Look to the Future: Get Kids in the Shop

When you do what you want to do, honestly and squarely, it does not at all deserved to be called work, but is the most splendid part of play, and every day is a holiday.

C. Hanford Henderson

Hands-on, technical skills aren’t being taught and encouraged in the U.S. public education system as they once were. So it’s up to parents, grandparents, and potential employers to fund and provide a basic understanding of woodworking and provide practical training. After all, not all kids are destined nor want to go to college. These creative individuals are bright and want to create with their hands, so it’s up to us to point them in the right direction and encourage their efforts.

One way to do this is to get kids into the workshop. Whether you’re a hobbyist woodworker or run a production facility with dozens of employees, letting kids see, smell, touch, and hear in a woodworking environment can spark their interest and imagination.

If you have a home shop, invite kids in. Show them how the tools work. Let them pound a few nails. Show them how a hand plane can put a glass-smooth finish on wood.

If you run a production facility, have an open house and invite local schools and homeschool families to schedule field trips. Give students a tour of your facility. Show them how projects start in the design department, are manufactured, then finished and shipped. Let them watch a CNC machine in action. Explain how computers and technology can be used in a woodworking environment. Invest in the lives of kids in your area. They could be your future employees. You can change the direction and life of a child.

One way to practically get kids in the shop is to help them design and build a project. Jack McKee knows how to do this. In his own words:

I took care of my kids when they were little and they liked woodworking. When I followed them into school, as a volunteer, I found other kids like woodworking too. Not only did I find I liked working with kids, I ended up working at a Montessori School teaching shop (including woodworking with kids) to 4-6 year olds. And I worked for the parks department teaching working to kids ages 5-12. It was the most interesting, fun and meaningful woodworking I’d ever done. I went on to write two books (see affiliate links below).

Jack’s books show how to use hand tools to build simple projects that kids can easily finish. In the end, the projects may not be worthy of entry at a woodworking show, but that’s not the point, is it? The goal is to help them develop their skills working with their hands and being creative with their minds.

Jack maintains a web site, Woodshop4kids. Go check it out.

Start thinking about how you can help kids in your area develop their skills and creative talent. You’ll be paying it forward. And that’s a good feeling.