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How to safely teach a child to use tools, real tools from knives to hammers.

Updated on March 30, 2015

Hey how does this thing work!

Perhaps a snoot full and not dad taught him not to point it at his face. Some things are safely learned all by themselves
Perhaps a snoot full and not dad taught him not to point it at his face. Some things are safely learned all by themselves | Source

Growth requires some risk.

Safety is paramount or is it?

“Safely” teach a child almost does not need to be said. Safety and children just plain go together. Let us look at doing dangerous stuff safely. Tools of a trade or hobby are keys to success. Safely learning how to use them in any area leads to success of a child. Let us take a look at that. “safely giving a 4 year old a knife?” What are we crazy here? Nope. Respect will be our first lesson. Now put on some glasses and safely read this article.

First things first and that is play toys. We see many who think nothing of giving toy guns to children. Swords are every young pirate’s toy, whether they make believe one or have that plastic one. Children in general make believe heroes who save the day with violent toys. No, not all but most. So get your child plastic and/or wooden tools. Get them in her hands early. (We know generalities about boys and girls but let us leave that for another article and think asexual here) Tool kits are important as taking care of tools is quite important.

Young Tim gets sharp crayons and pencils and even scissors in pre-school by age four. How do they do that? Meaning how do the teachers do that with 20 children at once? Younger children can learn how to “work” a remote control at barely 3 years old, how do they do that?

There was a 3 year old that stack 14 building blocks in a tower all by herself. That is incredible the author has been doing it for well over 50 years and can only do 20 or so. A 3 year old can build amazing things with Legos. Most 3 year olds can build sand castles with or without tools. Watch a 4 year old with crayons stay right within the lines in a coloring book, make no doubt a crayon is a painting tool.

So how do they do these things? Because they can and they want to and the try hard and they started out poorly but learned. And we hope in all these things a parent helped also.

There are wooden and plastic tool sets that come with screws and nails that have special holes already for the nails and screws to get put into them with the right tools. And likewise with saws and knives. So start them out playing with such tools. And leave them alone. Show them once or twice or play with them but let them discover how to use them. Be nearby, spying, so you can applaud and or laugh with them about how hard it is or that wrenches cannot saw, and saws cannot screw in screws, and that knives make bad hammers.

Life is good on cousins shoulders.

Sometimes it is right to ride on someone else's shoulders, sometimes we have to walk for ourselves.
Sometimes it is right to ride on someone else's shoulders, sometimes we have to walk for ourselves. | Source

Learning to use tools

Who taught you how to use tools

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You are an adult with a child now, sorry but you can no longer do things the wrong way, you must lead by example.

Here is the "How to"

“Do as I do and say”. Setting the example is critical. The first part is letting them observe. The second part is letting them take care of and clean the tools. The third part is hand in hand participation and the fourth part is close direction and your observance. The fifth is watching but keeping your mouth shut. The sixth is feigning lack of observation and proximity. And the hardest is the seventh – actually, and the know it, leaving them by themselves.

The above steps are not suggestions they are mandated and set in stone. But we strive for progress and not perfection so try to follow them but do not worry too much about them.

Now we are ready for a knife. Knives do four jobs properly. The slice. They chop, they puncture and they carve. None of which we care to do to our fingers. We suggest that slicing is first and then chopping and then puncturing and then carving. You have already gotten out the play dough and taught the art of all three with a butter knife. After just doing it with their play knife they are amazed and how well it works. You follow the same steps as above. Give it a while until they are adept, just like the building blocks. Now it is time.

Just a fun song because I may be crazy!

Take a deep breath and get it ready ahead of time.

The stool comes up to the counter. The green onions are cleaned. The cutting board is laid down on the counter. The boy steps up. (drum roll please) and the sharp knife is brought out. A carrot is there and quickly with one chopped the carrot is whacked in two by you in front of the boy. The lesson is emphasized that this knife can cut off your finger, and that he is not ready for something hard like a carrot. Now hand in hand you begin to cut(slice) the green onion and then chop the green onions. They will get this quick because they already know how from play with dough. Now as you feel comfortable follow the above steps.

Now above we went right to the dramatic knife but the same method is for hammers and nails and screws and bolts. Never forget the clean-up and putting away safely. This is the building of a young person. What was taboo and “no no no no” is now allowed and taught and shared. And self-esteem sky rockets and the sky is not even the limit anymore.

This takes the bugaboo out of things. Any self-reflecting person will tell you that fear is one of the most disabling factors in life. It not only prevents us from doing what we should it leads to such negative behaviors as alcoholism and abuse. Walking through something understood to have danger with a parent and getting the job done is huge. Overcoming what once was a “can’t” and now is a can is so essential to development it overshadows reading.

We have also just taught the proper use of a tool and the proper tools for the occasion or job. Even notice that the proper first knife was a play knife, the second a butter knife and the third a real knife. We do not use a sledgehammer to drive in a screw. And we do not use a power saw to cut onions. (query: should we use a blower just for our front yard instead of rake and broom?)

Guess what else we just did that is so awesome. We helped once again to teach young Amy how to learn and take instruction and help from others. How important is that?

We firmly suggest that this be done by one parent without the other around. Mixed signals are worse than wrong ones in these circumstances. And of course we will be doing this this weekend here and we will have fun and put on helmets and safety glasses, to make fun but also to set us up for the hammer and more “violent” tools.

Please do not rush things, they are only so little for such a little time!

Angels come in all shapes and sizes.
Angels come in all shapes and sizes. | Source

Kind of a disclaimer and copyright notice

This article was written by Eric Dierker. I reserve all rights to this article and desire no duplication without attribution. On the other hand feel free to share the content just let folks know where it came from. Copying it and claiming it as your own would be stupid and subject you to my legal harassment of you. Besides if someone asked you what it meant you would not know so yes it is copyright protected as original work by me. Just leave a comment to ask to use it elsewhere and please share it.

To read more by this fascinating author visit www.thedierkerblog.com, Eric Dierker on Facebook and Pinterest and my sweet blog resipsaloquitor on google blogs.

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I loved this from the opening heading....growth requires some risk! True words my friend.

    • gmwilliams profile image

      Grace Marguerite Williams 3 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      Simply love the picture of the cute little boy. Such happiness and joy! Yes, children need to be taught life and survival skills. Children are smarter and more capable than adults can them credit for. The problem with our postmodern, postindustrialized society that parents infantilize children to the latter's utter detriment later on in life. Excellent article, Eric!

    • swilliams profile image

      Emunah La Paz 3 years ago from Arizona

      Very useful article, I am always drawn to the cute pictures! Thanks for timely article. Child raising is a constant journey, there will be some mistakes as parents, but for the most part, but productive learning tools are developed in the end.

    • Ericdierker profile image
      Author

      Eric Dierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Thanks much Bill, do real life lessons ever really change?

    • Ericdierker profile image
      Author

      Eric Dierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Thank you gmwilliams that little boy is just getting better with age. Lucky me to spend time with him. He will do his Grand Canyon hike this fall so he is growing.

    • Ericdierker profile image
      Author

      Eric Dierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      As long as us parents remember we are also works in progress we seem to do just fine learning with our children. Thank you.

    • Lastheart profile image

      Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill 3 years ago from Borikén the great land of the valiant and noble Lord

      I wish my dad would have left me handle more tools. Women need to handle things like a grass trimmer, a drill, or an electric saw.

      Great hub!

    • Ericdierker profile image
      Author

      Eric Dierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      So true. I love my drills. All my sisters are good at wood working. My grandpa taught us all.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 3 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      I love it! This step-by-step guide for teaching children how to use tools is great! Every parent needs to understand that there is a hierarchy for teaching, and you have nailed it right on the head!...pardon the pun.

    • Ericdierker profile image
      Author

      Eric Dierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Very good Denise, I just love teaching little ones. Next year we start soccer and that is more fun for me than the boy! Have a great and blessed weekend.

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