So here I am, learning woodworking with my daughter, who is now six and a half, and here are my observations after doing this for about a year, off and on.
First off: It’s really empowering for the little one to have her own tools! Not fake tools, just small tools, suited to her smaller self. Plastic tools etc are sort of good for the 1-3 age (since they just hit everything with everything) but I actually don’t really like fake tools. Second, she doesn’t really want to build anything in particular. Nonetheless, she likes having finished projects. So it’s great to have tools that build on her existing skills. Third, if the tools are bad, she feels stupid and like she can’t do it. Fourth, she doesn’t like loud noise. Fifth, she like colour and sparkles and stuff like that. With that in mind, here is my list of tools and what we like and don’t like about the one’s we’ve used.
- hammer—the first and most beloved tool. My Dad started her hammering nails into blocks of styrofoam at a very young age. Oh how she loves to hammer. Joinery is all very well, but nailing is where it’s at. We have a short claw hammer for her. Ours is from Little Red Toolbox.
- saw—wonderfully empowering. Cutting things into smaller things is something my daughter loves. But a bad saw is torture! We tried several and finally got a little Japanese saw, a mini-Kataba, from Dieter Schmidt (www.fine-tools.com). Ours even has a plastic pink handle. It is really terrific! She’s very protective of it.
- clamps—she doesn’t really love these but I insist always on clamping everything safely. By making sure she has her own clamps, if she decides to do something by herself, she knows the rule to clamp and she knows how to use them. I think of this as insurance or backup—sure she is only there under my supervision, but as she gets older she’s bound to want to “surprise” me and I’d rather it be a nice surprise, know what I mean. We have quick-release clamps from Little Red Toolbox. They work well.
- tool storage—we built a toolbox; but a tool belt is also excellent. Getting into the habit of putting things away.
- drill—only hammering and sawing are better than making holes. We have two child-sized hand-drills, the Japanese mini “Kuri Kuri” brace and a small 6mm wheel brace from Schröder, both sold by Dieter Schmidt I can’t say enough good about the Japanese brace – it is easy for her to use, it comes in a little plastic envelope with its bits, and it is super-efficient for holes up to 8mm. I secretly use it when she is not there, it’s that nice. AND it takes screwdriver hex bits. Be still my heart.
- paintbrushes and a painting smock. Oh how she loves to paint. Don’t skimp on finishing for kids, is my feeling! Any kind are fine, and different kinds are fun (like sponge vs bristle).
Things not on my list, although we have them: measuring and marking equipment—OK, some kinds will be into this, but mine is not. She has a measuring tape and pencil, which she likes to lend to me, but she never marks herself. Screwdrivers, she could care less, nails are preferable. I mean she likes to have them, but we don’t use them. Rasp—pretty good but rarely used. Sanding block – hated. Glue – loved, very dangerous in case everything in the workshop is glued together, close supervision only, not in the toolbox in case of experiments. Knife: fascinating, but I judge her too young yet for a proper one, although she uses one in the kitchen, so not long now. Ditto for planes and chisels.
I estimate that all these things will come in due course. I try to focus on doing stuff she loves with tools she likes to use – hammering, sawing, drilling, and painting.
What are your favourite tools for kids? Comments?
-- Building stuff with my daughter (6). Pretty new to woodworking, I mostly sew...