If young kids show an interest in woodworking, it’s time to take them into the shop. A patient, careful approach while allowing them to lead the way, will set kids up for life-long learning in the shop.
1. Make It Fun – Kids are much more likely to pay attention if they like what they’re building. They’re also more likely to want to return to the shop.
2. Small Chunks of Time – An adult’s attention span can last hours, while a child may have only minutes when they can focus. This is natural, so try your best not to push them beyond their limits.
3. PPE – Getting out of the shop in one piece is obviously important. Have eye protection that doesn’t constantly slide down their nose, a dust mask that fits and works, and ear protection if machines and power tools will be used is a good starting point.
4. Be Patient – These machines, power tools and hand tools will all be new to kids, as will the general concept of the steps involved to complete even a small project. Patience will allow a child to soak up the important information at a pace they can handle.
5. A Bit of Teaching, But Not Too Much – If a machine or tool we’re about to use is new to my kids, I like to give a short explanation of it and talk about the main points surrounding the process. I then watch them like a hawk to make sure they don’t hurt themselves. I find too much information too early only complicates the matter.
6. Show Them the Way – There are many times when my kids want me to demonstrate an operation before they try it. They’re picking up on everything from feed speeds to where to put their hands, to the sound a tool or machine makes and much more.
7. Follow Their Lead – If you head into the shop to make some cutting boards, but your child is fascinated by the compressor, show them what the compressor can do. The best way for them to learn is to learn about something they’re interested in.
8. Lean Towards Hand Tools – Hand tools are safer and quieter so they’re a great place to start. They also don’t ruin a workpiece as quickly as power tools can. If your child is only interested in power tools then proceed to the safer options with caution.
9. Keep Your Tools Sharp – This should be a rule in your shop in any case, but the last thing a beginner woodworker needs is to have to wrestle with dull tools.
10. Get Them Their Own Gear – An apron, pencil, tape measure, 6″ rule, PPE and a set of drill / driver bits may get kids excited about the shop and make them feel like they belong.