Best Age to Start Building With My Kids?

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JayKoit

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Jan 17, 2013
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Hi Everyone,

I've been dormant for a while around here, been really busy with three younguns and a full time job....I also finally got some flight training in, broke the 15 hour mark and hope to get my Sport ticket soon.

Speaking of younguns, have any of you done any building with your children? If so what's the youngest age you got them started? I have a 5 and almost 4 year old, and they really want to build a plane with me, but they're still pretty young and therefore can't hold concentration for very long, we just spent three hours building a model of a jet engine (because my 4 year old loves them) but they had to take several breaks throughout to go play, get snacks, etc. so I'm not sure they're ready, however, I guess we can go as slow as we need to at this point and cover more ground as they get older...

I'm thinking wood is probably the best to start them on, but I'll take any thoughts on the subject. Just seems like an easy medium to work with: measuring, clamping, gluing, sanding, even hand sawing (if a less crucial part can be made by doing so). I'm strongly leaning toward a Fisher Dakota Hawk or Horizon at this point since it seems like a there's lots of support, quick build options, great plans and videos, and the wings fold (we have a ranch to store the plane and we're only 200 yards from the airport entrance, so it would be pretty easy to tow it over).

Anyway, if any parents out there have done any successful building with their kids I'd love to hear their stories & feedback. Thanks!
 

bmcj

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I was about that age when I started with my grandfather. I think the trick at their age is going to be just to build the plane on your schedule and let them help when they can and want to. That way, they don't feel forced into it and they can come to appreciate it on their own schedule.

If you are on some critical parts that you can't trust to the kids, have some dummy parts that they can work on and still think they are working on the real thing. Along the same line, you can put them to work on some easier pieces.
 

FritzW

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I don't have any kids but I was kid a long time ago. My Dad let me "help" him build model airplanes as soon as I could squeeze a tube of glue. I'm sure I only made a mess and wasted wasted balsa. But the seeds were planted...

Build something with stick ribs, when they screw up a rib your only out a little wood (the cost of being a Dad):)
 

Pops

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My daughter was helping me spread the glue on the plywood skins of the KR-2 that I was building back in the 70's when she was about 12 years old. Now I have flown behind engines she has overhauled and I wouldn't paint an airplane without her help. Dan
 

Rienk

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Wood is practically the only medium that I would consider having kids help with.
Unless you have a prodigy, welding is a tough skill to teach someone under 10, and anyone can glue (especially if there is a jig fixture, and slow curing adhesive is used). As the others said, fake or simple parts are a great way to encourage - but definitely let them help as they feel inspired, as long as they stick with a certain task (finish a rib, etc). The main issue is your being willing to slow down during the time they are helping, because it will take 2-4 times as long for the same task alone.j
BTW, remember to get lots of pictures - even if they don't help much when they are as young as yours, when they (or their friends) see a picture of them helping build a plane that actually gets flown, they'll want to help on the next one - especially if they get stick time in trade!
 

VP1

Todd C.
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I have a 5 and a 3 year old. I would give them some spruce sticks and some 220 sandpaper and have them round all the edges and make it smooth. At that age they just want to be involved so give them a lot of encouragement and something to keep their hands busy :)
 

Victor Bravo

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Have them start building simple model airplanes with you right now. As many of us know very well, model building is a direct path to full size airplane building, and the skills are essentially the same.

However, the great part about the models is that you start off building simple sheet balsa models, and the kids actually fly what they build within a day. THAT is what sets the hook, overcomes the short attention span of children, and makes building relevant to flying.

So my advice is to start building sheet balsa hand toss gliders and rubber powered models. Go out of your way to explain how the wings and tail works the same way as Daddy's big plane project,a nd all planes fly the same whether big or small.

What you want to accomplish is to have the kids building the simple models immediately, and have it made relevant to the full size airplane. Once they are enjoying flying the sheet models, move up to the simpler stick and tissue models, building and flying. Do it all with them, of course.

Explain to the kids that you can't wait to get started on the big plane, and once they can build good parts for the models, then you BOTH can start building parts for the big plane, because you can't do it without them. This should keep them interested, and enthusiastic enough to learn patience that most kids can't anymore.

Having models to build and fly at the same time as the full size airplane is being built is also a good strategy. For example, if there is a delay, or a particularly tedious job on the full size airplane, there is an airplane oriented activity that keeps the kids with you in the workshop, instead of losing interest overall and going back to their video game.
 

gtae07

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We started my dad's RV-6 when I was 13. The only thing he wouldn't let me do was spray primer, both from chemical concerns and because I'm terrible at it. My brother was 10; he did a little riveting and some drilling but mainly he deburred stuff (Dad would pay us to do that while he was gone for work). My sister was 6; she would insert/remove clecos, hand us rivets, and be the tool go-fer.

I worked on it a lot more than they did; they weren't as interested.
 

dcstrng

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I suspect shop-time is valuable regardless of age... so many youngsters these days never have an opportunity to do stuff with their hands; or at least nothing that can't be done on an iPod etc... my great grandson (2 yo) now heads straight for the shop... way too young to turn loose for safety concerns, but he's already understanding what goes with what... I agree, wood is safer... but I've made him up some aluminum pieces... deburred etc... and he's get used to things many kids will seldom do.... couple years and he can help with the fabric...
 

bmcj

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Models are great experience, but if you are building a full-sized plane, the kids are going to want to be involved, so you might as well. All of the advice given here so far is good, but I'd like to add one more thought.

EMPHASIZE SAFETY, but not to the point to scare them. You will no doubt have power hand tools, table saws, etc, and even though you may choose not to allow them to use them, they will still see you using them and will want to emulate you or surprise you with work they did while you were out. I would consider getting some lock boxes for the power hand tools, and some lockouts for the larger table devices. In addition to that, you might want to switch off the breakers for the wall sockets.

Secure sharp tools (awls, razor knives, etc), dangerous chemicals, and sharp building materials like sheet metal.

Get them each their own safety goggles and ear protection. If it's their own, they will wear it because it makes them feel like they are part of the crew.
 

JayKoit

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Jan 17, 2013
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Los Angeles, CA
Thanks everyone, really great thoughts and advice here. Good call bmcj about the safety precautions, I always emphasize safety to begin with (since they love watching me use my miter saw, drill, jig saw, etc.) but once they start working with me on a project, I should take some extra precautions since I know they'll be even more excited and want to do more. They love to help so much already while I do home projects and renovations. They even have their own goggles and aprons from the Lowe's "Build and Grow" workshops.

I like the idea of doing a model first, almost like a dry run of sorts, plus the parts are more their size. Then, we move on to the real thing. From the sounds of everyone's responses it seems like it's not unreasonable to start them out on some easy stuff in the coming months. Exciting!
 

Nickathome

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S.E. PA
Have them work on something while you're building. Make it so it appears they're working on parts of the plane. Give them a scrap of the wood you're using and either a clamp or a hammer etc. They'll get it out of their system and at the same time it makes them feel like they're helping. This way they're not interfering with your real work, but you're getting them interested in the hobby. Doesn't take much to sow a seed that may take them in a similar direction in life.
 

BJC

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Models are great experience, but if you are building a full-sized plane, the kids are going to want to be involved, so you might as well. All of the advice given here so far is good, but I'd like to add one more thought.

EMPHASIZE SAFETY, but not to the point to scare them. You will no doubt have power hand tools, table saws, etc, and even though you may choose not to allow them to use them, they will still see you using them and will want to emulate you or surprise you with work they did while you were out. I would consider getting some lock boxes for the power hand tools, and some lockouts for the larger table devices. In addition to that, you might want to switch off the breakers for the wall sockets.

Secure sharp tools (awls, razor knives, etc), dangerous chemicals, and sharp building materials like sheet metal.

Get them each their own safety goggles and ear protection. If it's their own, they will wear it because it makes them feel like they are part of the crew.
Amen to the above.

I wouldn't let any youngster be exposed to sawdust, fiberglass dust, carbon fiber dust, cutting uni of anything, MEK, MEKP, acetone, curing VE, curing epoxies, etc.

The most important thing is just doing things with them.


BJC
 

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