I thought it would be a nice change of pace to start a series on kids in the shop. Now, I don't have years of experience at this, but what I do have is a degree in education, a shop, and a 5 year old daughter that has her own workbench.
For this first post I would like to take a moment and talk about the tools of the trade. Little kids have a completely different idea of what shop time is about. We like to "play" by building projects, maybe planing some wood, or pushing our creativity by inventing the next most extreme router jig. But, when you're 3 or 4, your idea of shop time is something different entirely. Mostly, they want to have fun, but they also want to spend time with YOU. That last part is the most important, never forget that or you'll spend all your shop time just yelling. Stay involved in what they are doing, ask them questions about their project, and help when they need it.
The tools that a child needs to explore the world of woodworking are so simple in some cases you may be surprised. Take a look at the photo above, these are the vast majority of tools that my 5 year old daughter has. She started woodworking at 3 years old, and over the years she has collected a few things. Here is her tool list: 19" tall workbench that has a 20"x22" plywood top, small vise (actually this was mine when I was her age), Lowe's nail apron, level, square, pencil, triangle file, two screwdrivers, screw gun (this is a luxury item), two C clamps, tape measure, sanding block, Purple Heart mallet, 7 oz claw hammer, 18 gauge finish nails (from a nail gun), large cut nail for a nail set, Poor man's beading tool (board with screw in the middle of it), and a pad of paper.
I know that may not look very impressive, but when you are 3-5 years old and can spend over an hour filing the edge of a board with a triangle file, that's about all you need. I should note that some tools you find may require alterations. For instance, the 7 oz. hammer my daughter uses has had the handle shaved down to fit her small hands. It only took her two days to go from a two handed swing to a one handed swing while driving nails.
I don't want to get into talking about projects for kids yet, but it is astounding what a child can do with some of these simple tools. You don't need expensive things, most of these are either made with scrap, or only cost a couple bucks.
I do have some tools set aside for her as she gets older, more experienced, and gains some coordination (see picture). Notice that she doesn't have the cutting tools pictured above, outside of a beading tool and a file. I find that most small children have no need for cutting tools, and in many cases they are too much of a safety concern/hazard. Of course, all of this depends on the child in question, age, and maturity level. Make your own judgments and observations.
As my daughter gets older she will acquire these cutting tools. First we have a small handsaw that I found on ebay for $5. I had to straighten the plate a little, and it still needs to be sharpened, but perfect for a person with small hands. The coping saw is great for cutting curves, and works better for small kids than it does for adults. The two hand planes are a small Stanley bullnose plane and a No.3 (literally found under a barn). More than likely she will get the bullnose plane soon, however the saws might be a while.
Next time I'll spend some time talking about, and showing, some projects my daughter has worked on over the past couple years. The results may be shocking.