It’s hard to believe that there was a time in this country when children were encouraged to do risky (and interesting) things. But it’s true! Boys and Girls were given simple items and allowed to experiment with the way the world works by making and doing things that could possibly poke an eye out. Nothing exemplifies this better than The Boy Mechanic, a collection of simple projects that graced the pages of Popular Mechanics during the end of 19th and first half of the 20th century.
The book contains hundreds of projects, from simple stuff like making your own sawhorses to the more complicated and risky construction of a small electric furnace. (To give you an idea of this book’s age — and how long it’s been since we trusted our children to try anything on their own — the furnace project calls for thin layers of asbestos for insulation.) Of course, it’s a wonder our fathers and grandfathers made it out alive.
I’m not saying children should go out and try to hurt themselves. But there are risky things worth doing as long as risks are properly weighed and appropriate safety precautions taken. Get this book — and some safety glasses and a helmet — for a kid in your life. It’s available free via Project Gutenberg in digital form, and if you’d like a bound book, Amazon carries it for $10.