While my workshop is being reconfigured, the only real woodworking projects I have been doing lately are taking my 3 yr old to the Home Depot Kids Workshop and the Lowes Build and Grow Workshop a few times a month. Both stores really do a nice thing of providing the kits, tools and work space free of charge. It makes me feel good to see all the parents who get their kids off the couch and get them out doing something. Here are the fine details along with my impressions.
Home Depot Kid Workshop
These happen on the first Saturday of every month from 9AM – Noon. Registration is not required. Down here in Florida, they hold them under the contractors loading drive-through, but in colder weather I am sure they hold them inside. In my opinion Home Depot gets the kudos for going above and beyond. Given the choice, my son prefers these, and here is why (some of these may vary from store to store, this is what it is like at the Venice FL location):
- The projects involve more than nailing. Gluing, or screwing is often required.
- Kid friendly paint is always available.
- Each kit usually comes with stickers, and in addition, the store usually makes puffy foam letters available.
- They provide workbenches of different heights, so kids can work at whichever one meets there current needs. (parents have to slump… if your back hurts, it is a sign you are doing too much of the work for your child)
- Juice and Cookies are provided. (Healthy? not so much… but my son loves the treat at the completion of a project.)
- Kids get an orange Home Depot apron on the first time they visit, and then with each project build, they get a merit pin they can add to their apron. (My son keeps his pins in a jar rather than on his apron… he’s into collections like that… go figure)
Kids can hammer!
As I said, I enjoy seeing other parents bringing their kids in. One thing that irritates me slightly is when I see parents doing all the hammering for their kids. My son is three and can hammer the nails in straight most of the time and sink them flush. Why can he hammer better than many of the 7 year olds at the workshop??? Because I let him do it. If you take the hammer away and do it for them, the only thing they learn is that they can’t do it. Sure they may bend a few nails, but no worries. Let them learn from their mistakes, not from watching you hammer.
Lowes Build and Grow
These take place every other Saturday (twice a month) and run from 10 AM – Noon. You do have to pre-register online as they only order enough kits for those who sign up. At our store, the workshop is run near the Contractor’s / Special Projects Desk. At the initial project, they get a Lowes apron, and then upon completion of each project, the kids get a certificate and an iron-on patch. Pluses for the Lowes Projects include:
- Twice a month, so it is not such a long time between projects.
- Kits usually have better material(ie plywood, and ring shank nails instead of smooth nails, rubber wheels …) . However, the projects never involve any tool skill beyond hammering (no gluing, painting, screwing…)
- The directions are usually a little clearer, visually than the Home Depot versions. (multi-color instructions, and games on the instructions) Still both companies do a nice job with having just a few numbered steps, so you can teach your child to look at the steps in order.
On the drawback side to Lowes, I have a couple of minor complaints
- Nail, Nail Nail … done. Even my son has noticed that all you ever do is nail for these projects.
- They don’t have the kids working on a workbench, they just have them working on pallets of tile backer board. The height is the same for every surface, and the top is kind of springy, so when kids hammer, it puts the energy into flexing the table instead of driving the nails.
- The Build and Grow kids hammers are too small. They are easy for the kids to handle, but they don’t accomplish anything, especially when combined with the springy work surface. We bring our own kid hammer that has a little more mass and length to the handle.
A fun little plywood castle with colorful directions.
Improve Your Child’s Experience
Safety First – At either workshop you have to sign a waiver for insurance reasons, and eye protection is a must with all the little nails that go flinging off if mis-hit. Each workshop provides goggles, but often they are either scratched up or poorly fitting for little kids. My son uses Radians Mirage Small Safety Glasses. They fit him well and are optically better than cheaper “toy” goggles. At under $2 a pair, they are affordable protection.
The Right Height – With all the hammering involved, it really helps for kids to be high enough above the bench that they are hammering down, rather than at eye level. I have a StackOn Stp ‘N Stor Step Stool that my son really likes that works well for these workshops. We can store his stuff in it and he can stand on it to get the height he needs to hammer well.
Step right up to the workbench.
Stuff to Bring – Because of the paint at the Home Depot workshops, I always have a roll of paper towel in the stepstool toolbox, just in case. Because of the wimpy hammers at Lowes, we also bring a kid sized hammer. But really none of these things are needed. Just bring your child and 20-30 minutes where you can just spend time with your kid.
The bottom line is that they are good fun, a great experience for kids, and a chance to spend some quality family time. So thank you to both Lowes and Home Depot for making these possible.
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