The very first type of Woodworking I introduced my kids to was Woodworking with Hand Tools. This is a skill that is truly accessible at every age! By now you probably know from previous posts that I do not care for most childrens craft kits. However, I am a big fan of quality children’s toy tool sets! Oftentimes people do not realize the full extent of educational value that can lie in toy tools, but if you purchase a good set, like My First Craftsman, this can be a great way to introduce your tiniest family members to the names of different tools and how they are used! My First Craftsman toolsets usually include a wide variety of tools not included in other sets and can be found inexpensively at Sears and Kmart. They also occasionally offer things like toy engines that even a toddler could take apart! Often the tools in a given set are named on the box, but if you don’t know what a particular tool is or how it is used, ask someone! And if you don’t know someone knowledgeable about tools, ask someone at your local hardware store! On rainy days my kids used to love to go exploring in Lowes…opening all of the doors and cabinets, fingering all of the knobs/nuts/bolts, pretending to drive the riding lawn mower, etc!
Now, as soon as they are able to follow instructions and have a reasonable amount of fine motor control, I prefer to give them real tools to use, first with guidance but eventually on their own. (We gave our daughter her first real tools at 3 years old. Our son wasn’t ready till later.) This is a lot easier if you yourself already know how to use hand tools correctly. While many people think they know how to use a hammer and saw correctly, most people are actually using them incorrectly. Because of this, I highly recommend these two books: Daddy Can We Play in the Workshop and Woodshop 101 for Kids.
Daddy Can We Play in the Workshop is a sweet little picture book that introduces you to a few hand tools and might give some parents that are uncomfortable with woodworking a few ideas of where to start. My only complaint about this book is that it doesn’t introduce more tools. While there are several other tools in the photographs, the hammer and hand drill are the only two really covered. However, it does a very nice job of showing kids and parents that exploring woodworking can be accessible for even very small children before they are ready for actual projects. For small children, you might consider getting some child sized tools for them to use. Lowes used to carry an entire set of real tools for kids. Currently I believe they only carry the hammer and screwdrivers. (Other companies do make child sized real tools though that you can find by doing an internet search.) Saws come in a variety of shapes and sizes. My daughter currently has a Gent’s Saw that my husband found at a flea market. Lowes also carries kids’ craft kits. While these kits might be fun, they will learn more from just exploring with the tools themselves and making their own “creations.”
Woodshop 101 for Kids is a fantastic series of lessons and projects!! It includes 21 lessons that will tell you about wood, what kinds of tools are best for children to start with, and how to use those tools correctly! Interspersed throughout the lessons are 14 different projects using only the tools you have currently learned about so far, and they aren’t junk projects either! Some of the projects in the book include: a peg game, birdhouse, toolbox/art caddy, stool, doll cradle, marshmallow catapult, and workbench! The author Craig Stevens recommends this book for kids ages 7 and up but also states that some kids may be ready as young as 5 or 6.
Now, once your child has learned to use all of the tools and made the projects in Woodshop 101 for Kids, you can let them continue to explore Woodworking through Woodworking shows on PBS (The Woodwrights Shop with Roy Underhill), Woodworking magazines/books/dvd/blogs (Christopher Schwartz is one of THE names in Woodworking with hand tools though there are others as well), and if you are lucky enough to live near a Woodcraft or Rockler store they may even have some classes offered that might be appropriate (if not still check out their websites for articles and links to other great Woodworking sites)! The possibilities are endless!