When your child shows an interest in woodworking, building, or tools you want to do as much as you can to encourage your young carpenter. But, how do you do that and where should you start?
There are a few things you need to know and do before you dive into woodworking projects with your child. In part 1 of this series, we’ll begin by sharing how to get ready.
The first step in getting ready is to educate yourself on the topic. The next step is to provide a good learning environment where your child can safely explore and practice woodworking or carpentry skills.
Woodworking skills go hand-in-hand with many life skills; however, it can be dangerous. Treat all woodworking tools, manual and electric, with the proper respect and care. Equipment such as table saws, nail guns, and chainsaws can be a huge danger for everyone, child and adult. Make sure that you and your child consistently use the appropriate safety equipment. This may include kid-size work boots with hard-thick soles, gloves, goggles, dust masks, etc.
Note: Having stepped on a nail and the hot exhaust pipe of a car when I was a child, I can assure you that it’s better to be safe than sorry! Get the equipment needed to keep yourself, your kids, and shop visitors safe.
Appropriate Tools for Kids
Make safety the top priority but, remember that children want to have fun. Kids want to use tools and manipulate the wood. If they aren’t allowed to do this, they won’t have much fun. There are many child-friendly tasks and tools that can bring hours of enjoyment as you work with your child. Be sure to supply kids with age-appropriate and size-appropriate tools. This means toddlers and young children should begin with toy tools while tweens may begin with the real deal. We will discuss this in-depth in part 2.
Let kids start with things like sandpaper, small pieces of scrap wood, and a bottle of wood glue. Graduate to hand tools such as screwdrivers and screws, pliers, wrenches, nuts, bolts, and washers. When you and your children are comfortable and competent with these hand tools, consider adding small hammers and nails, then saws and tools that can cut. There are more cutting tools than you may realize, especially if you go into wood carving or decorations. Remember that cleanup is also a part of every project so get the kids accustomed to using the broom, dustpan, and shop-vac!
The use of electric tools comes last, for children in their mid-teens, simply because of the danger factor. Depending on your project, you may want to start with a cool-melt glue gun or another of the less-dangerous electric tools. It is a good idea to let your children see you using electric tools and talking about them well before they are ever given the opportunity to use them.
Collect Woodworking Supplies
In the earliest stages before starting projects, it’s especially important to maintain a supply of the basics, such as wood glue, nails, and wood scraps because it encourages creativity, imagination and promotes interest. Many parents prefer to plan a woodworking project to do with the kids and then purchase exactly what is on the project list. This is a good idea, especially if you are just getting started. After you’ve completed several projects, you’ll probably have some leftover supplies, which will come in handy in the future.
Sometimes it can be difficult to find wood scraps. If you aren’t sure where to look, here are a few places where you may find the essential wood scraps for your child to use. Keep in mind that small, independently owned, local stores and businesses are more likely to give you things for free. This is often because larger businesses must answer to a corporate office, which makes them account for everything including the “waste” or damaged items.
Woodworking Supplies Source List
- Hardware and home improvement stores
- Lumber yard
- Construction companies
- Independent building/ home repair contractors
- Grocery/convenience stores
- Garden shops
- Motorcycle shops
- Auto repair shops
- Lawnmower/ farm equipment shops
- Any place that is under construction or being renovated
- local arts & crafters who use wood (ie. make holiday yard art etc.)
Once you have some background knowledge of woodworking and have set up a safe, fun, and functional environment for your child (and yourself) it’s time to start encouraging, supporting, and building your child’s knowledge, skills, confidence, and imagination. Congratulations, you’re ready to start the fun part – working with your child.
Go to part 2 of this series to discover the age-appropriate details of how and when to support kids’ woodworking interests throughout different stages, from toddlers to teens.
We believe that all children should be taught the skills they need to survive and succeed. As parents, we can not tell what difficulties our children may encounter so it’s important to avoid labeling tasks and interests as “girlie” or “boyish.” It’s time to teach the skills…not the “roles.”
Tools – Having a variety of basic hand tools available is a must but having the tools and a bag to carry them in is the ideal option!
Workbench & Tool Organizer – A place for everything & everything in its place. Help kids stay safe and organized by giving them a work area that supports and encourages practicing old and new skills.
Kids Safety Equipment – Kids (and some adults) tend to be a little clumsy or unsteady at times, protect everyone with quality safety equipment. It’s better to think about it and get it now instead of remembering it on a trip to the hospital.