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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.

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.

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?

Case in point: The power went out in the house the other night. The young’n didn’t panic but instead fumbled over to the little table in the corner, found her 2 AA Mag-Lite I gave her, switched it on, and came over to me, sat in my lap, and said “I got you.”

Fast forward that same spirit 15 years from now when a tire blows on her on her way home, and I have hope for the future. Giving kids real tools may seem like a stretch, but you’ve got to start somewhere.

Set A [Red Toolbox]


18 Responses to Kids’ Tools: Go Real, Not Cute

  1. John says:

    I agree. real tools are a good investment. It also teaches them life lessons early. yelling ‘be careful’ when they’re hammering with a plastic hammer isn’t the same as when they’re swinging the real thing. they won’t go bashing about the house like they might with a plastic one, or at least will only do it once if your lucky (this also is when you realize real tools need real supervision). Also I think that it shows some respect for the kid, and they are aware of things like that. My son likes to help repair things now, and also has a healthy respect for tools and knows the difference between tools and toys. He’s almost 5 now and can change the battery in his own toys (with supervision, help with a screw driver on stuck screws, etc) with minimal help. How are we to raise the next generation of makers/fixers/do-ers if we don’t give them the tools they need to do these things?

  2. Joshua says:

    Absolutely. Besides knowing how to fix things, there’s strength in knowing that things are knowable, and having the confidence to figure something out and learn how to fix something.
    There’s a great talk on this from Gerver Tully “5 Dangerous Things you should let your kids do.” http://blog.ted.com/2007/12/21/gever_tulley_on/

  3. Chris says:

    I don’t see anything wrong with giving them fake tools as well. Then they can practice their technique anytime they want with the toys. One of the toys I remember playing with as a kid was a tool set.

  4. Craig says:

    Like all things…time and place. My 2.5yr old has some of the plastic toy tools and some of the real ones and both seem to serve a purpose. The only thing is that at some point he’ll grow out of the toys.

    I think the results you get are going to depend more on who is doing the teaching, than what they teach with.

  5. justSomeGuy says:

    I agree that you might as well give the kids real tools rather than crappy kid versions. It’s great to learn that you can build and repair stuff yourself, and you should start as early as possible.

    However I believe that this should not rule out tool toys – the serve different purposes. The real tools are for playing building stuff in the workshop – the play tools for playing you repair stuff ie. your great big/car/plane/boat/spaceship that to the untrained eye may look like a bunch of pillows and blankets in the couch.
    A place where I would rather not have real pointy tools.

  6. kyle says:

    I got a craftsman 3/8 cordless drill for christmas when I was 3.

    I promptly removed all of the screws from my dresser except for 1 on each side, they were hanging sideways when dad found it.
    Although I didn’t get in trouble dad put torx head screws in the doors, then my grandparents a set of screwdrivers with torx heads a few years later.

    I think that having tools at such a young age helped me become the person I am today. BTW im 15

  7. Mike S says:

    Fake tools are fine for a two year old. She’ll let you know when she’s ready for the real thing, just like mine did. One day at the hardware store, she asked me to buy her some tools. When I told her she already had some, she whispered “Daddy, those don’t really work.”

    Then I knew she was ready. A couple of days later, she helped me rebuild a carburetor.

  8. Toolfreak says:

    It’s getting harder to tell the toy tools from the real ones. Plenty of brand names have slapped their logo on tool “kits” that don’t look all that different from the Red Toolbox kit. Craftsman sells one under the eVolv brand, I’ve seen versions from Skil, Black & Decker, etc. Of course they are all just cheap made in China stuff.

    I would say the plastic play tools are where to start, but there’s no reason not to just spring for real tools once they are ready, especially considering you can get real tools for about the same price, or maybe less.

    I still have my “cheap” tools that I started out with, which have proven themselves to be rather high quality and long lasting. There are plenty of memories that go along with them, and I’m sure children that grow up with their tools will keep them as part of their set and cherish the memories they have as a result as well.

  9. mickeyrat says:

    Real tools for real children but until you are a master of the tool,it must be used under supervision

  10. Eddie says:

    I remember the frustration I felt after one Christmas I received a box of tools. I had to be no more than about 4 years old. I sat in the snow in the front yard with my little hand saw trying to cut the bottom off the discarded Christmas tree.

    That little saw just wouldn’t cut the stump of that tree no matter how hard I tried. I don’t remember trying to use any of the tools after that.

    When I grew older I realized you had to have the right tool for the job.

  11. Dan says:

    I had a plastic set of tools as a young child aged 2/3 and played with them regularly, my parents would hear me making sawing noises, or so they thought… when one day I was sawing away at a stair spindle and managed to cut about 1/4″ in despite stripping all the teeth from my plastic saw! a couple of weeks later for my birthday I recieved my first proper toolkit in a 10″ cantilever toolbox (still used)including an 8oz claw hammer which my dad cut an inch off the shaft to fit in (which I still use to this day, the present was given on the promise that I asked before I sawed or drilled anything that might be attached to the house so I learned to respect tools at an early age, hell you can hurt yourself with loads of stuff, my first swiss army knife around age 8 had cut me within 10 mins of recieving it! You live and learn just as you learn to cut straight after you never think you can like your dad!

  12. sean says:

    Sharp edges will cut you, dropped sharp objects will cut things off you, blunt small edges will punch holes in you. Never put force on tools with their working surfaces pointed or moving at you. Carry them with the working surface or edge down and away from where you can fall on it. Levered tools can pinch, cut or crush, keep fingers out of their working ends. Etc. etc. etc.

    All lessons I was being taught beginning at two years old, very necessary when you’re growing up on a farm. I was always stealing tools from my father’s toolbox, as long as they made it back, he didn’t notice (or so I thought) till I ended up being given various commonly used tools for my own. At around 8-9, I started putting stuff back together. The hard part was growing into using handsaws, how I’d loved to have had a Fat Max back then, sharp, short and manageable.

    I was pretty ticked when I lost his best screwdriver under the hood of a car many years later at about age 25. We’d removed and reinstalled many a screw together.

    Tools and the use thereof; the best gift you can give your children. We’re a tool using species, intelligence is developed by being able to use real tools for real life learning.

  13. Lee says:

    How about a little of both?

  14. Lee says:

    Ah, the link didn’t post. Here ya go:

  15. Mike Larson says:

    My own kids and grandkids have grown up using real tools. I have a set of real kids tools to fit their little hands as they grow they use mine. They love the idea of helping dad/grandpa and seeing the results of their work. It takes supervision and patience but it is well worth seeing how happy they are after completeing a project. As I also do auto repairs the work along side me.

  16. Andrea says:

    I think it ok for kids to have tools, but not when they are harmful to the kids. A lot of kids nowadays do not know how to use tools.

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