Preschool Carpentry 101: How to Build a Birdhouse


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!



About Kim McCoy

Kim McCoy is a passionate animal and environmental advocate with a B.S. in Business Administration from UT Knoxville and a J.D. specializing in Animal and Environmental Law. She graduated with honors from Lewis & Clark Law School, where she served as Editor in Chief of the internationally acclaimed Animal Law Review and interned with the National Center for Animal Law and the International Environmental Law Project. Kim is a member of MENSA (the “high IQ society”) and previously worked for Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in a variety of roles, including Executive Director, Director of Campaigns, and Director of Legal Affairs. Kim is also the former Executive Director of the One World One Ocean Foundation and the proud mother of a healthy, thriving son who has been vegan since conception. Currently serving as Executive Director of Big Life Foundation, which protects wildlife and wild lands in Eastern Africa, Kim remains deeply committed to the defense of animals worldwide.
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One Response to Preschool Carpentry 101: How to Build a Birdhouse

  1. Mike & Gloria McCoy says:

    I can’t bear it…such a good project for a 4 year old!

    Sent from Mike & Gloria’s iPad.

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