• KidShop, 6925 Willow St. N.W., Washington, (202)
• Arise and dZi: Tibet Collection, 6925 Willow St.
N.W., (202) 291-0770
• Palais du Chocolat, 6925 Willow St. N.W., (202) 723-4280
• Taliano's, 7001 Carroll Ave., Takoma Park, Md., (301)
• Mark's Kitchen, 7006 Carroll Ave., (301) 270-1884
• Savory Cafe, 7071 Carroll Ave, (301) 270-2233
"We make things here
in wood," Larry Gold says by way of a brief introduction. "KidShop
is a woodworking shop for kids."
Sitting on kid-size stools around four kid-size workbenches, children in
KidShop learn and practice basic woodworking skills – hammering, sawing,
drilling, sanding, and using tape measures and combination squares –
with particular emphasis on cleaning up afterward and putting tools away.
All tools are sized for small hands, and a safety-first attitude is
maintained with safety gear, close adult supervision and use of the
patented KidShop Saw Guide, a groovy wood-and-plastic device that keeps
young sawyers on the straight and narrow.
Slowly, patiently, step by step, Gold walks and talks fledgling carpenters
from ages 4 to 15 through the process of turning chunks of wood into
everything from toy planes and trucks to flower boxes, book bins, bird
feeders and beds for Beanie Babies.
But before any anxious little hands touch any of the tools neatly arrayed
on pegboards around the tidy workshop, Gold recites the rules of the shop:
(1) Listen carefully and quietly to all instructions. (2) Wear your safety
goggles and gloves. (3) Carry tools at your side when walking. (4) Have
fun … but no fooling around.
And they do have fun. The youngest participants, ages 4 to 6, are in Wood
Play programs, accompanied by mandatory adult escorts. The kids take part
in brief preliminary quizzes on the function of the tools they are about
to wield possibly for the first time in their lives. Projects such as toy
helicopters, Wood Play Pal figures, mazes for marbles and rolling
wheelmobiles come out close to perfect every time because much of the
sawing and drilling is done on practice blocks, while finished products
are created from pre-cut and pre-drilled pieces.
Children 6 and older take on more ambitious projects from scratch, without
adult escorts and sometimes over two or three sessions. During summer
minicamps, groups of kids 11 and older produce the kind of mission-style
bookcases that sell for big bucks at places like Crate & Barrel.
While all KidShop activities are gender neutral – there's no
"ladies first," and everybody does his or her own heavy lifting
– only 30 to 40 percent of workshop participants are girls. Gold said he
believes this has less to do with perceived woodworking aptitude and more
to do with boys finding the projects – mostly vehicles for the younger
ones – more appealing.
Gold himself is a remodeled lawyer who, in 1994, exchanged briefcases for
bookcases and torts for tots to found the first and, as far as anyone
knows, only woodworking shop for children. Future plans for the shop,
operated by Gold and his wife, Linda Kahn, include developing a KidShop
program for use by schools, maybe making videos, maybe franchising –
anything but returning to law. "We're still deciding which way to
go," Gold says.
The 1½-hour Wood Play workshops ($17 per child with accompanying adult)
take place one Sunday a month. Longer programs for older children are
offered on the Montgomery and Prince George's County school systems' half-
and full-day holidays ($22 to $68). December workshops focus on holiday
presents; sign up early for the Mother's and Father's Day gift programs.
But the bulk of KidShop business consists of birthday parties – six to
10 during the average Friday afternoon through Sunday. Birthday parties
cost $15 per child for up to 16; it's $20 more for the group to stay an
additional half an hour (bring your own cake).
All prices include lumber and materials. Along with the project du jour,
you can take home "What's All the Hammering About?" T-shirts,
KidShop aprons and special finishes and glues.
The soon-to-expand KidShop space is located in D.C., but it's only a block
from Old Town Takoma, Md., site of the growers-only farmers
market on Sundays through mid-December. The same building also
shelters Arise and dZi: Tibet Collection, two outlets for
fine Asian crafts and clothing, and, of substantially greater appeal to
young carpenters, a Palais du Chocolat snack shop and factory
If that doesn't spoil their appetite, cross the Maryland line to Taliano's,
a noisy neighborhood pizza and pasta place, or Mark's Kitchen,
which sweetens its Korean, organic and vegetarian menu with Ben
& Jerry's ice cream for dessert. A block from downtown Takoma Park, Savory
Cafe prepares fancy sandwiches, salads, quiches and frittatas for
adults and bagel dogs (minifranks in bagel dough) for kids – a bargain
at four for $1.50.