Having teens makes you lazy. On the weekends, you don’t have to play with your teens. You don’t have to come up with activities, plan playdates, do crafts, engage in tickle fights. Although it’s fun to suggest that and watch them go pale.
You have to drive them places. Hang out sometimes. Help them with homework when asked. The other stuff, not so much.
Problem is, not all my kids are teens. I am sometimes reminded that I have a third child, a nine-year-old, and while he has the contact cool of a kid with teen sibs, he’s still a third grader and plenty interested in dad activities.
I’m ashamed to admit it, but I’ve been pretty content to let the XBOX do most of the activity planning for him lately, but the buzz around Mike Adamick’s Dads Book of Awesome Projects snapped me out of it. Or guilted me out of it.
Last Saturday was quiet with both older kids and mom out of the house for various events. Coop was bored. I was determined.
Unfortunately for me, our review copy of Mike’s book is in the much, much more capable hands of Concretin Nik — stand by for his review — so I was left to my own, decidedly un-handy devices. So I fell back on the next best thing. Old birthday presents.
Science kits make great gifts for elementary aged boys — more likely to meet with approval than toy guns or video games. They have a glossy educational veneer. One that mostly collects dust on the shelves in our house. But it’s the thought that counts.
On the shelves I found the 4M Science in Action Hovercraft Kit. To my surprise, the kit was a whole lot less, pre-fab than a lot I have seen. Some of the materials are punched out and easy to fold tab A into slot B, but most feel like something that might have been pulled off a science teacher’s shelf. The whole feel of the kit was more academic and less cartoony diversion than some.
As a result, it really was a collaborative effort. Coop managed most of the work, but some of it was too difficult to handle. He was great at the tiny screws that held the motor housing together, but the tricky double-sided tape application was all me. Some of the materials were downright tough to work with — I didn’t have scissors sharp enough for the plastic film that forms the skirt of the hovercraft and kinda botched it.
The instructions were dense, and a little tough for a nine-year-old to make sense of, but they did prompt lots of conversation, technical, specific and general, about the project. That was the strength of the kit — the scientific orientation and vocabulary: air cushion, downforce, friction, propellers, current, switches.
After a little over an hour of construction time, our little hovercraft worked like a champ, first on our kitchen floor, then, to our huge satisfaction on a nearby gym floor (everyone has a nearby gym floor, right?). We had to be careful turning off the power switch and picking the craft up — the propeller wasn’t enclosed and and could deliver a nice buzzing sting to the fingers. But that was what made it cool. The thing was a little rough edged and hand made — perfect for a dad project.