Every woodworker ends up with at least one stack/pile/box of scraps that "can be used for something someday". And if you're an urban or suburban woodworker, the sound of power tools usually will attract half the kids in the neighborhood. Most young kids (5-10) have the attention span of a gnat. They want to make something. Just the effort of deciding on what they want is often enough to cause them to wander off.
But once in a while you get a kid who has some ideas for a project AND wants to make it him/herself. This type of kid isn't put off by materials selection (you have to hide your treasured woods or he/she will talk you into using some or all of it on his/her project), stock preparation (handsaws are fun and a sanding block is not seen as an invitation to tedium, though he/she will find an random orbital sander a lot more fun) and most important - enjoys solving problems. This is the type of kid you have to shoo out of the shop so you can work on your own project. You'll have to promise to let them come back to work on their project before they'll leave.
What do you get out of spending hours and hours helping a kid make something out of wood? Well let me relate to you a true story.
A ceramicist's husband had a one year assignment in Paris. He took his family with him and they lived in a little place out in the country. During the summer, the two daughters, ages 5 and 7, would get bored and go outside exploring. They found a hole in the large hedge separating their place from their neighbor's.
Soon they were telling their parents about the funny old man who lived on the other side of the hedge. "We're teaching him how to make mud pies! He's not very good at it yet but he's a good learner and he laughs when he makes a mistake and we show him how to fix it. He laughs a lot and he doesn't mind getting mud on his clothes.".
And so it went, the kids going through the hole in the hedge to go play with the funny old man next door. Unbeknownst to the mother, they often took a slice of their mother's home made blue berry or cherry pie with them to share with the funny old man next door. They would always return with "mud" on their hands, faces and clothes . Their mother, Barbara, noticed that the "mud" looked familiar. Being a ceramicist, she recognized various types of ceramics clays but thought nothing of it.
Towards the end of the summer the family began packing up to return to the U.S. The little girls were a bit sad to be leaving "their funny old man next door" but were proud of their mud pie student because "mom - he's gotten really great at making mud pies."
The evening before the family was to leave there was a knock on the door and the sound of laughter, along with departing foot steps. On the front step were two rosewood boxes, each with a daughter's name quckly painted on it.
"Who is it mom?" the girls asked.
"I don't don't know who left them but these must be for you."
It took no time at all for the girls to figure out how to open the boxes and they squeeled with delight when they saw the contents.
"Mud pies! Look mom, the funny man next door made us mud pies!"
Sure enough they were "mud pies" - white porcelin, hand made plates, with a slice of pie built on each. just a hint of color to identify which was the blue berry and which was the cherry "mud pie".
On each plate, a quickly scrawled signature - Picasso. In each box, a note in French, thanking the girls for a wonderful summer and for showing him how to make "mud pies".
Those plates later paid for the girls' college and were the earliest pieces of Picasso's white porcelin period.
The point of that story - kids are inspirational AND they'll make you laugh (and scratch your head wondering how the hell their ideas can actually be made in wood). Unconstrained by any tried and true "rules of design" they'll get you to think "outside the box", sometimes WAY outside the box.
What follows are Kid Projects. I hope they get you to get a kid involved in woodworking, if you haven't already. You'll create some great memories - for a kid AND for yourself.
Here's Das Gang who hung out in the shop the summer of '03 .