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Woodworking with the Young Woodworker
By Glenn Palmieri, Bentwood Studio

Ever thought about having your child in your shop but don't know where to start? Here are a few tips to keep in mind to get started.

  • What is the attention span of your child? If it's short, keep to smaller projects at first and see if their attention span changes due to interest.
  • If you're cutting wood with your child, keep the layouts as simple as possible.
  • A great introductory tool for young woodworkers is a coping saw. The blades are cheap and easy to change. The saw in itself is extremely inexpensive and cuts well without much effort.
  • For ages 5-8, I would use whole number math and avoid fractions. As they start fractions in school, start applying them in their woodworking.
  • Give your child options. Remember, you want them to take ownership and be excited for the project.
  • Encourage, don't discourage. It's easy as a parent working with your child to have the urge to take over and say "do it this way." This type of comment can shut your child down and stop them from participating. Be positive with your words and gestures. If they are using a coping saw and cutting a wonky line, say "steer over this way!" Simple, fun comments will help them stay on point.
  • Start simple. Pre-fabricated kits are a great introduction. Go to a local craft store and look for kits in the woodworking aisle. Many times these projects come with everything you need.
  • Lower your expectations. Your child's idea of a straight line won't be the same as yours. Their ability to cut will get better with practice, but make sure you stay positive on their final cut. They will be excited to finish the cut and remove a piece of wood. Say things like "Great job, you did it!" Or "Wow, I am impressed with your cut, next time we can try a little harder to keep it closer to the line, but awesome job!"
  • Don't get frustrated. If frustration sets in, breathe and count to three before speaking. Your child will be frustrated too, so again, be positive and upbeat.
  • Help steer them, but don't drive them. NEVER take the tool away unless they are about to hurt themselves. Let them cut. Sometimes we place our hands over theirs and say, "Drop your hands this way and try that." Help them with a few strokes then let go. They will realize that by moving their hands properly the wood will cut easier. Let them experiment.
  • Celebrate the small victories. Finishing a cut, even if its imperfect, is a success. Every nail that gets sunk or hole that gets drilled is a victory for your little woodworker.
  • Kids learn and have a better time when they smile and laugh. We always say funny things and act goofy when working with kids. Say, "Wow, thats a heck of a cut. You were like a beaver chewing through the wood." Sounds childish, but it shows your child you're willing to have fun!
  • Let your child draw, color or paint all over their project. You may not like it, but they love to completely "finish" it the way they want!
  • Take photos of the process!

Highland Woodworking also has a great starter kit to get kids into woodworking. Their Woodworking Tool Kit for Kid's comes with a full set of real tools that kids can use to get started on a project in the shop.

Highland's Woodworking Tool Kit for Kids

You can email Glenn at glenn@bentwoodstudioinc.com. You can also visit his website at bentwoodstudioinc.com

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