When I first heard that Mag Ruffman (you may remember her as Olivia King from Road To Avonlea, but she is also quite the home improvement expert) was teaming up with Lowe’s for a series of Family Fun Projects videos, my interest was piqued and I had lots of questions. Who better to seek answers from than the ToolGirl herself, Mag Ruffman?
This Mom: Why did you decide to get involved in Family Fun Projects with Lowe’s?
Mag Ruffman: So many kids don’t get a chance to work with their hands or build stuff because parents often don’t know how to help them, or don’t know what projects to build with their kids. Sometime parents are even afraid of tools and they transfer that fear to their kids. But kids are the biggest, most eager audience of builders in the world, and they’re also the fastest learners! So I pitched some TV shows last year that would teach kids how to use tools. However, the TV networks were worried about liability issues regarding children and tools, and they all said ‘no’. So I went to Lowe’s and pitched the idea to them. They were excited and agreed to fund a pilot project, so we just finished producing our first web series of Family Fun Projects. We have 20 different projects available online at http://lowes.ca/kidsvideos, and each project features a short video plus a free, downloadable illustrated booklet with complete step-by-step instructions, a detailed supplies list, and lots of tips!
TM: Why are these projects preferable to other summer activities kids might be partaking in?
MR: Building things is a bonding experience for kids and parents. It’s also great for brain development, coordination, spatial perception and it increases inventiveness and resourcefulness in both kids and parents. Building together produces memories that will last forever. It creates problem-solving abilities and self-sufficiency. Family Fun projects allow children to be self-directed; parents don’t need to do much except (in some cases) cut material or do some of the drilling. Kids can do most of the fastening and finishing with the parent providing just a little background guidance.
TM: What age ranges would these projects be suitable for? What about cost range? Length of time to complete projects?
MR: The projects we’ve shot so far include children from 2-3/4 to 9 years old. Some of the projects, for example the Art Table, which doubles as a study desk, would appeal to kids 10-14. We try to keep the cost of the projects under $50 for materials. Some are well under $50. Most of the projects can be completed in about two hours. More complicated projects take four hours, including drying time for paint/glue.
TM: Do you notice any gender differences when working with children on construction projects?
MR: Just a couple, but first I should mention that we don’t audition any of our kids. We take any child, because we’ve discovered that they’re ALL good at using their hands. They’re all deliciously grabby with the tools. Honestly, both boys and girls ‘get’ the tools so quickly, they can hardly wait to get their hands on them.
There’s no difference in coordination and eagerness between boys and girls. There’s no difference in design aptitude or body strength. The only differences show up in colour preference; girls more often like pink and purple while boys usually opt for blue, green and black. Also, and this is a bit of a generalization, when they need a break, boys tend to get kinetic, whereas girls seem to get dreamy. So plan for lots of snack breaks and running-around-outside moments!
TM: Anything else moms and dads should know about Family Fun Projects?
MR: After 4 million years of evolution, this is the brightest generation of toolmakers and tool-users ever born! Your kids will amaze you with their grasp of construction – just sit beside them and watch them. They’re insanely creative and focused when they’re allowed to use tools to make things. They quickly learn respect for the tools so they don’t hurt themselves.
And by the way, here are a couple of thoughts on appropriate tools for kids: We use a drill and screws as fasteners rather than hammer and nails because a drill is much easier to control than a hammer, so there’s less risk of an accident. We also allow the kids to try using a saw; the only rule is that they place one hand behind their back so there’s no risk of cutting themselves on the saw blade. We have a trick too; we use a Japanese-style hand saw, which cuts on the pull stroke so it never balks or binds. It’s the easiest saw in the world to use (about $30 at Lowe’s), even for a tiny 4-year-old! And even if a parent is totally new to tools, we designed the illustrated instructions to be kid-friendly and to assist parents with loads of tips and helpful hints. So whether your kids want to make a soccer net, a chalkboard, a lap desk or any of our other 20 Family Fun projects, this will be the best summer ever for building cool stuff!
So there you have it! Check out the Family Fun Projects, and let the construction begin!