March 1, 2014

7 Strategies We've Used to Teach our Kid about Cars

A kid in a restoration shop in sort of like a wild boar in a glass factory. All you can do is hold your breath and wait for the bill for damages. We follow the general rule of high-end paint shops and do not have kids around projects. However, this restricted ability to show off to children what we do in "real time" presents a challenge for our industry. How do we get the youth of today interested in this profession and the car collecting hobby?

We protect our customers cars to the fullest. On the other hand, want our son and other kids to understand the joys of automotive building and refinishing. They need to understand how rewarding the hands-on work can be. We simply ask that the kids use the care and restraint of an adult while doing so! Yeah. Right. This is not an easy task for 5 year old! Children Rowan's age learn best by touch or by interacting with what they are learning about.

So, how does someone in this industry introduce cars and the love of the automotive industry to a child? Relying on the vehicles we drive to the grocery store in will likely not generate much of an interest in working with cars, especially fixing them. Luckily, we have some other strategies. And since Rowan likes to have jobs when he's learning something, we used the Rowan approach and gave job titles for each area of expertise.

7 Strategies to Teach Kids About Cars
1) Photograher in Training:
The Nintendo DS has a surprisingly fun and high quality feature allowing kids as young as age 4 to take pictures, draw on their photos or edit them, and then view them all as a slide show. Rowan has a great time following me around taking pictures of the same cars I am documenting. We often compete for the best picture of each car.

 A photography scavenger hunt allow kids to learn car parts as you ask them take a picture each part as you call out the name. If you know very little about cars, consider this a learning opportunity for you as well and use a diagram to check your work! Kids love seeing if their teacher was wrong. Some kids really enjoy using the chart to search for the parts. It's similar to learning map skills and presents a different type of challenge. If your child is learning to read you can provide a list of the parts based on their reading level. To make it more challenging, time them and give them a limited number of "helps". Rowan enjoys trying to beat his own time, and tries much harder at sounding things out or finding the part on the car when he knows he can only ask me for a hint 3 times.

Continue reading for more fun ideas...

2) Car Disassembly Assistant:
Disclaimer: This would be supervised and hopefully would be done on a car you no longer have a use for or will be rebuilding. Having a demo car or two around the property from Steve's past hobby was a blessing. Rowan spent his early years assisting with the strip down and painting of the cars. This taught him how to use hand tools, install car parts, and to always use "the right tool for the job". He spent a lot of quality time with his dad learning about what's hidden behind the panels and surfaces of the everyday car. There is no better way to learn the inner workings of the engine than to dismantle one. Not to mention that the fine motor skill development through the use of hand tools was incredible!

3) Automotive Inspector:
Rowan is often the first critic to inspect our work, and he has developed a discerning eye. Steve will go over a job as it enters the shop, describing to Rowan what needs to be fixed on a car. He will also accompany Rowan through the booth to view his finished product(only when the area is deemed "fume free"). This has created a multitude of opportunities for learning colors, how colors change in light, what happens to paint when it's scratched or buffed, and what colors match. He is pictured here with Steve critiquing the final paint on a few body panels for a 1979 Thunderbird.

Cars, especially restored and classic cars, come in many varieties and colors which allow for teaching kids to notice details. They can practice identifying small differences across a group of (at a show) or on one unique car. They can then start to identify car types. Toy models (although not always "correct") are a great place to start. "Find the match" is fun game, trying to match car types(coup, pickup, convertible, van), colors, make/model. Depending on the number of toy cars in your house this may be a short game, or it could last all morning. For very young kids, the colors applied to toy and full size vehicles are great for demonstrating that a green can be many different shades and tones, and it can make learning colors fun!
this colorful installation was created from 2,500 old toy cars by artist david t. waller.
For older kids, noticing differences under the hood will present a greater challenge. Engines and engine components come in endless shapes and sizes. Learning about them one part or type at a time, how the parts are installed and removed and what each part does helped Rowan discover that engines are fun to work with.  He also had a variety of toy engines starting at age 1.

4) Parade Wave Professional:
Parades remain the hallmark of main street America. Driving a classic automobile presents an opportunity to be in a parade, or better yet, have your grandchild in a parade. Rowan had the opportunity to be in the Randolph parade with his grandpa. He will never forget how everybody waved at him, or how tired his arm got!

Even if you don't drive in a parade, taking your child or grandchild out for ice-cream or to the park in your classic is a great way for them to learn the reason we say "roll up" the window, even though nearly every car today has buttons to do it for us.

4) Car Show Expert:
Not only are car shows a great photo opportunity, they are a chance for kids to see and listen to a wide variety of cars and engine types. The video below was a show stopper every time it entered a venue due to it's unique sound pattern. You don't need to know about engines to recognize that it's been built up a little more than your "average" engine. Rowan practically chased this car across the lot to hear it run.

The photo below is of Automotion WI Dells, an Annual Car and Truck show with Swap Meet located at Noah's Ark parking lot in WI Dell's. It draws over 1000 participants every year, which provides a wide variety of eye candy and learning opportunity for youngsters. Many car shows have playgrounds, water parks or entertainment for the kids at the events themselves. Magic shows, jugglers, face-painting and coloring stations are frequently free after you've entered the gates.

6) Car Builder:
Ok, so that's maybe a bit out of the budget for many(or most) and doesn't apply to kids, right? Well Amazon or your local hobby store can help with that. There are a wide variety of kits for building cars of various types and sizes. They come in plastic, wood, or metal and are for the appropriate age child and skill level. I built TONS of model cars growing up(yes, I'm a girl, that's okay) and Steve did as well. It challenges fine motor skills, patience and attention to detail. The learning happens by accident! As a kid I thought I was just building model a and having a good time. Now I realize that I learned a about how a car is structured and why it operates by putting those "silly" models together.  Rowan has started on the pinewood derby cars and will soon advance to an invisible engine and the plastic type models.
Start looking here:

7)Reading Expert:
Books for beginning readers are structured to allow them to develop their vocabulary. But what about their interests? Rowan picks up words much faster when he is determined to figure out what they say about his topic of interest. Steve and Rowan can be found reading Car Craft, Hot Rod and Hemmings Motor News. Anything from the advertisements, photo captions to the articles about the cars, because he likes the topics he tries harder to sound the words out before asking for help. He also stretches the boundaries of his knowledge to it's limits! We buy books and apps targeted to his interest in cars. His first car book we read to him ever was, "Twelve Little Race Cars" by Scott and Judy Pruett.

To sum it all up:
There are way more than 7 ways to learn about cars and involve your kids in this industry. We hope to add to this list through the years. As Rowan grows we continue to have new "light bulb" moments realizing that there are things we saw and did growing up that kids don't need to do today, but perhaps should learn. However, we always let Rowan have the final say in what his interests are. If he decides that he does not enjoy the car industry we do not have the expectation that he will work in it. We will however, enjoy the peace of mind that he understands how cars and engines work when he buys his first car, drives away to college and moves out of our house (eventually, no rush). If he needs to change a flat tire we know he's well equipped, in fact he could probably walk some adults through the process today, and he's not even 6 years old.

We hope you find the time to Take a Kid to a Car Show, or have a scavenger hunt for cars this coming summer. It is our pleasure to supply some eye candy and restored work for the next generation to enjoy through our shop's projects.

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