Working with one’s hands is becoming a fading enterprise. With a more service-oriented and urban culture predominate, the percentage of Americans that dabble in woodworking–whether professionally or as a hobbyist–has dwindled. Yet, interest hasn’t, particularly among young children. How can a hobbyist woodworker pass down this desire to his or her children? By seeking age-appropriate projects and stressing proper safety procedures, you can get your child hooked on wood as early as the toddler years.
At this age, most power tools are problematic. Yet, there are ways to get your children involved. A fine-grained sand paper is a great starter tool. Let your children feel pre-sanded wood. Then, sand a portion. Have your children tell you what has changed. Let them play with the dust. After you have shown them how sandpaper works, let the youth sand a piece of wood. As they are working, have them smell the wood. Ask them how they think it smells and if they like it.
If your child is not afraid of loud noises, you may want to try to introduce the finishing sander. This tool is safe and will make your children feel like ‘big boys’ or ‘big girls’. Simply make sure they have proper eye protection, and have them sand on a flat, stable piece of wood.
Depending on how messy you want to let your kids get, paint and wood oils are kid friendly projects. (You will want to avoid harsh stains and varnishes.) Children love paint. Find a less chemically abrasive paint and let them paint something you’ve worked together on. Or, tung oil is a kid-friendly option. Tung oil is not only safe, but it is rife with textural fodder. Let your child rub the oil on the wood. Ask them how it changes its appearance. After the oil has set in, have them buff the wood. Ask them how it feels as they polish. How does its appearance change? How does it feel different?
Ultimately, different children will be able to handle various tasks. You know your children. You know their interests. Let them have fun. Let them get messy. Let them experiment.