“Put a young man in a workshop, his hands will work to the benefit of his brain, and he will become a philosopher while thinking himself only a craftsman.” John Jacques Rousseau.
I scooped Danny into my arms to comfort him, but as I knelt down to investigate the problem, I discovered that all the wing nuts on the crib had been removed. And I knew Danny had done it again. I’d been pulling wing nuts out of his mouth all week. I don’t know why the crib was assembled with wing nuts instead of locking hex nuts, but it did make it easier to take the crib apart on moving day – of which we’d had quite a few. Unfortunately, it also made it easier for my nine-month-old baby to remove them as well.
Young Children Love to Build!
A Woodworking Center Should Be Part of Any Good Preschool Program
Any good preschool program worth a grain of salt will have a woodworking center. The very thought of allowing preschoolers access to real tools is terrifying to some people. Insurance companies may try to ban them from the premises, while all the great educators of the past and present have encouraged hands-on learning and woodworking centers for kids of all ages. Assuming that you agree, and would like to encourage woodworking for your preschooler, here are some guidelines to setting up a woodworking area in your home.
This center should ONLY be used under adult supervision. Therefore, you might put it in the basement or garage. If you have an outdoor shed near the playground, you could locate it there, too, and unlock it only when you’re prepared to supervise (at LEAST once a week!). Introduce the tools only one or two at a time, and teach appropriate rules for use and care. Breaking the rule means losing the opportunity to play in the woodworking center for the rest of the day.
Begin With a Simple Pounding Bench
For toddlers and young twos, a toy pounding bench may be all that is needed. This common toy is a series of pegs in a board with a hammer. The child pounds the pegs through one side, turns the board over, and pounds them all back again. Look in a good toy catalog for a decent pounding bench. The kind you can buy for a few dollars is not worth it. The pegs fall out too easily, so the child can’t pound them at all.
Next, a two year old might enjoy pounding golf tees into styrofoam. I’ve read about this from other centers, but it was a step I never tried. I don’t like styrofoam, and try not to have any around. Then I read on another blog about pounding nails into raw squash and pumpkins. Could be fun. Another woman said she taped a large sheet of bubble wrap to her wall, and gave the children wooden mallets to pound the bubbles. Besides wood blocks, toddlers will use giant cardboard boxes to build their playspaces. But somewhere around two and a half or three, most children are ready to use a real hammer.
Your Child’s First Hammer
Buy a real hammer, not a toy. Try a lightweight hammer with a ball-peen end instead of the claw. Hammers are sold by pounds. I don’t remember if the one I bought for my son was five or seven pounds. Buy nails with large heads, and not too long. Roofing nails work fine. Then you can get a large tree stump, and simply let your youngster pound in nails. At first you may need to start the nail for her. Later, teach her to hold the nail with a plastic comb, so she doesn’t pound her fingers.
Pounding nails can be a great way to release anger and frustration – far more satisfying than kicking feet and throwing a tantrum. Instead of sending a screaming tot to a “cry rug” or “time out”, what about sending him to the pounding table to pound a few nails? That could be a great form of release for him to use for the rest of his life.
Introduce Sand Paper
The next tool introduced could be sand paper. Pick up a large supply of scrap wood – often for free, if you know who to ask. Do you have a friend in construction? Visit a saw mill or lumber yard. Get wood scraps in a variety of shapes and sizes – small enough for your youngster to use whole, for now. Save bigger scraps for when you introduce a saw. Glue or staple some sand paper around block scrap wood, rough side out, to give your child something to hold on to while sanding, and demonstrate how sanding a project will take away the rough edges.
Your child can then nail and glue wood scraps together, sand them, and paint them to use them in his play. Collect round plastic shapes like milk bottle caps that he might nail onto the wood to use for tires or steering wheels. Metal lids from empty food containers can be used too, like from pickle jars or frozen juice. Nothing with a sharp edge to it.
The Crosscut Saw and a Vise
Eventually your child will want to cut the wood to make it more suitable to his project. You’ll want to get a crosscut saw and a vise. The vise is mounted to a solid table at a good height for your child. That way he can hold the saw with two hands, and keep his hands away from the sharp edge of the blade. Do NOT allow the child to hold his wood project with his other hand. Goggles should be worn. It would be a good idea to wear goggles whenever working with wood. Splinters are nasty, and little children don’t mind wearing the safety gear as much as their fathers. It’s all part of “dressing up”. And if the man in your child’s life doesn’t like to wear goggles, remind him that his child will imitate his actions, not his advice.
As your child grows, so can the woodworking center. You could get a brace and bit or a hand-held drill, both for boring holes into wood without electricity. Screws work better for some projects than nails. Show your youngster how to use a screw driver, and have her go around tightening the loose door pulls in your house. (Don’t allow preschoolers to play with screwdrivers unsupervised. You do not want your child sticking the screwdriver into an outlet.)
Woodworking Uses Math Concepts, Critical Thinking Skills and More
Woodworking is such a great activity for preschoolers! They learn measuring, counting, and problem-solving. They develop eye-hand coordination, fine and gross motor skills, logical thinking, sequencing, spacial awareness, completion and independence. If you add some photographs of people using tools, read picture books about wood working, or set out pictures and directions for projects, you help your child’s language skills, as well.
So what are you waiting for? Maybe your budding Frank Lloyd Wright will want to design houses, not build them for a living, but you will have laid the groundwork to develop your child’s creativity and help him reach his full potential.
Tags: construction, early childhood, home school, homeschool, lesson plans, pounding nails, Preschool, Preschoolers, toddlers, wood working, wood working center, woodworking center, working with wood in preschool