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Pinewood Derby Lesson Plan By Troy

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Now that you know how to build a pinewood derby car it’s time to plan it out. Every teacher, no matter how long they have been teaching, has a lesson plan that details what they will be teaching. For you this may just need to be a list of what needs to be done and whether you or your child will need to do the task. I will provide a basic plan for you to follow at the end of the article. Some parts of the pinewood derby car build will be too dangerous for the child to do and you will need to do it.

Now part of planning also involves how long it will take and how much time you spend in a single stretch working on the tasks. Start early and give you and your child plenty of time to work on the project together. Giving yourself plenty of time will allow you to break up the pinewood derby building project into short build sessions that will hold your child’s attention. Most adults are able to focus and keep working relentlessly on finishing a task at one sitting. However, children do not have the attention span or the maturity at this age to finish a pinewood derby car build all at once. Breaking it into smaller time slots will help your tolerance with the child and the project in general. Most elementary aged children have an attention span between 15-20 minutes where they will focus on a task. For this reason elementary teachers are always changing tasks and have the kids rotate from one station to the next in a classroom. Unfortunately when building a pinewood derby car, you can’t skip around with different tasks like they do in a class. A Pinewood derby car needs to be built in order. For this reason the plan will be to break up the project into small sections that both you and your child can handle.

Remember to have a lot of patience. What takes an adult 5 minutes will take a kid 15 minutes. Their motor skills are not as refined and they are truly learning a multitude of things that you may not even realize. If you get frustrated, don’t yell or get angry. Simply end the section and plan to work on your derby car another time. This is meant to be fun for both of you. If you follow a few simple guidelines and stick with your plan it will be memorable.


1) start early and give yourselves time
2) if you don’t know how to build a pinewood derby car learn before you try to teach your child
3) come up with a (lesson) plan -see mine below
4) only work as long as you both can handle, if one is done then you are both done
5) at the end of each section explain what you will do next time and when you will be able to work on it again.

My plan:

Session 1

YouTube Video

Design and layout of car (20 minutes max)
Draw it on paper, transfer it to the block
And mark the weight locations.

Session 2

YouTube Video

Drill out the holes for the weights (10-15 min)
Pick proper bit with child and show how to install in the drill, clamp block, let child help

Session 3

YouTube Video

Cut out the car/rough sand and shape it (20 minutes)

Depending on your method of cutting out the car will depend on whether you will shape and sand this session. If you cut it out with a hand saw it make take the entire Session. Do the sanding and shaping during a separate session.

Session 3b

Sand and shape (15-20 min)

YouTube Video

Session 4

Installing the weight and putty the holes and any other imperfections (15-20 min)

If you are melting lead have a child watch From far away. If gluing in weights then the kid is all hands on. If melting lead. You will need to wait for the lead to cool before putty is applied. LEAD is VERY TOXIC to our KIDS. At no point should your child handle, sand, pour, breathe LEAD.

Session 5

Final sanding/prep for paint (10-15 min).

LEAD is VERY TOXIC to our KIDS. At no point should your child handle, sand, pour, breathe LEAD. Sand the excess wood putty off with 150, 220, 320 grit. Cover axle holes/slots with painter’s tape.

Session 6

Painting the pinewood derby car (no time limit)

If doing the paint by hand, kids can paint all day and be fine. If you choose spray Paint then this can be combined with Session 5.

Session 7

Prep the wheels (20 min)

The time may vary depending on tools used.

Session 8

Axle prep (2 axles) (15-20 min)

Session 9

Axle prep (2 axles) (15-20 min)

Session 10

Install the wheels and axles and break in with pinewood derby graphite dry lube (20 min)

Session 11

Tuning your pinewood derby car wheels and axles (15-60 min)

This can happen quickly or take a long time to do. This part varies greatly and might need to be taken over by the parent.

*sessions 7, 8 and 9 may be all done in one Saturday. Prep wheels in the morning, do 2 axles before dinner and finish the other 2 axles after dinner. Other sessions may be combined in one day if you have a significant break between sessions. It all depends on how you both feel. If your child can handle doing more than 15-20 minutes at a time, by all means continue. Just don’t mistake your desire to move on as reason to believe they can handle more. On the other side of the coin you might not be able to finish the session in one day. My youngest would not be able to make more than 10 minutes. You are your own best judge and alter the plan as needed. Have fun and enjoy the pinewood derby car building experience.