Hand Tools for Children

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Blog entry by ejvc posted 06-27-2014 09:46 AM 2069 reads 1 time favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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 ( Ours even has a plastic pink handle. It is really terrific! She’s very protective of it.
  3. 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.
  4. tool storage—we built a toolbox; but a tool belt is also excellent. Getting into the habit of putting things away.
  5. 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.
  6. 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...

9 comments so far

View CFrye's profile


10194 posts in 1840 days

#1 posted 06-27-2014 01:34 PM

This sounds like a wonderfully thought out set of tools for your daughter (and you) to work with. Our son is grown. Even so he’d love to have such a well equipped tool box, just not the pink (I don’t do pink either). One addition you may consider is a coping saw so she can cut curves. Nevermind. I see in the toolbox post she already has one! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and daughter’s tools. Great reference for other adults to follow.

-- God bless, Candy

View WayneC's profile


13754 posts in 4098 days

#2 posted 06-27-2014 02:03 PM

You need to build her a bench and get her a LN #1 for Christmas. :)

Have you looked into Sloyd?

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View Dabcan's profile


255 posts in 2672 days

#3 posted 06-27-2014 02:55 PM

My Dad came to the same conclusion when I was 4 and bought me a set of real tools. I still have most of them to this day (30+ years later) and still use many of the screwdrivers. He figured I wouldn’t have liked fake tools and he was right.

-- @craftcollectif ,,

View DocSavage45's profile


8559 posts in 2843 days

#4 posted 06-27-2014 03:50 PM

I my days there was “Handy Andy”. Seeking to stimulate my brother’s interest when we were 7 or 8 years old for Christmas my parents( Santa) bought my brother a tool box dull of real tools in child dimensions, while I received a gas station with a working elevator and a Ferris wheel, both made from metal then. i really wanted the tools….LOL!

For safety reasons I have plastic maintenance and medical tools for play therapy in my office.

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 2486 days

#5 posted 06-27-2014 04:42 PM

Do you have any pictures of the kids’ tools in question? My little girl is 4 and wants nothing more than to help me around the shop. Of course, I’m reluctant to put something like a chisel in her hand, but I like the idea of functional tools that she can use without injuring herself.

-- Brian Timmons -

View ejvc's profile


107 posts in 1961 days

#6 posted 06-30-2014 08:38 AM

Hi BTimmons,

Here is the Japanese mini-brace (from the website), shown with a regular sized brace for comparison:

The Red Toolbox has pictures here:—they sell “kits” too, which are nice only because they give you an idea about stuff that should already be done before you start with your kid if you actually want to build something and not just bore holes or hack things of the end of boards.

-- Building stuff with my daughter (6). Pretty new to woodworking, I mostly sew...

View NinjaAssassin's profile


633 posts in 1725 days

#7 posted 06-30-2014 10:33 AM

I recently found a near complete Handy Andy tool set for my 4 year old which should arrive in the next few days. It was only missing a hammer (which I have in his size). He likes to “help” me in my shop which really amounts to sweeping up all the wood shavings on my floor (and by “sweeping up” I mean sweeping them all over the place).

Sounds like you put together a nice set for your daughter. I think it’s great that you two can share this hobby.

-- - Billy

View sepeck's profile


342 posts in 2142 days

#8 posted 06-30-2014 07:23 PM

While it hasn’t been updated in a while, this blog series has some thoughts on projects, tools and kids

Oh, I find my daughter is more then happy to help with anything drill press related.

-- -Steven Peck,

View ejvc's profile


107 posts in 1961 days

#9 posted 07-01-2014 06:53 AM

Wow, the Handy Andy set looks brilliant! I would have loved one like that.

-- Building stuff with my daughter (6). Pretty new to woodworking, I mostly sew...

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