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The Wonders of Woodworking

Family Feature

Written by Lauren Hunsberger

Why did you start Kids’ Carpentry?
Loren Kite: I have a background in carpentry and children’s theater. I lived in Oakland for a couple years, and Kids’ Carpentry is a program that’s been around there since the early ’80s. I got a job teaching there. When my family moved back to Seattle, I looked around and realized there wasn’t anything like it, not even in the schools.

Why does woodworking resonate with you?
LK: I have been working with wood since I was a kid, using scraps from my garage and that kind of thing. I love creating stuff, and there’s something so satisfying about taking a wooden board and turning it into a tangible thing, whether it’s a game, a car or a piece of furniture.

What are your favorite things to make?
LK: Personally, I build a lot of furniture. I have a few pieces at home that I’m really proud of. With Kids’ Carpentry, I get the chance to build all sorts of crazy things—we’ve built pinball machines, little libraries, moving vehicles, a racetrack—all these really cool things that satisfy the kid in me.

What are the benefits of woodworking for young children?
LK: A lot of what we do is simple math disguised as a good time. Kids use measuring, fractions, accuracy, proportions, geometry—all that basic stuff. That’s on top of developing fine motor skills, boosting creativity and gaining self-esteem.

How does it boost self-esteem?
LK: Kids go to a store and see a car wrapped up in plastic, and they think, I could never make that. Well, actually, you can. You just need the tools and instruction for it. We have kids in tears on the first day because everything looks hard and seems difficult. They’re seeing saws and hammers, tools they aren’t allowed access to normally. But in six weeks, they have a real moving car with parts that they have built from scratch. That’s huge for kids.

Do you have any tips for working with kids and carpentry?
LK: The most important thing is to allow them to make mistakes. They don’t need to do it right the first time, they need to make mistakes so they can figure out how to do it better the next time. As adults, we tend to step in way too much. The best thing is to give them space to trust in themselves. It’s about the experience.

What is the most common challenge kids face during the process?
LK: There’s often a block that they can’t do it, that it’s going to be too hard. Making the leap that they can do this, that’s the biggest challenge.

What can participants expect from the workshop you’re hosting at the Club in January?
LK: Kids can expect to complete three projects and gain a wide variety of carpentry skills—assembling, cutting, trying different tools. By the end, they will take home three items they never expected to be able to make.

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