Why use real tools?

When children are exploring independence during play there is often an element of risk taking which can make parents nervous... including having access to, and using, real tools.

From hammers and screwdrivers to nails and saws, it can be difficult to see past the risk associated with sharp blades. Safety and wellbeing for children is important and we would never ask a parent or educator to disregard these risks, but rather consider the ways which you can collaborate with the children under your care to include developmental risks with the support of risk minimisation strategies. For example, using real tools, and wearing a glove on the hand that is not using the tool. There are lots of benefits for children that have the opportunity for play involving heavy work and general tool use, from hammering nails or sawing wood.


Learning to handle and work with real tools sets the scene for children to not only feel trusted, powerful, and capable but also offers many opportunities to develop a range of useful skills. There are physical skills, such as eye hand coordination, improved small and large muscle strength and control, emotional skills, where children feel a sense of achievement and successful while honing self-regulation skills, and even thinking and memory skills, such as planning and problem solving which develop the foundation for life long learning. 

Where to start?

The most important thing to keep in mind when implementing the use of real tools, is that while enthusiasm is an important part of play we always want to reduce the likelihood of an incident occurring. Introducing safety gear to empower children, such as gloves and goggles, is an important foundation when introducing risky play. Ensuring the responsible adult feels comfortable, is familiar with the tools and materials on offer, and is able to differentiate between developmentally appropriate risk and potential hazards for the children in their care is another important process to consider.


So now we understand why we use tools, and even know some simple risk minimisation strategies! The next question to consider, it may be seem simple, but the answer may surprise you...

What is a tool?

The dictionary tells us that a tool is "a device or implement, especially one held in the hand, used to carry out a particular function", and even provides us some similar words, such as implement, instrument, and utensil! Tools such as hammers, saws and shovels are a great progression to develop gross motor skills once children are confident with utensils such as forks, knifes and spoons. But what else?

Some tools you may already have around the house, that we find children love, include:

  • Tape measures
  • Paintbrushes
  • Pliers or tweezers
  • Hole punches
  • Buckets and pipes
  • Vegetable peelers
  • Hand trowels and rakes
  • Or, flint and steel.


Start small. Invite your children to observe or join you when you are gardening, when you are cooking, when you are making and fixing things around the house. Using real tools with children doesn't have to be scary.

We would love to offer the opportunity for families to learn more about this process, we would love to see comments or questions about safety gear, risk minimisation, or general questions about using tools with kids, so please do not hesitate to comment below!

[Photos by Newcastle TimberNook]

Leave a comment