As fall starts to slowly move into our little neck of the woods, my thoughts have turned to the year that lies ahead of us. My newly minted 5 year old will not be shuffling off onto the bus to attend kindergarten, but rather will continue to learn here, at home with us. We follow a Waldorf inspired way of learning so the “curriculum” is learning about home life. We learn through songs, finger plays, handwork, lots and lots of free play and by partaking in the daily rhythm of the home. This year though, I really wanted to focus on the handwork stuff. He is very much in his head and I am feeling him to be a bit unbalanced these days. I wanted to find a way to get him out of his head and down into his body, to work through some of this energy that growing little boys seem to be filled with.
After a visit this summer with close friends, I knew that woodworking was the way to go. They have 3 older boys, all of whom can be found on any given day with a carving knife or hammer and saw in hand and a project of some sort on their agenda. J was loving it. So when we got home the very first thing we did was to build him a tool box and fill it with a few simple things to get him started. The next day he wanted a project so, trying to keep simplicity in mind, I decided we would make some boats.
This is a fantastic project for all ages. They can be as simple as a sanded plank of wood for the under 3 group or as complex as a multilayer cargo ship for the older crowd. It doesn’t take much and most things you already have around the house. There is a great article in the latest Living Craft magazine which can be found at the Living Craft website, about boat making with children. It just happens to be written by the same 3 boys that inspired us this summer!
For our little boats, I cut a plank of 1x4 cedar that we had lying around into about 6 inch pieces. I made one end have 2 45 degree angle cuts just to give it a bit of shape and a starting off point. I also gathered scrap pieces in all shapes and sizes to be used for smoke stacks and crow’s nests and such.
Then we sanded until the planks were smooth and the edges were slightly rounded.
It went quickly for me, but little hands work slower and expect to be asked for help. Also, for some, this might be as far as you get in one day. That is fine, just keep it available and they can come back to it when they feel like it during the day. If you get through the sanding, you are ready to start creating.
Using the various pieces, we played around with all sorts of boat shapes. I found that if I just started playing and experimenting with mine, he followed along, without having to be told. After we decided on our creation, we set to work assembling. We used wood glue and nails. You could also use screws or dowels if you are really getting fancy.
We made flags and my little guy used a feather for a sail. Popsicle sticks were laid down for plank flooring and used for rails on the ferry that was made. It was fantastic to see their little minds at work as well as their hands.
After they were finished we attached a little eye hook and tied a long (about 6 feet) piece of twine. We tied the twine to a stick so they could let the boats out but also tow them back in when playtime was done. All that was left was the maiden voyage. The result?
A lake full of lovely little boats, 2 happy little boys and a classic summertime scene of little children and their sailing boats.