Helping Kids Build and Grow With the Avengers and Lowe’s
There are few things in life as certain as death and taxes, but in all my time on this planet, perhaps no single thing has been as consistently proven as the law of the instrument. Depending on where you're from, you may have heard the quote, "Give a boy (or girl) a hammer, and he'll find everything he encounters needs pounding." There have been variations on that theme over the years, but the idea still holds true today. I'd forgotten all about that adage until I went to Lowe's this past weekend to participate in one of the final sessions for the Avengers Build and Grow program.
Lowe's Build and Grow has been around for a while, and offers families with children the opportunity to get crafty on a Saturday morning. Kids get little aprons and goggles to take home, which can then be customized with patches the same way Boy or Girl Scouts would customize a sash with their progress. While there have been sessions in the past to build bird houses and little trucks based on icons like Grave Digger, this summer was all about the Avengers. This portion of the program kicked off back in June, but I'd only heard about it a few weeks ago. As such, I missed out on opportunities to build Captain America's motorcycle, Black Widow's sky cycle and Iron Man's Avenjet. Fortunately, I was able to tag along with some friends to help out with the Hulk's tank session.
"Help," of course, being the operative word. Sometimes you think you're enlisting the aid of your friends and their kids to create some fun original content, when in fact, they're actually enlisting you to help their kids complete an arts and crafts project they'd otherwise be unable to do. It's a symbiotic relationship.
When you arrive at Lowe's at 10AM, which is the standard start time for the Build and Grow series, you're given a bag containing all the instructions and parts you'll need. There's also hammers in a bin and safety goggles nearby if you need them. I'm curious what kind of monster decided that 10AM on a Saturday was the optimal time for children to do activities of this kind of cranial intensity. I remember being a kid and not wanting to get out of bed before, well, ever. I still share that sentiment. Whoever told you getting up early was great because you could do more things with your day was an overachiever and needs to dial it down a notch or ten. Sleep is my favorite, and it should be your favorite, too.
Once you've got the little kit and tools, you have to find a spot among the palettes of lumber that serve as workbenches in the faraway rows of Lowe's. If you're one of the fools that showed up early, you do get a prime spot. If you came late, good luck. These things fill up surprisingly fast. I guess there are a lot of overachievers in the group. We split into two groups to build one toy with each of the kids, and I set to work organizing my station. If I'm going to pretend to be a fully-functional adult this early in the day, I'm going to go all the way and put the impeccable tool organizing training of my elder statesmen to use.
Building the Hulk's tank isn't a very intensive process. The directions are clear, concise, and best of all, simple. There aren't a lot of small pieces, but it does take a bit of a deft touch to put the tank together since the hammers are made for babies. I'm not being insulting here. The hammers are baby hammers. I understand Build and Grow is for kids, but at some point parents or supervising guardians are going to help out. You ever try to hold a baby hammer with human hands? It's like you stepped onto the set of Fraggle Rock and tried to help the Doozers build whatever it those things build.
But you see, you have to hang onto the hammer, lest it fall into the hands of the Boy. Once it falls into the hands of the Boy, the law of instruments goes into effect immediately. It doesn't matter that you've already nailed all the nails into place. He just needs something to hit. It's probably better this way anyway. You can't ask someone his age to be precise enough with strikes to actually put a nail into place. He doesn't care though; it's all about that raw, blunt power exploding with every swing. And he smiles while he does his work, such as it is. You smile with him reflexively. You know that feeling too well.
While the excitement of actually crafting something with your hands is lost on him, his sister is appreciative of the process. She's a little older, so she can help put the piece together, but more importantly, she understands that she's building something. There are a lot of kids there old enough to appreciate actually making a thing that will be theirs. It's something to behold actually, all those kids working away on their individual tanks like an assembly line of Avenger power. I felt like a little bit of a fraud with my adult brain and man hands putting such a simplistic wheeled toy together while all these kids worked hard to achieve the goal.
Then I realized I put a part on backwards. Ha-ha, whoops. My adult brain would be so awesome if it didn't have the attention span of a pre-schooler.
With the addition of a few stickers, you transform the assemblage of wood into something the mostly resembles a tank of sorts. I would be more inclined to call it an armored transport, as to me, a tank actually has some sort of offensive capabilities. This is more like a four-wheeled personnel carrier as it lacks any true defined weaponry. That might be nitpicking, but it's an important distinction for me to make since I put so much time into making this thing (mostly) correctly. Neither of the kids cared very much though, so it's rather irrelevant at the end of the day. They got some nice new toys based on some of their favorite Marvel heroes, and they made them on their own. That's pretty cool.
If you missed out on the rest of the Avengers Build and Grow sessions, there's still one left for Thor on Aug. 22. You can find participating Lowe's locations and register over on the Build and Grow page.