Pinewood Derby Stories and Photos from Maximum Velocity
Pinewood Derby Awards
By Randy Davis
Should every child entering a pinewood derby race get an award? Or should only the top cars for design and speed be given a trophy? How about a compromise? The answer to these questions will likely vary from person to person, and depends a lot on your philosophy of raising children.
I am not a child psychologist, so I can't argue the theory that underlies awarding children. But I am a parent that cares about my children. Before they leave our home, I want to give them a solid understanding of how they should behave and what they should expect to encounter in the world.
I do not believe that every child should be equally rewarded, that is, no winners and no losers. This is certainly not the way the world operates, and teaching a child this perspective will not prepare them for reality. In my opinion children need to understand that sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose, and greater effort leads to greater opportunities for winning. Learning how to deal with losing (and winning) builds character and maturity. So I believe that trophies for the fastest cars and best designs are certainly appropriate.
But on the other hand, I think providing a larger variety of awards can be a great encouragement for kids. These can be certificates for: "Best Paint Job", "Car Most Likely Built By a Kid", "Silliest", "Funniest", "Most Aerodynamic", etc. If you are interested in providing these types of certificates, many free downloads are available on the web. Just search for "pinewood derby certificates".
Be careful with these type of awards. If you decide that every participant will get one, then it will be a big challenge to make sure that the number of certificates match the number of entrants, and that the awards are given out appropriately. Again, I don't believe it is necessary for every entrant to receive an award of this type. But
that leads to...
Providing all entrants with a ribbon (or alternate) for participating is certainly appropriate. I am still amazed how much my kids like those ribbons. Even when they won a trophy, they would drape the participation ribbon over the trophy.
Participation awards can be more elaborate. Stan Pope has provided a neat idea for providing a mounting plaque for every car. The plaque has the date of the race and group name/number.
Certainly other participation awards such as pins, patches, etc. can also be used. In recent years we have gotten away from ribbons and have been giving each participant a "Hot Wheels" car. My wife watches the ads and picks them up for less than $1.00 each. These are a bit more expensive than ribbons or patches, but the kids really like them (a lot of trading goes on after the race).
I realize this article is a bit short, but of course my experience is limited to the races sponsored by our organization. So, I would like to get your input on this topic. If your group has a method of providing awards that works well or is unique in some way, please send me a description. I will try to include your comments in a future newsletter. You can send your comments to: