Woodworking for Kids


When it comes to sharing woodworking with my grandkids, I keep it simple. In fact, I really don’t care if they take a shine to woodworking, I would just rather they get the opportunity to be creative.

When they come over for a visit, they don’t ask if they can do woodworking, they just ask, “Can we build?”

At this point, I have done very few structured projects, I usually just let the kids have at it with the bin of wood scraps. Kids don’t need to be told what to build with the scraps, their imaginations kick into high gear and they figure it out naturally.

I call this the “empty box effect.” An empty box is an open ended toy and a child’s imagination starts exploring all of the possibilities of what the box can become. The same thing happens with the wood scraps.

During the kids’ build sessions, there is plenty of opportunity to teach them about safety, how to use the tools, and problem solving skills.

I think that both structured and unstructured projects have their own advantages and lessons to offer, so I do not necessarily value one over the other. But I will admit that structured projects require more prep time because you have to make parts in advance.

When working in the shop, the kids are exposed to a limited set of dangers, but that is an inherent risk of having them in the shop. Overall, the exposure is controlled and gauged according to the abilities of each child.

The fear of allowing kids into the shop will never give them the opportunity to learn self-control and respect for the tools and a somewhat hazardous environment. Personally, I don’t see that it is any less hazardous letting kids ride a bike, a skateboard, or jump on a trampoline. I will not allow an unreasonable fear to keep my grandkids from such a valuable learning experience as they have in my shop.

In the end, I am trying to develop a culture of activity, creativity, and exploration in my family. I think all of the benefits of this far outweigh the perceived dangers.

And to think, I have not even mentioned the added benefit of the hours that the kids have spent with me, Grandpa Todd. There is enough content and lessons there for another blog.

I hope you enjoy the video.

Your friend in the shop-

Todd A. Clippinger

Leave a Legacy – Share the Love, Share the Knowledge

Todd A. Clippinger Share the Love - Share the Knowledge


This is wonderful and is how “teaching” should be happening throughout a child’s day at school (and home).
Well written! I think I’ll be sharing this with my educator friends.

Toxins Out, Nature In - body/mind/spirit

MsDeb – Wow! I would be honored that you would share it with teachers:)

Todd A. Clippinger Share the Love - Share the Knowledge

in the Early Childhood realm, it’s called “Emergent Curriculum”, following the child’s lead – their interest – and then bringing the “teaching” into it, to expand on the learning that they are doing all on their own.
I think we often interfere too much and not respect the natural learning that takes place. And then we also often neglect to step in and teach when those precious moments arise.
You have exemplified, in my opinion, that perfect balance.
(oh and also letting children experience risk-taking so they are respectful of the possibilities and think twice about their actions.)

Toxins Out, Nature In - body/mind/spirit

Ms Deb – Your feedback is interesting since what I share is simply based on my observations of how kids operate. I don’t have any formal education or training in dealing with kids, I have simply observed the kids’ behavior and linked it to experiences in my own childhood. I know what tickles the senses and have just let that be my guide.

It might seem unrelated, but actually it is not; I am using the same senses that I use when I interact with my clients. I am always “reading” them.

After years of interactions with clients, I rely on my sensitivity to everything they express no matter if it is fully vocalized or not. Things that are not expressed verbally still come off physically.

Kids are simple to figure out. It is easy to see what engages them, so I simply run with it. Not having the formal education in dealing with kids, I give things my own terminology such as the “empty box effect.”

Todd A. Clippinger Share the Love - Share the Knowledge

You are a Wise man and a born teacher :)
We tend to make everything so difficult, don’t we!

When I used to facilitate parenting programs, I based it on what I called “Age 16”. What do you want your children to be like at Age 16? This is what you are developing for the first 15 years. I facilitated hundreds of workshops, with professionals, families of high, low, medium incomes and education levels, families mandated to attend and with inmates at a correctional centre.
Every list was pretty much the same. We all want the same thing for our children.
The “teaching” that I did was to help families see how their actions either created the desired outcome or undermined it. No psycho-babble required; just awareness, observation, and intention.

Toxins Out, Nature In - body/mind/spirit

Ms Deb – You just confirmed I am on the right track – you made my day!

Todd A. Clippinger Share the Love - Share the Knowledge

yes you are!!! :)
And you made MY day!

Toxins Out, Nature In - body/mind/spirit

Ok….how can a young fellow like you have grandkids that age. You must be renting them.
I’ve had many Scouts through my shop and usual it’s a structured project do to time constraints. I’ve always told the boys, as well as my own, if you have an idea of something to try you’re welcome to come back with Mom or Dad and we’ll “have at it” .

Involve your kids and grandkids. They'll love you for it!

Gary – You are right, in a situation like that is probably better to do a structured project.

Todd A. Clippinger Share the Love - Share the Knowledge