Last weekend, the kids made birdhouses. ‘Real’ birdhouses with hammers, nails, and saws. I have been holding on to that post to publish on a day when my skin is particularly thick, because I know I will receive some comments about letting my toddler use a hammer. But we do. We let our kids build with real tools. Hammers, nails, screwdrivers, all the good stuff. Of course we do not pop them in a room with the tools and let them go wild. We teach them how to use the tools properly and we supervise them closely.
Sam, who is 3.5, has a big interest in using tools. He has his own tool box and loves to fix things around the house. At this point, he can tighten screws, hammer in nails, use a manual hand drill, and a hand saw with some help. One area which is still tricky is using a wrench.
My husband was tinkering downstairs in the workshop with Sam and they proudly emerged with this:
A piece of wood with 3 bolts, washers, and nuts.
Wouldn’t you know that this piece of wood has provided both my 3.5 year old and 17 month old with hours of entertainment. So much so, that I thought I should share it with you! Activities like this are wonderful for hand-eye coordination and, is actually a fantastic pre-writing skill!
It strengthens little shoulders and arms and also practices a pincer grip. A wonderful, engaging activity for busy preschoolers.
My little ones have used this activity with wrenches, and with fingers too. They have practiced oral language and making comparisons (big, medium, small, thinner, thicker, taller, shorter). They have practiced sharing, team work, and cooperation. All hugely important skills for my little ones!
This activity would be so wonderful in a Kindergarten classroom or a preschool as well as in a home. Definitely worth the time to make!
Here are the Nuts and Bolts of making this activity
We used: a sturdy piece of wood and 3 different sized bolts. On each bolt we have a washer and 2 or 3 nuts. We also have wrenches for each.
First, pre-drill 3 holes in the wood. We spaced ours enough so the wrenches could spin all the way around without bumping into the neighboring bolt.
Then, screw your 3 bolts into the 3 holes from the bottom of the wood. On the top of the wood put on your washers and secure with one nut. Thread the second (and perhaps third) nut onto the bolts.
It took Sam and his Dad about 10 minutes to make.
This activity does have little parts. Whenever my kids are using tools I supervise them. Fingers could get pinched, wrenches are heavy if dropped. Of course we are all aware of the need for safety. But little ones also need the chance to explore and discover. This is a fairly safe way for little ones to explore ‘real tools’ and learn a heck of a lot as well!
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Mildred Noftle says
Wow the Nuts and Bolts!! … Great Granddad was very interested in this one… it was fun reading about it… and I’m sure Sam and Ben were having fun with the tools.. something different for them and more intersting since it means they are doing big boys things…
Heather G. @ Golden Reflections Blog says
This is so awesome, I love it! Thanks for sharing on my #SensorySunday share day!!
So glad you like it Heather – and thank you for the invitation to share!
Ann @ My Nearest and Dearest says
This is awesome, Sarah!!! I have been wanting to make my son his own little workbench/tinkering station for some time. He uses real tools too and LOVES being a little Mr. Fixit.
You and your husband do such a wonderful job with providing real, hands-on, and meaningful experiences for your kids. Keep up the great work!
This is such a great, simple activity! Love it! I am also a huge fan of letting kids use real tools. My husband and preschooler sons spend their best quality time down at the workbench in the basement! And as an OT I couldn’t agree more about the great fine motor benefits too! 🙂
I am a nursery teacher and have trained our children to use real nails and hammers independently ( we certainly don’t stand over them!) I have been looking fir a way to extend our provision and this nuts and bolts is it! Thank you (we have ordered hand drills and saws but they haven’t arrived yet)
How wonderful Susan! What a fantastic nursery school – and lucky kids! Little ones are capable of so much when given the chance. Thank you for sharing.
I love this idea! It is simple yet sure to be a hit with any little kid!
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Kudos ! My grandson, at 4, declared that he only wanted tools that worked. (The plastic ones had lost their appeal.) When we finished our basement, he was right there, hammering, screwing nails and bolts, drywalling and painting. He would disappear down there with my husband and not see him for hours. He was thoroughly happy. Yeah ! I found some real tools that were smaller and great for his hands. For Christmas, he declared, again at 4 years old, that he wanted a real wheelbarrow, a real weed sprayer and a real leaf blower. My daughter managed to find them all, and he was outside at Christmas playing with his “toys.”
Wow – please send that 4 year old over, my yard needs him! I am always impressed by how capable little people really are with tools, so glad you were able to give him the opportunity. Well done!
Pam Atkinson says
This is a great introduction for kids. Was looking for carpentry projects for CCD kids so they could relate to Joseph and Jesus. This is helpful! Just trying out a saw would be good too. The kids are 6-8.
So glad this was helpful to you Pam. I also have a post about woodworking activities that might be helpful? https://www.howweelearn.com/woodworking-projects-for-kids-2/