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Getting Your Kids Excited About Wood Carving | An Interview with Annie Haas of The Child IS the Curriculum

This is part 1 of a 5 part series that Schaaf Tools has done in collaboration with Annie Haas. Our goal is to give parents a few tools to encourage their kids to begin creating something with their hands.

  • Video 1: Safety and the young child
  • Video 2: Books to start with
  • Video 3: Tools you need
  • Video 4: Why Woodworking?

What is The Child is The Curriculum? is an online community to help and support parents set up their Waldorf homeschooling curriculum. Much of the advice is applicable even for parents who don’t homeschool, but just want to diversify their children’s education. Looking for ideas and inspiration for your kid? Be sure to visit Annie’s website, and follow her on Instagram @thechildisthecurriculum (after you check out the interview, of course).

Stay tuned each of the next 4 weeks as we release a new video segment from Annie!

 Getting Started Takeaways:

  • Start with easy projects, like carving a tree branch into a snake.
  • Keep tools sharp and use soft wood, like basswood, to avoid frustration.
  • Create a dedicated carving space and carving time.
  • Get involved yourself!

Why is carving a part of your curriculum?

Our era has an over-reliance on technology and intellectual education, to the great detriment of hands-on learning. A great deal can only be learned by experience, and carving touches on a primitive part of humanity on a very basic level that is deeply connected to our history and human expression.

Taking a project from start to finish is said to build [will power] and affects the inner life of the child. It takes a great deal of patience and resilience to complete a carving and helps the child to delay gratification. Working little by little, children can work to create a form out of their own being. It instills confidence, and a deep understanding for form during a time when their own growth forces have become free from the confines of early childhood, yet still need direction. This is why carving is a vital part of our education! 


How old do you think you have to be to start carving? Is it safe for kids?

I think a 4- or 5-year-old child who can take direction seriously can begin carving after they are taught basic safety skills. At this age, I would start with de-barking branches outside that are formed like a pretend “snake” or the end of a branch stub that can be whittled into a pointed hat gnome! We have a safety sheet we made of a character who is seated and whittles away from himself and his inner legs. Usually, the younger the child is, the more likely I am to put electrical tape on the tip of the pointed carving knife and allow them to whittle away from themselves under supervision using the middle part of the blade against a branch. The older they get, the more complex the carving can get! In most Waldorf schools, woodworking starts in 5th or 6th Grade, but Steiner himself said that it is ideal for them to start much sooner. We started with branches and easy projects like a bullroarer or gouging out a big log into a boat over a long period of time. 


Do your children have any thoughts to share on carving?

My daughters both love carving but find it more difficult with hard woods and harder if the blades are not sharp. Keeping sharp blades is much more satisfying. Using wood like basswood is easier for children than pine. They both say it is very satisfying to watch the curls of wood come off!


What advice would you give someone who wants to motivate their child to be creative with their hands?

I would say that taking an interest yourself and setting up a nice area for carving that is comfortable and inviting will motivate. Give the child something doable and set aside a time each week at the same time. This puts the activity in a weekly rhythm, so they look forward to it and don’t get burned out doing too much. Take months or a year to do one project, and they will feel so satisfied when it is finally done! Have them look forward to the weekly time together to work with wood, have great conversation, help them through struggle, and talk about how much progress they have made! Let them know that it is just like riding a bicycle and it takes practice and patience. Have them imagine the finished piece and slowly work towards it. We personally woodwork on Wednesdays and call it “Woodworking Wednesday” so they look forward to it each week. If it is part of a rhythm, they are less likely to resist practice and drop the project. If you start with easy satisfying projects, they are more likely to want to do more!

Thanks Annie! What’s next?

Next week’s video will cover carving safety with a young child. We’ll also link to a Safety sheet you can download as a member of Annie's community! Don’t miss it 😊

1 comment

  • Michael Evans

    It’s so great that working with one’s hands is again being recognized as not only being useful to society but also useful to the development of the individual. All of my children and grandchildren have spent time with me in my shop and I have seen them develop the attitude that simple tools and some knowledge can often help overcome dependence on a system. Instead of just “buying” they all have demonstrated the attitude and knowledge that they can “make”.

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