Introduce Your Kids to Woodworking
In grade seven I took shop class as part of our curriculum (one year of weekly shop class and one year of home economics (two components that have unfortunately been cut from grade seven and eight elementary school programmes). I remember making a wooden note pad, a key chair and a wooden penguin. I took a straw poll of what some people remembered about shop – most of the people who took part were in their thirties. All of the women remember making similar things (wall-mounted candlestick holder, small shelf unit, name plate, mini baseball bat). They all said they loved shop class. One said, “I use those skills of using machinery in my profession today.”
Many times the emphasis that is relayed to students are careers in the technology and business fields, and the courses in high school are tailored for those professions. What many students don’t realize is that all the business and computer jobs are appealing to a lot of the students because of the high pay associated with them. Little do they know that, sooner or later, those professions will get saturated and the battle for those jobs becomes very competitive. With the number of students going into trades becoming smaller and smaller, and the existing woodworking and construction workforce getting older, the need to attract students to this profession has become crucial.
One measurement of good parenting is for parents to offer their children a wide range of activities to experiment with, to see what they like, what they don’t like, what they excel at, and what they enjoy. Children love to make things. Even as toddlers, how you react when they are playing with blocks could internalize it and make them remember years later when it comes to choosing a career later in life. If, for instance, a three-year-old makes a tower of blocks and is praised and cheered on for their accomplishment, that encouragement will help to feed the fire of “Hey, I’m good at this, and people really like it!” This innocent activity of building block towers could instigate a career in construction or architecture.
There are many woodworking and construction activities for children. Kits at craft and home improvement stores, borrowing books from the library, playing with a toy workshop set and watching home improvement shows all allow a child to enter the world of woodworking and home improvement.
Sesame Street has done much to educate young minds. One of these accomplishments has been the “Fix-It Shop”. The “Fix-It Shop” opened in the third season as the “L and R Fix-It Shop”, run by business partners Luis and Rafael. Their first job was repairing a broken picture frame of Susan’s. After Rafael left the show, it became known as it is today, the Fix-It Shop. Maria starting working at the Fix-It Shop, and became a full-time partner in the fifth season. Having Maria working in the Fix-It Shop shows kids that woodworking, repair work, and home renovations are not just a male-gendered profession – girls can be very successful in this trade.
Canadian Mag Ruffman is another role model for girls. She has had two shows on home repairs: A Repair to Remember and Anything I Can Do. She writes a home improvement column for the Toronto Star, published a book of her columns How Hard Can It Be? and is now partnering with Lowe’s to produce a video series of fun projects families can do together.
Let’s not allow woodworking to become a dying art. Help your children discover the joy and creativity it has to offer. Even if your child doesn’t become a professional woodworker, they can learn an enjoyable hobby that they will have for the rest of their life.
Never Too Young
Some kids take to tools right away. There are many sets of plastic tools and workbenches that can be purchased that will feed a child’s imagination. (Photo by Joe Martz)
Moreau and his sons try to spend regular time in the shop, doing whatever the kids want to. Sometimes a helping hand is the best way to show a child a technique.
“All by Myself”
Most kids will want to make something by themselves. There’s no substitute for handling the tools and having some success with the task at hand.
Kids Working Wood
My two boys, Loïc, 10, and Gaël, 8 are mostly interested in video games and pretending they’re soldiers, knights or wizards. Those interests steer their time in the shop. They have learned to nail boards together to create swords and rifles, but as they grow, they want to make more complex items. That’s when the time in the shop becomes very pleasant. Tools and techniques are extended to meet their needs and we spend time learning together. To achieve a goal, they learn basic shop safety and good working habits. My youngest son is still mostly doing make-believe, but the oldest has clearly shown pleasure in using a hand-plane and often asks to use the chisels. Just the other day I was asked, “Dad, can I decorate my bedroom to look like a castle hall?”
After both boys got Lee Valley aprons and Busy Bee vises as gifts, we decided to spend a few days setting up a small workbench area. We then practised cutting dovetails. This was awesome because it was the first time for both my boys and I, so we were all at the same level. We were all learning together, finding our mistakes, ensuring proper work habits and just enjoying our time together.
Sure it won’t always be like this, but times like this are to be cherished and fostered. Who knows, we might come home to a castle hall-themed bedroom someday.
— Etienne Moreau