Introducing the Hobby to Kids

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Kids these days have much in the way of distractions -far more than when I was a youngster. Sometimes it's difficult to tear them away from video games, but introducing them to a more constructive and rewarding pastime can be done...with a little patience.
This group of typical Taiwanese kids, aged 8 -11, are not very different from their North American counterparts, showing little interest in anything that's not a computer game. Fortunately, their town is home to a squadron of Republic of China Airforce F-16s which regularly zoom overhead with full after-burners lit, sparking a germ of interest in a group of otherwise bored boys.
things to keep in mind
The aim is not to build a prize-winning model on the first attempt. It's easy to forget that the best and most rewarding way to learn any new skill, is by trial and error...mostly error. Resist the urge to intervene too often. Rather, show the beginner examples of what can be accomplished after years of building models. The only steps requiring adult help with this kit were painting and cementing the clear canopy.

Keep it simple: choosing an easy, larger scale kit will make the experience much more enjoyable: In this case, I chose the F-16 IDF ROCAF "eggplane" kit from AFV Club (item AFQ001). With only one sprue of parts, this inexpensive kit is a great introduction to the hobby. Before any assembly started, these kids practiced cutting, sanding, and cleaning-up scraps of sprue.

It is far better to not bring the child along when shopping for the first kit -you want to choose a project based on ease of build, rather than what may look appealing on the hobby shop shelf.

Keep it fun: realize that the attention spans of kids are short. Choose a project that can be completed in a single weekend, but take plenty of breaks. After these kids were bit by the kit-building bug, we broke to read modeling magazines and talk about what might make an interesting future project. Having a beginner finish an older, unwanted project which has had the tedious groundwork already completed, can be a good option.

Keep them busy: If more than one child is involved, delegate tasks for everyone: parts call-out, cutting sprues, clean-up, assembly. Keep it relevant: When possible, choose a vehicle that is familiar from a movie, video game, or local museum. I well remember how watching the "Battle of Britain" those many years ago was the catalyst that first lit my own model-building passion. Obvious, but sometimes forgotten: one can't give too much praise!
Thank You!
My sincere thanks to AFV Club for the review sample. Good job Kim, Peter, Max and Ian!
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About the Author

About Ted Hayward (ted_hayward)

From B.C., Canada. Living in Taiwan for past several years. I've been building kits for as long as memory serves -armor, aircraft, cars. Big fan of 1/16th scale armor kits. Currently serving as poster boy for working with CA adhesives in a well-ventilated area. My first kit was the positively awful ...


Great article! Revell has recently come out with an even simpler type of Snap-Tite kit all prepainted. These are great value for money and create a toy a child can play with. One recommendation I've offered to moms and dads wanting to get their kids into modelling at a later age (10 to 14) is Tamiya's wonderful 1/35 Tilly. It's a great two to three night project and with Tamyia's quality and fit, there is little frustration and few really tiny parts that need addressing. This is also a great way to get them interested in history!
MAY 22, 2010 - 04:50 AM
Does that box cover imply what I think I see, or am I just old and looking for trouble? I too agree with the new pre painted snap kits for son loves them and it seems to keep him far more interested in models than the earlier snap kits I have given him that require is apparently daunting to paint.
MAY 22, 2010 - 05:21 AM
If you're thinking what I think you're thinking, then yep! An AFV Club kit like Hasegawa's Egg Planes. My LHS had one of these...I did a double-take the first time. Not see the insides, but.... Mike
MAY 22, 2010 - 05:55 AM
Don't think my daughter would go for it. Bought here a scale model of the human body when she was obsessed with learning how the body works and never touched it. Now that I have gotten fully back into the hobby she is now 14, calls me a nerd and wants to know when I will take her Trap Shooting again.
MAY 22, 2010 - 07:35 AM
I was introduced to the hobby in the mid 70s and my Dad got me into the Lindberg Model of the Month club - I was hooked needless to say and stuck with the hobby save for about 6 years when I was attending college. I ve always tried to get younger kids into the hobby by giving them old kits and help if they needed (wanted). My local IMPS chapter was always good about trying to bring younger people into our fold..... (I think we had some members in their 80s and they were ALL airplane or ship builders) I think times are alot different now. Its nearly impossible to compete with the hundreds of electronic games, toys, r/c, etc.... I guess it takes a special breed to be a modeller (and money). CHris
MAY 22, 2010 - 08:06 AM
I work at Hornet Hobbies in Toronto and find that it's subject matter and interest in kids that get them started. Sometimes it's a school project or a movie or even current affairs. As a parent never assume your child can have the hand/eye coordination, which is why I like selling the Revell line. They have military and civilian vehicles and planes. The old method was to find some old horrid Frog kit and start there, but our kids do not have the patience to perservere. As you know, modelling is something that keeps our interest up and as I say "... is the mistress no wife can fight". Even kids tire of TV and video games, and those are the times as parents we can introduce something new.
MAY 22, 2010 - 08:34 AM
Kids in Taiwan are probably even less interested in taking-up a hobby like this. Nothing could be better for teaching a child about patience, perseverance, and doing something tangible. Of course when they're finished the model, I'll make these kids write an essay in English about the history of flight... Thanks for sharing your experiences!
MAY 25, 2010 - 02:15 AM
Our local IPMS club runs Make and Take events at their show and at a big local Railroad show. Our AMPS chapter does the same for local kids in Cub Scouts. I have an after school model kit building club for 3-5th grade that runs Mid-November to Mid-April. Up here in Vermont those are some pretty long cold afternoons.. I get 20 or so to start and most stick with it until they finish a kit or April arrives. We are here after school for an hour, and provide a bus ride home with the homework club kids. I provide tools, glue, detail paint and instruction. Kids are asked to bring a kit and the 'body' paint color. I've build up a stock of raffle winnings, Squadron sale kits, and hand me downs so not having a kit is not a problem. Our real problem is that the big-box discount stores up here do not carry models and the local shop is pretty steeply priced. Mike
MAY 25, 2010 - 02:30 AM
I wish modeling got more attention than it does. Living in a typical mid sized US city with all the typical big box stores you would be hard pressed to find models in any of them. If you did, good luck finding paint and glue, much less tools. We do have a chain hobby/craft store that has one aisle about 15 -30 feet long with models. Most are ships followed by modern aircraft and a few helicopters, some cars, and a small selection of Tamiya kits. They have an OK selection of airbrushes and some small tools but forget trying to find any military colors in paint. For some reason, the only brand of spray paint they do carry is only available in lacquer. And there's certainly nobody in that department that knows more than "This is a model and that is a toaster and I never get them mixed up." Every hobby shop in the area closed years ago from either rent in the strip malls being too high to make ends meet to the proprietor who truly loved what he did passing away and having nobody else in the family interested in carrying on. It seems to be one of those businesses you truly have to love and be involved in to make it successful, or at least the love of it will make the lean times bearable. I also wonder what effect the Political Correctness movement has had on the hobby. Look at what it did to the toy gun! It went from a normal part of childhood to a social stigma for some parents. I wonder if the same view looks at military based models as "war toys". As modelers, we all know the positive things modeling can instill in a person, patience among the the most important. Even the history angle seems like ground more are afraid to tread on. More than once I have been asked if my penchant for building German vehicles meant I supported Nazi policy. Just reading something as mundane as viewer comments about WWII era documentaries show an astonishing disconnect on the part of so many in being able to distinguish the soldier as a military person from the Nazi party supporter who was also in the military. Even car modeling is not what it once was. Again I wonder about the influence of the PC crowd in discouraging any type of love or interest in fossil fuel consuming, pollution spewing vehicles. And what do the young people of today have in common with the hot-rod guys of a generation ago? Not much. Installing mufflers that sound like the passing of gas, putting on skinny tires with tall wheels, darken the windows and act like they got something. The connection where the majority of the old timers did stuff like swap out drive trains, installed their own parts, built something with their hands and forged a connection. Maybe that last line is the true crux of it all. Maybe the world itself no longer looks at those who create with the same reverence as it holds for those with the fat wallets who don't have to know how to build anything. They just peel off the cash until they hear "Sold!" Maybe now days it's the ownership that's more important and respected than the ability to create. If that's the case, anything that can be done to reverse that trend is more important than many realize. If it's a few bits of plastic and a few drops of glue and a couple bottles of paint that can restore the desire and ability to create back into the youth, it really does need to be done. This whole modeling thing is another one of those parts of my youth and periodically throughout my life that's always been there and gotten better beyond anything I could have imagined. It's given me a lot and given a lot to others so I guess we need to give it something back or one day it will be gone. Like all things that need saved and are worthy of it, we must first look to ourselves and then to our youth.
JUN 15, 2010 - 12:35 AM
Getting kids involved here in the US is a tough sell, but there is hope. I've got daughters and that's a really tough sell. The wife does not think it's appropriate for girls to be building "war machines" and finds history a bore. Unfortunately, that rubs off on the kids when they hear that from their mom. My solution is when I go to the Hobby shop is to let my youngest daughter pick out a little something to paint (usually ceramic horses or butterflies) while I'm working on my stuff. She may not be "modeling", but we get to have our time and hopefully she'll look back on it when she's older & think fondly of our hobby time together and encourage stuff like that with her kids. On the hopefull front, With all the pre-built stuff on the market today I think that will lead a lot of people back to the build it from the ground up hobby. That's what got me back into it. Once I realized that there was only a limited amount of subjects being addressed in the pre-built market I turned back to modeling. Kind of a circular route, but one I'm sure a lot of people are taking these days. Once a person realizes the satisfaction of having cracked open a box and seeing the end result when they are finished they're hooked again. I know the pre-built gives instant gratification, but it's a very short lived satisfaction. With kids & youth it's really a multi-dimensional approach. It's not enough to just give em a kit and say "build it". To really hook them they need something to draw them in. Have them read a good book or two about the history or even watch some good movies or whatnot. Once their imagination has been tweeked the rest follows naturally. If they don't have a clue what a Sherman, Tiger, or other tank is then their imagination will not be engaged. That too me is what's lacking the most from getting them interested. Kids are given such a dry and ,lets face it, boring impression of history in schools it's no wonder they would rather stick their hands in a blender than learn about it out of school. But show them just how interesting, facinating, and compelling it really is and you've got a fan for life. And for us parents, it's about taking a bit of time away from our "serious" hobby to spend with our kids having fun showing them the "joy and rewards" of the hobby. then, once they're hooked, we can bombard them with the "seriousness" of the hobby. Imagine the 1st time junior is bombarded with that "Panzernachtschlepper only had 2531 rivets, not 2540 rivets" or "that's not the "correct" shade of Dunkelgelb for that minute of that day of that lunar cycle when that particular planetary conjunction happened"! Then the fun will really begin. Note: said with tongue firmly emplanted in cheek! Enjoy and let's hope our kids will one day love it as much as we do. Cheers and happy building!
JUN 15, 2010 - 02:26 AM