What age to start kids in the shop?

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Forum topic by Elizabeth posted 03-21-2014 08:51 PM 2704 views 0 times favorited 42 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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823 posts in 4433 days

03-21-2014 08:51 PM

Topic tags/keywords: kids

I wasn’t sure what forum to put this in, but I guess I want to share my skills, so this seemed appropriate.

I have a son who turns two this weekend. He already putters around the shop with me, playing with HF spring clamps and banging PVC pipe drumsticks against “approved” surfaces (anything that won’t break or get dented, basically). He recently learned how to pull out a tape measure to his high amusement, and has had supervised control of my scroll saw’s foot pedal, as well as sat on my lap and watched as I cut random pieces off a thin piece of plywood on the scroll saw. I plan to build him a tower so he can access the top of the workbench, which will also be a good reminder to me to keep the benchtop tidy. Right now he pushes my scrolling stool across the shop to the workbench and tries to climb up, but it’s too high to get to.

You Jocks with kids or grandkids, I’m wondering at what age you set them loose with a 2×4 with some nails half in and a hammer, and things like that. What are some other good ‘projects’ for the pre-preschool set? I need ideas. Mechanical work preferred over finishing work…he gets plenty of painting practice at daycare and I’d rather not have paint all over my shop floor.

42 replies so far

View AnonymousRequest's profile


861 posts in 2839 days

#1 posted 03-21-2014 08:58 PM

When they are able to focus and follow directions, whatever that age may be.

View pintodeluxe's profile


6497 posts in 4103 days

#2 posted 03-21-2014 09:08 PM

I have my kids in the shop at 12 years old. They work for very short duration, performing a limited number of tasks. They don’t run the big power tools at all, but are comfortable with a random orbit sander and a pneumatic staple gun for upholstery work. The drill press is fun for them and relatively safe.

Probably no tablesaw / bandsaw / router for my kids until they are high school aged.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View TerryDowning's profile


1153 posts in 3407 days

#3 posted 03-21-2014 09:18 PM

I started with smaller hand tools around age 5. Always under supervision.

All inexpensive small tools
small hammer
compass saw
small back saw
block plane
of course sandpaper, most kids actually like sanding, it’s a miracle to them.

A little later (7 or 8?)
butt chisels
pocket knife
spoke shave

9 +
Jigsaw (Scroll saw)

Assist with other items

started on the power tools (always under supervision)

Buy 15 or so I had the run of the shop unsupervised and I still have all of my fingers.

-- - Terry

View Grandpa's profile


3264 posts in 3965 days

#4 posted 03-21-2014 09:52 PM

It depends on the child and it depends on how many children. Remember this: If you have one boy you have a whole boy; if you have two boys you have half a boy; if you have 3 boys you have no boy at all. That is pretty accurate. I started one grandson driving nails in boards when he was about 4. Roofing nails work best because they have a big target on the top end and they don’t easily bend. His younger brother was ready when he was about 10 years old. the difference is the older one was like dealing with a short adult and the other was like dealing with a 10 year old. I have let my grandchildren use the drill press when they and I are alone and I set up the jig. I let them operate the band saw under supervision when they are about 10. I am not sure a 25 year old should operate a table saw. Use these times for teachable moments. I work with the boys at church and they drive nails pretty well in the first grade. I predrill all the plywood so they easily start the journey. Plywood is difficult to start holes in. Make a birdhouse and predrill the holes in plywood. Make a kit. Then help him assemble it. I would say about 4 years old would work. When my son was small he helped my all the time. I was teaching a class in our local technical school in the evenings. My wife and daughter had a baby shower to attend so he went with me and took his homework. I put him in the classroom and he worked on his studies. I went to the shop area with the students (adults). After an hour he came out and asked if he could look around. I told him to stay away from these areas and those areas and don’t bother anyone because they would hurt themselves if he distracted them. After about 20 minutes of this I noticed he was helping a lady clamp up her project. I took role and called for a break. This couple he was helping bought him a Coke and visited with him while I turned in my paperwork. As they were going back to class I called him aside and asked him about what we had discussed. “Well, she asked me to help. I asked how she knew he could help. What did he say. Well, he was walking by and she was struggling with the clamps. He said, “if you put this clamp over here and that one over there this will go together.” I told him to be cautious with his advice. I went in and told the lady if he bothered her to send him on his way and wave at me. “Well, she said, he knows a lot more about this than I know. ” Later I discussed this with them and told them he had no choice. He went to the shop and “helped” me. They thought that was great. This couple owned a pharmacy. The man told me he had done things he never thought he would do to stay in his children’s interest area. That is the important thing. Today my son is an engineer and the manager of quality control for the company he works for.
Buy your son his own hammer when he is old enough to take care of it.

View fuigb's profile


597 posts in 4247 days

#5 posted 03-21-2014 09:52 PM

I started bringing mine in for a look around and to pound toy hammers when they began to walk, and so for them it is natural to be around noise and people at work. They will let you know when they’re ready to be trusted. For one this came at three and others, well, a lot longer!

-- - Crud. Go tell your mother that I need a Band-aid.

View TheDane's profile


6021 posts in 4953 days

#6 posted 03-21-2014 09:54 PM

If you are talking about my son-in-law, 37 (he is 36 now).

Like freddy1962 said ”When they are able to focus and follow directions …”

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View TheGermanJoiner's profile


847 posts in 2927 days

#7 posted 03-21-2014 09:56 PM

I was on jobsites in a stroller. Today is a different world but get them started young.

I have my son out there and he’s 5. Like was mentioned above you want to monitor and supervise but they develop their loves at a young age. Better than zombifying them in front of a video game

-- Greg - Ferdinand and Son Construction: Do it right the first time. Like us on Facebook

View TerryDowning's profile


1153 posts in 3407 days

#8 posted 03-21-2014 10:08 PM

Just remember to focus on safety and getting them to think about safety.

Safety first is NOT a cliche’, it is a requirement.

-- - Terry

View Grandpa's profile


3264 posts in 3965 days

#9 posted 03-21-2014 10:11 PM

Safety first is a great way to start. I have a cabinet full of safety glasses, ear plugs and dust masks. They like to wear them and they learn to ask for them.

View Steve Peterson's profile

Steve Peterson

429 posts in 4372 days

#10 posted 03-21-2014 10:11 PM

My kids have liked to come out and pound nails into random scraps of wood since about the age of 3 or 4. They usually don’t stay long.

At age 7, I had to drag my son to the shop to use the bandsaw and spindle sander on his pinewood derby car. One of his friends was forced to came over to work on his car. There was a huge difference in confidence levels between my son who has had exposure to power tools and the other kid that was scared to death about everything.

My daughter was about 8 when she did a small amount of the turning on a pen kit.

My wife always seems to sign me up to cut about 60 kits for some school project. I always make them come out and help. I made a wooden box about 48” by 16” by 6” for them to stand on. I have let them use the miter saw with close supervision. I expect that they will be going out to the shop on their own somewhere between the age of 12-14.

-- Steve

View hjt's profile


906 posts in 4428 days

#11 posted 03-22-2014 06:47 PM

Liz – check out this LJ. He’s was 10 years old when he started here. Here’s got GREAT videos.

I believe I was in 4th grade when I was running a table jig saw (like a scroll saw, only bigger) unsupervised.

-- Harold

View TheDane's profile


6021 posts in 4953 days

#12 posted 03-22-2014 06:59 PM

I think a lot of it depends on the child. I know some kids who could be trusted in the shop at very early ages because they pay close attention to details. On the other hand, I know a couple of kids who are 13 or 14 years old that I wouldn’t let near tools.

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View Bluepine38's profile


3393 posts in 4375 days

#13 posted 03-22-2014 08:00 PM

What Freddy said, when they are able to focus and follow directions. Only someone close to the kid can
determine this, some kids are never taught to follow directions and should not be allowed in a shop, others
have to be taught to focus their attention, and it may take a while, but if they are good kids it is always a
fun time, even if no “real job” progress seems to have been made.

-- As ever, Gus-the 82 yr young apprentice carpenter

View MT_Stringer's profile


3183 posts in 4521 days

#14 posted 03-22-2014 08:24 PM

Our grand daughter is three, going on 27. She follows me every step I take. But she is pretty good with the glue bottle and brush. She likes to “paint” the glue.

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View TechTeacher04's profile


478 posts in 2821 days

#15 posted 03-22-2014 08:36 PM

My daughter is 5 she has had her own bench since she was 2. I plan the tasks i am doing based on if she is in the room with me or not. If she is wearing hearing protection she “helps” me catch boards on the outfeed side of the planer. When i am running my table saw or bandsaw she plays in her playroom. You must be diligent about unplugging tools. I have trained my daughter to ask before touching any tool. She likes to collect sawdust from my jointer and bandsaw, unplugged or course.

She is quite good at pounding roofing nails into my offcuts.

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