didn't show up too many mistakes, they made some great scarves for myself and my friends and I felt like a pro. After a while I used progressively more difficult patterns. As for children, I guess a scarf would feel a little too much. I did find a great site the other day with some relatively simple patterns, maybe this would be what you are looking for, I believe that you are expected that you will use the patterns for charity, you can always donate some to your local hospital.