Tips For Using Real Tools With Children

Using Real Tools with Children
I confess that when it comes to using real tools with children, my first thoughts are always about the horrible things that could go wrong. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that for so many years I've been striving to keep my boys safe and away from dangerous situations.

"Arming" them with tools which could potential lead to blood seeping across the floor or eyes poked out or .... okay ... enough with the graphic descriptions! This isn't meant to be a 'horror' post!

As I was saying, "arming" the boys with potentially harmful tools seems to go against the grain.

However, it's all about perspective. The truth is children benefit enormously by using real tools and, with plenty of supervision, they can use tools safely.

Tools are part of everyday life. It is far better that we allow our children to use these tools safely, with proper supervision, and to provide them opportunities to gain experience, understanding and respect for the tools they use.

Using real tools with clay
Recently, I came across a tool set designed to be used by sculptors with clay. At first, I looked at the set and saw huge potential dangers. Sharp pointed instruments. Metal pieces that I could see stabbing and cutting and tearing and .... let's not go on. You get the picture.

Using real tools with clay

However, I could also see the potential for learning. These tools would provide my children with the ability to manipulate clay in a way they hadn't been able to do before. By using these real tools, there was also the opportunity for my children to:

  • explore and learn authentically
  • develop fine motor skills
  • gain self-confidence
  • expand creativity
  • learn how to work safely.

Using real tools with children
So we purchased the tools, set up a clay making activity and had some fun - all fully supervised and most importantly... safely.

I'm happy to report that by the end of the activity, no blood had been shed. All limbs and eyes, etc., were in the same condition as when we started. The only thing that had changed was the fact that my children had benefited greatly.

Things to Consider When Using Real Tools


Make sure the area in which you are using the tools is set up to promote safety as much as possible. Consider where electrical cords run. Secure them so that they are not a tripping hazard either by putting a mat over the cords or taping them down.

Look at the work flow space. Will children be reaching over the top of the hot glue gun? Can it be positioned in a safer place?


Before beginning to use real tools, explain any simple but necessary rules. (Eg. This is how we carry scissors. We ALWAYS walk when carrying scissors. Put the tools in their proper place when finished with them.)


Provide tools which are good quality and sturdy. Where possible, use tools that are appropriately sized for the children using them. (E.g. smaller hammers which are lighter and easier to handle).


Choose the time to use tools when children are alert and focused. Distractions and tiredness can lead to accidents.


Match the child's ability to the tools. This is probably a given. After all, we wouldn't give a 12 month old baby a real hammer and let him/her wonder around the place willy-nilly. :o

Most Importantly ... Supervise!

Supervision, supervision and more supervision. This is the most important aspect. Children with tools must be supervised carefully. Hmmm ... could I get the word 'supervision' in again? No ... I don't think I can because you already know about the importance of supervision in the first place. :o

So yes, children can use real tools. More importantly, children SHOULD use real tools ... WITH ... you guessed it ... proper supervision.

Do you use real tools with children? If so ... what do you use?

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