Today started out as a lesson in the basics of carpentry, and it spontaneously evolved into building a birdhouse. I initially set out some wood, nails, screws, screw drivers (one flat head and one Phillips), and a hammer. Then I invited Zander to come and experiment with them.
At some point in the future, we will use the collection of (free!) scrap wood I’ve been gathering from Lowe’s and storing in the garage. But for today, I chose balsa wood because it is very soft and forgiving–easy to insert screws, remove nails, etc.–as well as very quiet. We live in an apartment building, and I didn’t think our neighbors would appreciate me letting my 4-year-old hammer away at actual wood all afternoon. Balsa wood was perfect.
I started by setting up a few nails and screwing a handle and some metal pieces onto a block of wood, using a variety of hardware to keep it interesting. My intent was to create a setting in which Zander could intuitively get to work without me giving any instructions.
It worked like a charm. Zander immediately began to hammer, screw, unscrew, and remove nails, all with great enthusiasm! I was occasionally asked to hold things steady and keep them in place, but other than that, I was strictly forbidden from participating in his work.
The next thing I knew, Zander was asking me if we could please build a birdhouse. I couldn’t think of a reason not to, so we started assembling random pieces of balsa wood. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it was soft enough for me to cut with scissors, and before I knew it, we were done!
The next step, of course, was for Zander to paint the birdhouse. He could not have been more delighted by the process or the outcome, choosing his colors very carefully. Again, I was enlisted to help hold the birdhouse steady, but nothing more.
The birdhouse is currently out on our balcony drying. It will be interesting to see whether anyone actually moves into the house once it has been hung. Regardless, I consider this project a huge success!