If you build it, they will, too…Preschoolers practicing with tools

Tool time doesn't have to be one full of anxiety for parents. Introduce working with tools early on and you'll have your own Mr. & Miss Fix-Its living in your house!

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I'm over at Pam Barnhill's site again today, sharing my Tool Time for Tots post that details some benefits of working with tools for young children.

Click on over to see why to get started, then come back here and see how.

Okay, do you feel a little less anxious now about introducing the use of tools to your kids? I hope so. It really is amazing what kids are capable of and can do, when they've been given the time and instruction to learn about it properly.

Now that you're ready to jump in, it's important to introduce tool use in a way that makes sense:

1. Starting when you kids are toddlers, help them learn to identify basic tools. You can begin with books like those listed below or just print some photos to keep in your exploration bin to help them see what tools are and what they can do. 

Your little builder might also have fun with this free printable tools pack.

2. Continue to help them form an understanding of how tools can be used by bringing it in to their dramatic play. Purchase a toy tool kit like listed below to get them set up and allow them to become your little shadow as you work on odd jobs around the house.

3. As their dexterity increases, use kits like this or this to help them begin to practice the motor skills needed for things like screwing and hammering.

4. If you live near one, try to attend the free Kids Workshops put on by Home Depot each month. Click on "DIY Projects & Ideas," then choose "Free DIY Workshops" under "All DIY Projects." Choose your favorite location and you're all set!

5. Before introducing real tools into your youngsters' hands, spend plenty of time going over safety rules. Invest in some bodily protection (pick up these for: eyes, ears, and skin), explain how to use - and not use - each tool (I find that wild, dramatic non-examples always stick better in little minds) and emphasize the proper way to put everything away when its not in use (I refer back to this phrase/printable that we have hanging in Gv's room all the time for this.)

The safe way to work with tools...

...and the unsafe way!

6. When you're ready to actually let them use a real tool, it's not a bad idea to do so with some that are appropriately sized. Pick up a hammer, measuring tape, some pliers and screwdrivers like these to get started. (Want something even easier? Grab this kit to get them started!)

Okay, so now your kids are raring to go. They just can't wait to actually start using these real tools for themselves. But just what types of things can they get started with, at the beginning?

  • Sort hardware. Whether you use a fun organizational tool like this or just some random plastic containers, kids love the tedious job of sorting out all the little bits and pieces.
  • Play with nuts & bolts.
  • Use needle-nosed pliers and some copper wire to create all sorts of creative designs.
  • Use a measuring tape to measure everything. Seriously, this "game" will never get old!
  • Set them to work sanding something.
  • Let them play with clamps and old (sanded for safety) wood scraps.
  • Show them how to use a bike pump to inflate their tires.
  • Hand them a level, then tell them to "check" everything around the house.
  • Have them test your batteries, using one of these. (We actually get these for free with the eleventy million coupons Harbor Freight sends us!)
  • Pick up something fun from Ikea and get your kids to help you assemble it. Heck, they'll probably understand those instructions better than you, anyway.
  • Let them create a design and "blueprints" for a project of their own. (Graph paper makes this easier!
  • Give them your old junk/small appliances/outdated technology to take apart and put back together again.
  • Use a simple cork board, push pins and a wooden toy hammer to give them plenty of practice with hammering before attempting the real thing.
  • When they're ready for the real thing, let them put a nail in the wall for a photo, or hand them a scrap of wood and some nails to practice on. As they get older, they might have fun creating pieces of string art.
  • When you're really feeling brave, pick up a small back saw and a miter box to use with wood scraps, or grab a hand saw like this and some dowels, then challenge them to see what they can create with the pieces.

Use these ideas to open up the world of woodworking and DIYing to your youngsters. I can't wait to find out what they create!

What do you think, are you brave enough to hand your kiddo some real tools? I'd love to hear!  Either leave a comment below or email me at lisahealy (at) outlook (dot) com.

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