We don’t do plastic tools in our home. When Little Cat started eating solids, we gave him a metal fork and spoon, quickly followed by a knife on his request. When he began using scissors he was given his own pair of small metal scissors and learned how to use them safely by modelling myself and his daddy. When he started paying close attention to the work his daddy was doing with his tools, his natural curiosity lead him to want to imitate his actions.
First he watched for several sessions, asking questions, while he held his hands behind his back and simply observed. Then he started getting more curious and confident, reaching out and trying to get involved. His daddy gave him small tasks to help with and supervised the whole time, answering his questions and reminding him how to hold each tool safely. Just as he now automatically faces scissors down when he walks with them, the same goes for screwdrivers and other sharp tools.
Now, he is totally confident in the use of several tools and uses them sensibly and safely. He searches out screws, nuts and bolts on furniture, doors, anywhere around the house and takes great pleasure in taking things apart and putting them back together again. These are learning experiences he just wouldn’t get with a pretend plastic tool. He is strengthening his hand eye coordination and dexterity, gaining an understanding of mechanics and the ability to hypothesise what might happen if he removes the screws from a chair. He also understands that it is important to pick up loose screws and not leave them lying around, as the other much younger children I care for at home could swallow them if they found them. This has led to him making more responsible choices, as he understands it is important to create a safe environment for his friends.
Palming him off with a fake tool, a toy rather than the real thing would have not only squashed his interest in how things work and fit together, when he quickly realised he could do no real work with the thing, but it would have made us miss out on sharing this valuable lesson with him. With a toy, there is no need to explain the safety rules. There is no need to take the time to gradually introduce it as the child gains confidence and ability. It undermines them and tells them “I don’t trust you to use this tool.” He has proven himself to be not only trustworthy, but extremely capable too.
I caught him eyeing up the saw today… watch this space! ;)
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