Book Review: 50 Wooden Crafts to Make With Kids

A Fair Trade Book (?)
Author: Ellen J. Hobart and Eva Shaw
Date: 1994
Publisher: Crown / Random House
Length: 96 pages
Illustrations: drawings by Pam Posey
Quote: “The crafts described in this book are for children from five to twelve as well as their older helpers.”
Children from five to twelve will need a good deal of help with these projects; the book doesn’t include templates, and most projects involve drilling and nailing.
Some of the projects are real kid stuff; five-year-olds can sand and paint building blocks almost as fast as their older helper can saw them, and there’s a model tugboat made by nailing a small piece of wood (the top deck) onto a larger piece of wood (the hull). Alphabet and number blocks are counted as two separate projects; sets of blocks that spell out names or messages are counted as additional projects, to bring the project count up to fifty.
Other projects include checkers and tic-tac-toe sets, plant stakes, breakfast trays, and cutting boards. More challenging projects include paper towel holders, scratching posts for cats, window boxes, benches, and a nifty little stool for adults to step on and/or small children to sit on.
There’s a “holiday” section that tries to be inclusive, with a menorah as well as Christmas trees and ornaments. Relatively few holidays are included. There’s a wooden version of the turkey traced around a child’s hand, and a suggestion (no template) about painting flag designs on boards. After making the window box you’ll have the idea of how to make a recycling bin for Earth Day, and after making the simple sailboat you might be inspired to construct sailing ships for Columbus Day, but you’ll have to design them yourself. Maybe that’s the point. Most of the projects seem likely to be made for Mothers or Fathers Day.
This tersely written little book would also be useful for adults who weren’t taught woodworking as children and want to begin with relatively safe, simple, and small projects. In addition to boats, blocks, and stilts, there are also instructions for party games, bird feeders, the window box, the bench, napkin holds, bookends, racks, trays, trivets, paper towel holders, key racks, candlesticks, and pencil holders.
For the very young, there’s one project for which money will replace working closely with an adult. The gift necklace is made by stringing together small bits of wood cut in fancy shapes. Craft stores and department stores sell all kinds of pre-cut, pre-painted wooden beads just so “poor little rich kids” can make gift necklaces for everyone whose name they know.
For the other projects readers will have to shape the wood all by themselves, which means adults need to be involved. These projects can offer the whole family many hours of constructive, creative pleasure, and perhaps even profit. Only basic woodworking tools like a saw, drill, hammer, sandpaper, one of those big fat pencils carpenters use for marking wood, and lots of nails, paint, and glue, will be necessary. Schools might find student-made wooden toys and furniture easier to sell than the cheap chocolates made for fundraising drives, or secondhand junk sold at bazaars.
50 Wooden Crafts to Make with Kids is recommended to all families, art teachers, and leaders of after-school, summer school, Vacation Bible School, Scout, and similar programs. If you have access to some cheap wood, these projects can be a real bargain.
Google shows nothing for Ellen J. Hobart; what it shows for Eva Shaw suggests that several people are using that name, but, if you buy this book online here, I’ll write to the publisher to find out which one should receive 10% of the total payment for the book. As usual, you send $5 per copy + $5 per package to either address in the lower left-hand corner of the page, for a total of $10, from which (even if you order four copies at once and send me only $25) Shaw and/or Hobart and/or a charity of their choice will receive $1.
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