Halloween is known for costumes and candy, but for those with children, it is also a time of year that breeds creativity. Construction paper, pipe cleaner, paste, and colored pencils are great for the younger set, but for children who are a bit older, more intensive activities can be a great opportunity to learn intermediate skills that deliver brilliant, imaginative results.
One such activity is woodworking. While saws, nails, and other sharp tools may conjure scary, dangerous images, youngsters– under the watchful eye and appropriate direction of a parent – can create simple-yet-delightful pieces of art that welcome the ghouls and goblins into your home for the season while teaching them:
• Measurements – Any woodworking project requires measuring and cutting appropriate lengths of wood or moulding so that it is the correct length for the project. This will encourage your children's understanding of the English and metric measuring systems.
• Math – Where there are measurements, there is math, and your youngsters will need to apply their knowledge of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division to any woodworking project.
• Geometric shapes – Rectangles can only get you so far with a project for the Halloween season, so there are plenty of opportunities to spruce things up – and let the imagination go wild – while teaching about the various types of triangles, polygons, circles and more.
The learning doesn't end here. Remember that integrating the head and the hands is important in the development of intelligence, not to mention that woodworking is a hobby that they can enjoy for a lifetime.
But before getting started, make sure to introduce your children to critical safety rules that they must follow when engaging a woodworking project. Following are a few guidelines that should be enforced at all times to teach - and ensure – safety. Remember that you, the parent, must set the example, so be sure to follow these guidelines, too!
• No woodworking without supervision
• Wear goggles to protect your eyes
• If your child has long hair, have them tie it back into a ponytail or tuck it under a hat
• Keep tools away from your eyes and face
• Always carry tools by your side
• Do not use a tool until you have been appropriately introduced to it
• Use clamps or a bench vise for sawing, sanding, or drilling
• Saw with two hands or with one hand behind your back
• Tools aren't toys, and therefore they aren't for play
• Always put tools away when you are finished with them
In the spirit of Halloween, there are a few very simple projects that can introduce your children to woodworking without a lot of fuss.
1. Use shapes to decorate your pumpkin:
The traditional carved pumpkin has a very geometric presence with its triangle eyes and nose. Teach your children about the various types of triangles, and then provide them with a ruler and a pencil so that they can practice drawing triangles onto a piece of thin moulding or balsa wood. For advanced youngsters, use a measuring triangle to find the right dimensions. Have them use a pull saw to cut out the shapes. Hold the fresh wooden shapes in place on the pumpkin's face while your children trace them to establish the eyes, nose and mouth. You can then use a knife to carve along the outlines to bring the pumpkin to life.
2. Craft a sign welcoming (or warning!) trick-or-treaters:
In preparation for the costumed denizens, who will surely be knocking on Halloween night, you and your children can create a welcome sign that can hang by your front door. Have them measure out the length of the rectangular sign on a wide piece of moulding and use a pull saw to cut it appropriately. Work with them to apply a coat of orange or black paint, and once dry, allow them to paint "Welcome" or "Warning" in bold letters. You can then drill two holes across the top of the sign, tie a piece of fishing line from one hole to the other, and hang it from a hook, porch light, or mailbox.
3. Create miniature tombstones for an outdoor planter:
These graveyard staples add eerie charm to homes during the Halloween season. Have your children measure out the appropriate length for the body of the tombstone on a piece of moulding, and then, using a compass, trace out a semicircle to create the domed top. Have them cut the shape out using a pull saw. Together with your children, apply a coat of gray paint, and once dry, use a smaller brush to stroke a fictional name (think "Jack O' Lantern," or other festive options). These small, fun decorations will add a creepy aura to your home.
While your supervision is critical to the safety of your young woodworkers, make sure to allow them to explore their creativity. You may suggest a craft or design idea, but they should make their own choices. This will ensure that their early experience with woodworking is both creative and empowering!
Guest Post by Chris Long. Chris writes and provides tips on doors, windows and other wood products for the Home Depot website. Chris has been a Home Depot store associate in the Chicago suburbs since 2000, providing homeowners with in depth knowledge on woodworking ideas ranging from the installation of crown molding to properly measuring for new front doors.