Kids love to make things.
My daughter is always asking me “Papa, what can we make? Let’s do a project together.”
Messing about with wood is one of my favorite hobbies. I learned the basics by working with and watching other men build, but even if you’ve never built anything in your life, you can do homeschool woodworking projects together. Here’s a list of online resources to get you started.
Online Resources for Woodworking Projects with Children:
- I Can Do That, a PDF from Popular Woodworking magazine, explains the basic tools and shows you how to perform basic woodworking in a step-by-step format.
- The Folding Rule, an online journal about woodworking in a garage shop, has a post about kids in the shop. Also available are downloads for a bird house plan, a wood buying guide, and Boy Scout woodworking merit badge requirements.
- Charles Niel made a video about introducing kids to woodworking called UnPlug the Kids
- Woodworkers Resource’s book with 21 woodworking lessons and 14 projects for kids: Woodshop 101 for Kids
- A Basic List of Hand Tools Needed For Kids to Get Started in Woodworking
- Plans for a small bat house from the USGS
- The Wood Whisperer’s Basic Hand Tools videos on 5min.com
- Using-Tools is a great basic resource for info about, what else, using tools.
- Nathan Scott’s page about how to use hand tools
- Canadian Home Workshop: Introducing Children to Woodworking Fun
- For Wood Lovers: Basic Wooden Box Basic butt joint box guide
- Free woodworking plans
- the3House.com has free plans
- Jack McKee’s Hands On Books: Woodshop for Kids
- Absolutely Free Plans: Projects for Children
- Woodworking tips from KidsCanMakeIt.com
- Building your home hand tool kit
- How To Dominate Your Son’s Pinewood Derby: Wired
- How To Make Beginner Stilts
- How To Build an Amazing Ant Farm
- azWoodman sells woodcraft kits for kids: My First Project
Tips for buying tools and hardware:
- Don’t buy cheap tools. Ever. You’ll regret it. You don’t need the top of the line tools, but you will end up replacing a cheap tool soon. Buy quality tools that feel good in your hand. Ask at your local hardware store for guidance, ’cause there’s a lot of crap for sale out there. Stay away from “kid’s tools”, as they will frustrate the heck out your child (try driving a nail, even a tiny one, with an itty-bitty hammer…).
- Yard sales are awesome for finding good tools at a reasonable price. Look for an old guy in a baseball hat cleaning out his shop. Tell him you’re setting up a shop for your kids, and he’ll probably hook you up.
- Only get the basic tools. Most shop gadgets that you see at the big box stores are gimmicks. You don’t need a laser level to build a bird house.
- Buy an assortment of nails, especially “box” nails with a big head. Smaller finish nails and brads are for when kids can comfortably drive box nails consistently.
- A drill and driver will speed up large projects by enabling you to drill pilot holes and sink screws quickly. Kids get a kick out of using power tools, and you won’t spend all weekend on one project.
- Drywall screws are great for fastening wood together quickly and securely. Get a couple of different sizes. Deck screws go in fast, but can strip out the hole too easily.
- Clamps are handy, but not a necessity. An old bicycle tube can be cut and wrapped like a huge rubber band to hold parts being glued together.
Tips for finding wood cheaply:
- Cruise the cull bin at the hardware store. The culls are the cut-offs and the wood with bigger knotholes or splits. The big home supply store by my house usually has a bunch of random pieces for fifty cents each.
- Craigslist is a good place to look for free materials.
- Find a cabinet shop and ask about raiding their scrap dumpster. Last fall I found enough cherry, walnut, and oak scraps for a year’s worth of little projects.
- Swing by a building site with your kids at quitting time. Most foremen will let you pick through the scraps if you ask. If you get a lot of good stuff, bring a six-pack by the next day to say thanks.
- Pallets can be cut with a circular saw to get short pieces. Run the blade alongside the stringer to cut them all the same length. If you’ve got time and a crowbar, you can pry them apart to get longer pieces.
Related articles about Fathers and Homeschooling:
- Fathers and Homeschooling: Teach What You Know
- Fathers and Homeschooling: Teaching Without a License
What a great list of suggestions and resources! I have to admit, though, I found the title a little off-putting. Why not “Parents” instead of just “Fathers”? Rather than reinforce sex-role stereotypes, let’s start with the assumption that moms, too, are interested in doing woodworking with their kids. 🙂
Derek Markham says
Marsha: Sorry for the perceived gender stereotyping. I’m a woodworker, but many men aren’t, so I don’t think of it as something that all fathers know.
My intent was to make homeschooling less of a mystery to fathers who may believe that they don’t have time to homeschool. Many of the parents in my community who actively homeschool are the moms, not the dads, so I thought I’d make a point about fathers and homeschooling.
More woodworking moms sounds awesome!
Leave us a comment if you pursue this, or know someone who does.
Thanks for the tips, my boys cant wait til i let them use the real tools. and i was apprehensive cause i thought there wasn’t much for them to safely do.
No worries, Derek! I see what you’re getting at. It’s great to see efforts to reach out to homeschooling dads–and perhaps inspire those dads who aren’t actively homeschooling.
My daughter is only three, which I’m thinking might be too young to start any woodworking. Are there any projects suitable for toddlers? I don’t want to relegate her to an audience role (which, at her current age and level of curiosity, would drive her nuts), so unless there’s something she can actually DO herself, I think it might be best to wait a while. What do you think?
Derek Markham says
Three is such a fun age, with the “do it myself” attitude and the endless curiosity. I have a three year old, and she really loves to help, but some things are just physically impossible for her.
When my oldest started wanting to make things, she was over four. I drilled a half dozen holes in a board and started nails and screws in them. I showed her how to hammer and use a screwdriver, and she would sit beside me as I worked. Pound the nail, pry it out, turn the screw in and out. I also gave her a small handsaw to use, but that took a lot more help from me.
My three year old is generally the holder of tools, the chief inspector, and the official question-asker for projects. She measures stuff and digs around in the assorted hardware tin.
IMHO, it’s never too early to let kids get their hands dirty with tools and materials. Probably not a three year old using power tools solo, but they can put their hands on yours as you use drill or cut. Teaching about safety is a good place to start. So is teaching the names of the tools, and showing them how they work.
Thanks for the suggestions! My three-year-old is also good at being an “official question-asker” (aren’t ALL three-year-olds?) and loves to use her measuring tape. (Pretty much everything comes out as being “sixteen.”) I love the idea of setting up some half-started nails and screws for her to finish–I’ll definitely give that a try.
I love it when people put out great information on a subject that I just can’t get enough of :)I love this blog, and I’ve suscribed to your RSS… keep cranking out good info. Thanks.
Jason Fabbri says
Great blog and great tips to say the least. I agree wholeheartedly with what you note here, least of not which is simply sharing the experience of building the project with your kids. It’s not just the type of project, it’s that the project you’re doing together exists at all. Great work.
I’ve been focusing on a go kart, http://thegokart.wordpress.com, for my three young boys and the experience has been priceless.
Thanks for this article and the comments! We have a three year old who loves to vacuum the shop which is quite a job because of the amount of woodworking we do. We also teach him about safety, tools and the differences in woods by hands on experience.
woodworking plans says
This is very useful for me, I will recommend my friends to read this information
The Lemonade Diet says
These resources will be awesome for my kids during the holidays. Thank you very much!
Woodworking Equipment says
Informative and nice post about “21 Online Resources for Woodworking Projects”.
I have found myself “volunteered” to lead our annnual “JC’s Workshop” portion of our church’s 6 week long childrens’ Lenten program. Each week I will work with a different age level of children from preschool through high school. In the past, as I recall, each child has made a bird feeder, a bird house, a paper towel holder, a leaning book shelf,a bug box, and last year they made a “twirl in the wind garden spinner” thing. I have scoured the internet for ideas and coming up short. I’ve considered telling more background information, introducing the children to tools and backing away from the idea that they each need a finished project to take home. 4 of the 5 other weeks will offer them a “take home” project.
Do you have any ideas for a simple woodworking project?
We’ve always done the necessary legwork ahead of time so the kids aren’t exposed to power tools…except for the occasional drill as needed.
woodworking projects says
Wow that’s funny lol. I really like you guys work, thanks for making this.
Celi Camacho says
I am a complete novice at woodworking. Actually, I have ZERO experience with this. However, I homeschool my 2 kids and they are dying to work with wood. I want desperately to do this for them as well as myself but feel so intimidated by it all. I’ll be sure and go this site and hope that it will help.
Thanks for this site and any advice that you can offer would be greatly appreciated.