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My daughter is just under two years old now, and has already figured out how to work a flashlight, digital camera, and, much to daddy’s dismay, a screwdriver. Therefore, every time I wander past these kids’ tools, my other half seems to think they’re just what we need. After a lot of thought on the matter and watching my daughter use different objects, I can’t help thinking that TM readers were correct — that she is more than capable of dealing with real hand tools when she gets older rather than gimmicky stuff now.

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This little kit from Red Toolbox runs $10 and looks pretty solid. However, if you think about it, other than the hammer there’s nothing here that’s any different from the stuff I have in the shop. I’ve already got stuff she can have that A) wouldn’t cost anything to give her, and B) is the real deal.

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This, combined with the fact that a child should never be left alone with tools in the first place, means you’re going to be involved in whatever they are doing anyway, so why not arm them with tools and skills they can build upon later?

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So as those of you who saw his awesome crib build know, Sean has a lovely young daughter that recently turned one. He’s been out in the shop like a madman recently building her all sorts of cool stuff, mostly (as you’d expect from Sean) out of wood. Well, back before she was born, we discussed making her something a little more unusual — something she probably won’t be able to enjoy until she’s at least five, or maybe three if her mother is at work and we don’t tell her what we’re doing: a pink tank.

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TM reader Brenda wrote to ask where she might find help with teaching her son to make a Pinewood Derby car. And it’s a great question: Where does a parent who’s not that handy turn to give their kids the full Pinewood Derby experience?

I can think of one suggestion: Start with long-time Toolmonger reader (and friend) Troy Thorne’s book Pinewood Derby Designs & Patterns. Troy is the creative director over at Fox Chapel publishing, and he’s definitely a handy guy. By day he lays out awesome woodworking books. But he spends his nights in the shop, tweaking his home-built Cobra replica and building furniture and canoes.

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Here’s the question: If you want to get your kids — or your friends’ kids — started early, do you jump in and buy real tools, or do you pick up one of the many play sets available? I can see reasoning for both directions.

Play sets obviously allow you to get the kids started at the earliest possible age; Clearly they’re going to be able to handle plastic tools long before the real ones make sense. And we see a lot to choose from these days. Pictured above is Black & Decker’s “junior power tool workshop,” which includes not only numerous kiddie-plastic power tools, but an adjustable work bench as well. Looks pretty sweet, as toy-tools go.

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If you bought one of the Halloween-themed flashlights pictured above from Target recently, you should “immediately stop using the flashlights and return the product to any Target store for a full refund.” The CPSC reports that these flashlights “can overheat and melt, posing a burn hazard to consumers.” So far the manufacturer has heard of eight such incidents, “including one report of burns to the hand.”

Or hey, better yet, skip the Halloween-themed gear when it comes to the important stuff. If you want to give your kids a flashlight to carry during the yearly loot-fest, why not go with a tried-and-true quality flashlight? Bonus: it’s far less likely to end up in the trash can once we move on to Turkey day and X-Mas.

Halloween Flashlights Recalled Due to Burn Hazard [CPSC]

 

Want to get the kids involved in handiwork but not ready to hand over your power drill to a first-grader? Arizona Tools offers a cool gift idea for kids aged around 6-10: Allied’s Junior Cruiser Assortment Tool Set. Aside from giving them a chance to spend time with Dad or Mom or Grandpa Joe, it goes a long way toward developing dexterity and a sense of independence (read: when they’re thirty they won’t still be calling you to help them put air in a tire).

The kit is made with heat-treated, likely inexpensive materials (the whole set retails for under $30) including a flashlight (batteries not included), tire gauge, Phillips and flathead screwdrivers, 18 hex keys (SAE/Metric with holders), a 10′ tape measure, 6″ slip joint pliers, a 1/4″ spinner handle, and 20 1/4″ drive sockets of various SAE and metric sizes. Customer reviews at Arizona Tools are positive, though many folks wish that it included a hammer. Then again, when you’re eight, everything’s a hammer.

Allied Junior Cruiser Assortment Tool Set [Arizona Tools]
Street Pricing [Google Products]
Allied Junior Tool Sets Via Amazon [What’s This?]

 

Here’s Toolmonger’s own Nick Carter and his able assistant Henry assembling a flat-pack entertainment center. Though Henry may not be quite ready to undertake a larger project like this by himself, we applaud Nick for getting the next generation of tool guys stoked about building.

As you can see, young Henry’s already learning to use the right tool for the right job. That’s a talking Bob the Builder hammer he’s got there to pound in the cams. Nick himself admits it wasn’t a bad choice, as it has a soft face.

Toolmonger Photo Pool [Flickr]

 

When two hands aren’t enough to keep up with the baby and get your work done, you grab a tool to solve the problem.  If you don’t have a tool for the job, you buy one — and if you can’t buy one, you make do and build something.  Though it’s a bit strung-together, this impromptu safety barrier also turned out to be baby’s first slick track.

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You know your baby’s a Toolmonger if:

  • His favorite outside activity is watching dump trucks and loaders at the worksite.
  • As soon as he can crawl, he’s chewing on your work boots.
  • He likes sawdust better than banana.
  • He uses every object as a hammer.
  • He prefers trucks over racecars.
  • He seems to be using drool as cutting fluid for his teeth.
  • Animal sounds are beyond him, but he makes engine noises.
  • Building blocks are an opportunity for demolition.
  • He cries when you vacuum, but not when you run the drill press.
  • Even wearing a diaper, he sports a Toolmonger’s crack.

Thanks to terinea for the baby Toolmonger entertainment photo!

Toolmonger Photo Pool [Flickr]

 
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I had a plastic welding kit when I was a kid — one very much like the one (pictured above) that I ran across on Gizmodo last week. It’s a pretty simply toy: a motor in the “welder” spins plastic “welding rods.” The friction between the soft plastic “rod” and other plastic items creates enough heat to melt the rod, which then hardens and attaches things together.

(I know, since it’s almost always the rod that melts instead of the items kids are hooking together, this is technically brazing. But try writing kid-friendly packaging with “brazing” on it.)

As the Giz points out, this kind of toy is probably a lawsuit waiting to happen — you know, when little Bobby gets a small welt from spinning the rod on his finger, or when Timmy brazes his toy cell phone to the front of daddy’s new $5,000 plasma HDTV. Such is our litigious society.

So instead of learning from the welt, Bobby grows up in blissful ignorance, eventually picking up a Harbor Freight MIG unit after a long night of American Chopper reruns, and proceeds to flash and burn the crap out of himself and every metal item he owns. (Timmy, well, grows up to be a well-adjusted kid spared the merciless ass-beating he’d have endured after jacking up the TV.)

My point is simple: it’s easy to hurt yourself with tools — especially as a child. But that doesn’t mean we should shield children from every possible injury, robbing them of valuable — and often inexpensive — life experience. Toys like this plastic welder give kids a chance to use a real tool and learn how fun it can be to take charge of one’s environment instead of just accepting things the way they are. As most Toolmongers know, with a few tools, a lot of sweat and spare time, and enough desire, one can have most anything.

Anyway, if you want to buck the trend and give your kids an early start, you can have your own Discovery Power Welder for about $30 via the link below. And do us (and yourself) a favor: follow up that tool gift with the gift of knowledge and experience, lest you find (as Gizmodo suggests) “all your credit cards fused into one lump, never to be used again.”

Working Plastic-Welder Toy For Kids [Gizmodo]
Discovery Power Welder [Discovery Store]