A child’s play is a child’s work. Arts and crafts, building with blocks, playing with dolls, constructing a fort or den may all seem to be just for play, but they are, in fact, forming a sense of responsibility, creativity, and analysis into the child’s world… three of the many necessary skills they’ll need to possess as they get older.
One material that I absolutely love that can help form all three of these essential skills are child-size tools. I’ve never met a child who doesn’t like to hammer. I’ve never met a young child who doesn’t show any interest in a construction site, or what his father is building with tools.
I.Love.These.Tools. The hammer, the protective eyewear, and the little leather toolbelt….
Why? Because they’re SMALL – perfect for little hands, including a 3-year-old’s. They’re REAL – not cheap, plastic junk, but so similar to an adult’s that they might as well be. They’re QUALITY – 100% designed for little hands who want to explore construction with tools. They’re AFFORDABLE – that’s a perk in itself. They’re ATTRACTIVE – constantly being used and coming up with new projects just to be able to utilize them.
This particular post is about a spontaneous hammering project accomplished by a three-year-old. You can always amp this lesson up to fit any level.
We also used materials that we had on hand, which I am notorious for. I feel that it helps the child to be more resourceful and to look at an object’s use in multiple ways.
- child-size hammer
- child-size leather toolbelt
- child-size protective eyewear
- wooden post (the softer the wood, the better)
- light-colored marker
- objects to hang (we used ornaments, but you can also consider jackets, doll’s clothing, nature objects, etc)
Set your wood on two solid objects that give height and sturdiness for the child.
Take a marker and make a dot where the nail will be hammered (I used gold so it doesn’t show up as much when she’s finished).
Allow the child to take a nail from the toolbelt (I placed just a few nails in here for easy grabbing). I later used a small, plastic nail box that fit perfectly into the toolbelt.
These nails were particularly big, but you’ll need to play around with a good size for the child you’re working with. You’ll see later that we switched sizes. Have the child place the nail on top of the marked dot. I will have already demonstrated the technique without using too many verbal cues.
Now she begins to hammer (and notice the tongue goes out! Total concentration.. she stays like this for most of the work!)
I found that the child using shorter taps instead of from wider distances helps her to make contact with the nail a lot more easily. You’ll notice the child’s flow from observing them in practice.
Once the nail is driven in enough to where it will not fall out, make another dot (or already have all of the dots made before she starts to hammer).
Before you know it, the child will know exactly what to do. Whatever you do, do not hover over the work… this will break the child’s concentration and add more frustration for you and for the child!
We decided to try smaller nails, which came from the nail box.
And if fits perfectly into the tool belt pouch.
Witnessing this kind of mindful concentration makes my heart feel so big. This is what it’s all about. Giving children the tools (ahem) to feel successful, but also giving them distance to allow them to experience it undisturbed.
This perfect line of nails, and now she’s ready to decorate it.
Our basket of ornaments…
Using that little pincer grasp to strengthen fine motor skills…
The end result was really cool and she was so proud of herself for creating something so “grown-up” as an ornament rack!
See my next post for older kids, and adding colorful creativity: Hammer Time – Tree Stump Geometry