Maybe it’s because their parents watch at lot of House Rules and The Block. Perhaps they’re just tired of waiting for Dad to build them that much-promised cubbyhouse. Whatever the reason, more and more girls are raiding the family tool kit and lining up to learn how to build.
“When I first used a saw, I was pretty sure I’d chop my finger off or something, but our teacher explained everything we needed to know and I started off slowly,” explains Amelia, 12, who’s just started learning woodwork during technology class at her local Sydney high school. “I’ve nearly finished making my bread board and I’ve brought some off-cuts home because I want to try and turn them into something using tools from my grandpa’s collection. I love building – it’s creative and challenging and really satisfying when it works!”
Schools have been teaching woodwork for generations, but the art of building something with a bit of wood, a saw and some nails or glue is finally busting out of the classroom – and inspiring increasing numbers of girls.
“The woodwork parties we run appeal to any kid who likes doing something fun and different with their friends,” explains Josephine Azizi, co-founder of Sydney-based Built By Kidz Parties. “But what has surprised us is the majority of our bookings are birthday parties for girls. Parents tell us their daughters love creating things, and building something out of wood – using real tools – is an extension of that. They’re really good at it, too.”
When you think about it, girls and building are the perfect match. They’re usually able to concentrate and follow instructions from a young age. Girls often have excellent hand-eye coordination. Plus, they’re usually very experienced at working creatively with hands-on craft projects from a young age. And thanks to changing attitudes, they’re no longer discouraged from trying what was once a boys-only hobby.
“My two daughters always ask to help me when I get something from IKEA that needs putting together,” says mum of two, Emma. “Normally, I don’t trust them to do much more than twist the Allen key a few times, but recently I bought two stools and thought: Why not let them have a go? My eldest did one on her own and was really careful and methodical about it. Honestly, she did a better job than me.”
Learning how to make simple boxes – or the billy carts Built By Kidz Parties gets older age group children to make at parties and school holiday camps – is a great way for girls to combine practical skills and creativity.
And if parents still aren’t convinced that letting their daughters loose with the family power tools is a good idea, just remember how much the local tradie charges for a quick DIY job. This fun hobby might save the family a few bucks – or even open up their daughter’s horizons to a building- or engineering-based career or study path further down the line.
With schools and educators always trying to encourage more girls to take up STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) in high school and beyond, this could be the start of something special.
Nine-year-old Ruby’s probably not planning her uni application yet, but she seems pretty certain that her first experience of building won’t be her last. “It was epic,” she says, having recently attended a Built By Kidz Party. “I made an awesome slide box and then we all worked together to build a billy kart which we rode around the playground. It was easier than I thought, so I’m going to build a bird feeder for our garden next. I just need to ask Mum and Dad if I can borrow a saw and some nails.”
Hopefully they’ll say yes. After all, Ruby might end up building them a family house in a few years.