Most experienced welders can recall the time in their childhood when a relative or family friend showed them how to weld. At the very least, they remember watching these people work in their shops on various projects and feeling interested in what they were up to. If you are a frequent welder or DIY person with kids in your life, you’ve likely wondered about teaching them how to weld. Or they may have come to you asking for you to impart your wisdom and skills.
But because welding can be dangerous, bringing kids into the mix is a daunting task. And when you were the student, you probably didn’t give much thought to the ins and outs of learning how to weld. You just soaked up the information provided to you. But now you may find yourself on the other side of that scenario. As the teacher you may feel a little lost. But many of us are natural teachers. Especially when it comes to something we’re experienced in and passionate about.
When welding is properly taught, you instill a value in kids for building and fixing things themselves. Along with a knowledge of an important skill that they’ll use for the rest of their lives. And if your introduction to welding also came at a young age, you’ll be carrying on a family tradition of passing this trade down through the generations.
This post will explain what age to get them started, how to go about it, and everything else you’ll need to know to introduce kids to welding.
When to Start
If your kids see you welding often, they’ve likely already begun asking questions about it or showed an interest. But at what age are they ready to start learning it for themselves? Like everything else with children, it varies from person to person. The basic rule should be that they are old enough when they’re capable of using the equipment safely.
Ten is a good age for kids to begin learning to weld. Because by that point they have developed the necessary hand-eye coordination. They also have the ability to follow directions and rules with a regard for safety. By age ten most kids can understand and follow-through with a basic set of specific instructions. While also thinking about their actions throughout the process. This means they can assess risks and safety concerns and respond accordingly.
However, some ten-year-olds may not have developed these skills enough to handle the complexities of welding yet. While some eight-year-olds may be more than ready to start learning. It really comes down to the individual and what you know them to be capable of. Exercise good judgment in assessing what they’re ready for and don’t rush into anything.
Take it Slow
Even if you’re both impatient for the learning to begin, it’s better to wait until you’re confident in their ability to handle it than to start too soon. You’ll want the process to be as positive and enjoyable as possible. You want them to stick with it for a long time. And that won’t be the case if they jump in too soon.
If you’re unsure if they’re ready or not, try teaching them how to use a soldering iron or wood burning pen first and see how they do. If they seem to respond well to your directions, have fun while doing it, and are able to handle the tools safely, then they may be ready to move on to welding.
Getting Them Interested
Maybe your kids haven’t expressed an interest in welding, but you think they’re old enough to learn. And you’re anxious to start showing them a thing or two. You may need to build up some interest. Welding can seem like a slow, boring process to some kids. So they may not be as eager to learn as you are to teach them.
The best way to spark their interest is to demonstrate all the uses welding has. Not all kids are going to appreciate its use for fixing cars or doing other common repairs. But if you demonstrate the other things it can do, such as building a go-kart, they’ll be a lot more motivated to learn.
Of course, once they’ve seen its potential you’ll need to remind them they’ll have to start small. And it may seem like a slow process at first. But reassure them you’re always willing to help with bigger projects they’re not ready to tackle on their own yet. And use this opportunity as a life lesson – good things take time. But investing the time to master the art of welding will be well worth it in the end.
Anyone Can Learn
Whether your kids have shown interest independently or not, never underestimate their ability to learn how to weld based on your assumptions about them. Kids are little people with amazing potential that we often underestimate. Even if your child doesn’t strike you as being a natural in the workshop, there is a creative element to welding that they may latch on to.
Additionally, while welding and other mechanical skills such as this are usually seen as something that’s only of interest to boys, you’ll likely find that many girls are just as interested and excited in learning how to weld. Give all the kids in your life a fair chance, and they’ll probably surprise you. And you’ll enjoy the experience of bonding over learning something new.
If You’re Not an Experienced Welder
Maybe you never learned to weld when you were younger, but you always wished you had somebody to teach you. That might be exactly what’s motivating you to show your own kids. Don’t let that discourage you. While it may require a little extra prep work on your part, there is nothing wrong with learning a new skill alongside your children. As opposed to being the one teaching them. That might even make the whole experience more fun for both of you.
You can involve your kids in learning about the necessary equipment, picking everything out, and setting up your workspace. Then you can do some independent practice with everything until you feel safe enough to bring the kids back into the mix. You’ll want to feel comfortable and confident with everything before you start showing them how to use it.
Consider Taking Classes
If teaching your kids yourself makes you feel uncomfortable or you like you’re in over your head, considering enrolling both you and your kids into some local welding classes. You’ll get to learn from someone with tons of experience alongside other beginners and you may all make some new friends in the process.
The truth is some kids learn more from others than their own parents or relatives. Some of them are just more open to instruction from other authority figures and role models outside of their family. If this proves to be true for you and your children, don’t take it personally. Consider the benefits of having someone else who is more experienced working with kids. And encourage your child to get as much out of the classes as they can.
At the end of the day, the point is for them to learn. So you should embrace whatever learning tools work best for them. And as they learn more, you’ll be able to complete all sorts of projects together. And experience the same quality, bonding time as if you had taught them yourself.
Safety should be the biggest priority first and foremost on your journey of teaching kids to weld. Even experienced welders may have to spend more time than they expected to make things safe for their students.
For one thing, the proper protective wear can be harder to find in sizes small enough for children. But search the internet and you should be able to find enough extra-small or child-sized equipment to piece together what you need.
You’ll need to find the following articles of protective clothing and equipment:
- hearing protection
- welding gloves
- welding helmet with clear visor
- steel toed boots
- safety goggles
- welding jacket
Finding a helmet with good visibility is going to be key. Children will enjoy the process much more if they can clearly see their entire project in front of them.
You may also need to rearrange your workshop and adjust your techniques to accommodate for your new student. Many welders have developed their own way of doing things that work well for them because they are so experienced. But these methods may not necessarily be the “right” by-the-book way of doing things. That is precisely what children need to learn though.
Even if you’ve been welding for longer than you can remember, you should pay close attention to some of your practices. Ask yourself if you’re doing everything the safest way possible. Even if it’s safe for you, it may not be for someone less experienced. Be prepared to teach them the “right” way first. They can develop their own methods or learn more of yours later. Remember they must learn the rules before they can break them.
Preparing Your Workspace
The same is true for your workspace. You may have everything arranged in a way that works for you, but is it safe enough for kids?
For example, ventilation is important to consider. Some fumes caused by welding aren’t really good for any of us. But if you’ve been around it a long time you may not be taking ventilation as seriously as you’ll need to with your kids. Their lungs are often more sensitive than ours and should need more protection from harmful fumes as much as possible.
Your welder should rest on a dry, flat surface away from puddles of standing water or flammable materials. Your workspace should be clean, free of clutter, and well-organized. Make sure that any fire extinguishers, first aid kits, or other emergency necessities are in plain sight and accessible.
Set Clear Rules
The very first thing you should review with your kids is safety precautions and rules for the shop. Make sure they know where everything is and how it all works. You should also teach them how to periodically check hoses and connections to make sure all equipment is safe and ready to use. These are all essential things they can and should learn before they pick up a welding gun.
Stress to your children that supervision is always required no matter how confident they feel in their welding skills. Even after they’ve learned a lot and are comfortable with the equipment, they may not know how to handle a situation if something goes wrong. It’s better that they know it is not acceptable to attempt welding alone and that you must always be present.
You should consider making a sign that outlines all the rules and safety procedures you’ve established for your workspace. Their schools and learning environments typically keep resources like this in plain sight. So already they’re used to using these types of references. And it can help establish how serious these practices are.
You can even back this up with instructional posters that outline all the basic operations of the equipment and beginning steps. Such as putting on all protective gear. And then check all gauges, hoses, and connections before beginning any practice or project. Even if you’re always there to enforce these things, they’ll appreciate the independence these written reminders provide them with.
Before Your Kids Begin To Weld
So, you’ve determined your child is the right age to learn to weld, they’re ready and willing to learn, you’ve invested in safety gear, and made your workspace kid-friendly. What next?
You may consider teaching your kids how to use a soldering iron or propane torch first. These share some similarities with the process of welding, but on a smaller scale. This will help you gauge how well they handle a tool and follow directions with safety in mind. It also gives them some experience working with heat and an open flame. Welding will be less intimidating to them later on if they adjust to these things early on.
Before beginning any type of work with your kids involving flames and sparks, make sure they’re prepared for how bright the lights and how loud the sounds will be. You can start by showing them some videos to give them the idea. And then move into doing some demonstrations with them standing at a distance where they feel safe. The sparks and sounds can be scary for little ones who aren’t used to it. And if they feel scared they won’t want to learn.
Make sure they know it’s safe if you’re careful and follow all the rules. Explain what all their protective gear is for and how it keeps them safe. The more prepared they are before they get started, the smoother the whole introduction will be.
The most important first step you can take is to have your kids watch you weld as much as much as they’re willing to. Keep the advice from above in mind and be sure you’re following all the proper techniques and safety measures. Then invite your kids to observe everything you’re doing. In the beginning, just watching is enough. They’ll pick up on a lot more than you think.
But then you can slowly start explaining some things as you go. An important part of teaching any skill is the ability to explain exactly what you’re doing step-by-step in a way that’s easy to understand. It may be helpful to practice some of these explanations in your head when working alone before you start teaching them.
How to Begin
Now that they’ve gained some experience with similar tools and observed you at work and the process, they can start getting used to the equipment. Have them wear all their protective gear and practice holding the welding gun and going through the motions with the machine turned off. This will give them an idea of any limited mobility or dexterity they may feel while working with the tools while wearing all their gear.
They should repeat this process until it all feels very natural to them. Explain that their motions should be fluid. The steadier their hands are while handling the gun, the better their welding will be. They’ll be able to weld more safely if they are comfortable and at ease, so take your time with these initial steps.
Once they’ve become extremely comfortable with all the equipment, you can turn the machine on and have them start small. Show them how to position the gun and then practice pulling the trigger for just a second at a time. Then slowly they can start to hold it down for longer periods of time.
Their First Projects
MIG welding can be a great place to start with kids since it is easy to learn and beginner-friendly. Once you have shown them how all the equipment works, show them how to prepare their metal surface by cleaning off oils, dirt, and debris.
You can show them how to clean up the edges of the metal, which will be useful knowledge as they move into forming joints later. Then have them practice running some one to two-inch-long beads. This will help them get the hang of how to position the gun, how fast to go, and what they need to do to get the best beading results or specific desired effects.
Once they have gotten the hang of running beads and are ready to move on to something more challenging, they can use this same technique to create a name plate. Grab a strip of scrap metal, set up the space, and prepare all of the equipment. Involve them in this process of preparing everything. Then, have them write out their name with a white pencil on the metal surface. Now they can use the gun to follow their pencil lines and write out their name.
Design and Creativity
When they’re confident with everything you’ve taught them so far, have them begin joining random scraps and assorted items together. For example, they can join large nuts and bolts to make all sorts of designs – at random or to create specific things like animals or imaginary creatures.
This is also a great opportunity to teach them the entire design process from start to finish. Show them how to conceptualize what they want to create, maybe even making sketches and plans for construction.
Then walk them through the process of choosing the proper materials and equipment for that specific design. This is also a great time to teach them about all the different kinds of joints they can weld including butt, lap, edge, and T joints. Demonstrate each different kind and then have them practice doing their own.
After they’ve had some practice with the basics, teach them how to perfect everything they’ve learned so far. Using a variety of projects to cover the same basic techniques will prevent boredom. But ensure they are continuously practicing and refining the same beginner’s methods.
Slowly begin showing them how to make cleaner, more precise beading and how to clean up their joints and beads. Teach them how to grind off excess metal build up. And how to create a polished finished product they can be proud of.
What Types of Welding to Teach
While all welding is just the process of fusing two metals together, some methods are easier to learn than others. And they all serve their own specific purposes best suited for different jobs.
What types you venture into teaching your kids about will depend on the equipment you already have. And how much you’re will and able to invest in new equipment. It also depends on what kind of projects your kids are most interested in doing. Some kids will be more interested in the engineering and mechanics side of things. While others will respond more to the design and creative elements of it.
Electric arc welding is one of the most widely used types of welding today. As mentioned above, MIG welding can be a great form of this start with because it’s one of the easiest ones for beginners to master. And it’s easy to teach yourself if you’re learning to weld for the first time along with your child.
If you’re purchasing your first welding machine to teach your children with, the owner’s manual will tell you everything you need to know. Such as what types of wire and other materials it uses. The inside of your machine will also usually have instructions printed on it that you can easily reference as you go.
Stick welding is another great method to practice with for beginners. It is quick to set up and works well with old scrap metals that are rusty or dirty – which are great to use when practicing and learning. TIG welding is one of the hardest methods to learn. And might not be suitable to teach your children unless you’re already very experienced and confident with it.
Good Teaching Practices
As you continue on your journey of teaching welding to your children, you should make a regular habit of teaching them all the uses welding has. Whenever you’re tackling a home or mechanical repair project that you’re going to use welding on, have them watch you. Explain what you’re doing and why.
In addition to its practical applications, there are tons of gifts and household items that you can make with welding. Never miss an opportunity to show them all the possibilities. This will keep them interested and motivated and will help ensure they keep up with their welding skills as they grow older.
Keep it Fun and Positive
One of the most important aspects of teaching a child welding, or anything else, is to focus on the positive. Keep the experience fun for them, so they want to keep doing it and learning more. If every lesson is full of criticism or frustration, they’re not going to want to continue learning. Always give constructive criticism by offering positive solutions and suggestions to follow-up every single problem you notice.
Another helpful tactic can be to ask questions instead of giving all the answers right away. For example, instead of pointing out something is wrong you can ask things like- Is that the right way to do that to get the result you want? Are you holding your gun the right way? Do you know what you need to do next? Notice and compliment as many successes and things they do right as possible. Offer a reward at the end of lessons like some ice cream or another treat they enjoy. You both deserve to a reward for all your hard work!
Teaching children a new skill requires a great degree of patience, so plan the times of your lessons accordingly. Every lesson should take place at a time when everyone has eaten recently, is well-rested, and in a good mood. This will make sure both you and your child are ready to focus on the tasks at hand patiently and safely without getting frustrated and irritable.
While welding may take more preparation than some other skills that you can teach your kids, it’s a worthwhile pursuit. They’ll always appreciate you taking the time to inspire a love for welding in their lives. And they’ll, in turn, pass that on for many generations to come.
3 responses to “The Ultimate Guide to Welding and Children”
Man I wish I could weld, but my dad won’t let me. I think I could since I am 13 and have safety experience with woodworking tools and saws. I’d like to make the step to try metal working, my grandma passed away and she had a small Lincoln electric wire welder. I have a small bench in the garage so there is enough space.
My son seems like this could be something he would really enjoy. He talks about it a lot but I don’t have a clue what to do for him to get him started. I am in VA and we live in an apartment, so I am not set up for getting him a weld station, etc. He is only 14 so a lot of the early programs require him to be in high school. Is there anything for him at his age on the Upper East Coast?
Sorry not sure Casey. I am on the opposite coast:)