The following post is written by Steady Mom's monthly contributor, Hillary.
A few weeks back I oiled and cleaned my sewing machine. As I prepared the space and took out the tools necessary for the task, my five-year-old quickly involved himself.
When he learned we would need to unscrew parts of the machine to access the mechanics he rushed off to his tool bag and came back with two child sized, but very real screw drivers. He brought both the phillips and flat head--"just in case".
It was the perfect task for us to work on together, and it was such a "feel good" experience I blogged about it. I have since been reflecting on simple tools as a valuable source of learning and fun.
I looked around and realized that while many toys come and go in our home, it's the tools that stick around and are used again and again.Some of our favorite tools are:
*broom, brush and dustpan
*mop, squirt bottle filled w/ non-toxic, but powerful water and vinegar cleaning mix
*hammer, hand-drill, screw drivers, pliers
*saw, wrench, level, tape measure
*rake, shovel, push broom
*gardening tools and work gloves
We try to replicate any adult item we find useful with an item of quality and appropriately sized for small hands. The benefits are many.
Giving children the opportunity to use real tools alongside you gives them confidence, tunes fine motor skills and makes important life connections. Having the confidence to use simple tools is a gift that carries them through life.
Working alongside your children and creating joyful experiences can have the added benefit of attaching joy to everyday household tasks.
Here are a few guidelines you might want to consider when purchasing/using real tools with young children:
*Quality: Offering a child a quality and useful tool conveys the respect and confidence we have for them. Think about how frustrating it is to use a dull knife or pair of scissors.
A child's life and play is real work. A shovel with a wooden handle and metal head can make a world of a difference when trying to dig for dinosaur fossils.
Tools can be passed down through generations. Some of our favorite family tools were handmade and passed down from my son's grandfather. They are simple and long lasting. When buying a new tool for the kids I look for pieces that are true tools, just smaller in size.
I look for wood, metal, and quality of craftsmanship. My favorite source for child sized tools is Small Hands.
Photo by Josep M Rosell
*Supervision: With the proper supervision a child can safely use a wide array of tools.
My five-year-old just trimmed the lower branches of our Christmas tree using his small saw. He was wearing protective work gloves and his father was directly involved at all times. As soon as he was done we put the saw away.
We keep brooms and dustpans out for everyday use, but many tools are kept in specific places and only taken out with adult supervision. Not only does this adult/child interaction keep everyone safe, but it is an excellent opportunity to learn together and enjoy each other's company.
Working together cooperatively is an important life skill. You know your child best and will be able to offer the appropriate amount of supervision so they can successfully experience the empowering nature of using simple tools.
*No Pressure: I'm back to one of our favorite sayings--If it's not fun, it's not working.
Simply providing the appropriate tools and helping to guide activities safely if they choose to participate is enough. If they can't figure out a screw driver or don't have the patience to follow through, no problem.
Children have short attention spans and just providing them the opportunity is opening a learning experience. Usually my kids are excited at the beginning of a project and disappear to play something else in the middle.
As they grow older they are able to participate more. Also, keep in my mind that some children will not be interested in certain activities. That's okay, too! Providing opportunities will help them discover what they are interested in.When a child is using a tool try not to correct them too much. I usually let them explore the tool as they wish and I might offer a suggestion such as, "I find when I hold it like this it it's easier to push, pull, stir, etc.," but other than that I let them play how they wish.
I'm not trying to teach them, but rather provide them the opportunity to explore and learn authentically. Sometimes learning the best way to use a tool involves learning how it doesn't work. It's all part of the learning process.
Simple tools and technology are the foundation of our modern world. Giving children the opportunity to understand simple mechanics gives them a solid base from which to understand more complicated technology and tools.
The first step towards reading and writing is recognizing the alphabet; the first step towards understanding the way technology and modern tools work is with a simple and useful tool.
**Do you find it easy or challenging to let your child use real tools?**
Hillary is a thoughtful mother, loving wife, and a conscientious cook and consumer. She credits her two boys (& a baby on the way!) to her ever expansive knowledge base and blogs about mindful family living at infinitelearners.com.