Thursday, October 6, 2011

Let's Get Woodworking!

A couple of months ago my toddlers started working on creating something for their playground, beginning with some timber & real tools. They began by using an adjustable wrench to tighten nuts onto bolts to hold the pieces of timber together & using a measuring tape to determine the length between two points.

This provides many opportunities for these children from recognising numbers & that they occur in a set sequence to complex motor movement as they manoeuvre their wrists to enable them to best access the nut with the wrench.

This venture was brought about by an interest in toy tools which the children were using to 'fix' areas around the room & outside. While they engaged with these items thoughtfully & took their play into all sorts of direction, the real-life tools add a totally new aspect to their play.

When we embarked on this project there was no clear idea of where we were heading with it. However, including the children by asking for their ideas as they worked. There were many intriguing suggestions, but one stood out for me. One child spun the smaller length of wood as I carried the set & exclaimed, "We make a windmill!" So there was our project target.

Once the nuts were secured on the bolts the children used a hammer & screwdriver to attach foam letters & pieces of carpet to the timber. We also used screws to attach some ribbon to the ends so that they might create a wonderful visual experience as they spun around.

As you can see the colour of our timber changed. That is because one of my bright sparks asked if they could paint the wood. It was then that I realised that no matter how much thought I might put into planning something like this the children can take it in wonderful new directions in the blink of an eye.

I picked up some carpet samples from a local carpet dealer & cut them into little squares to provide an alternative sensory opportunity. The children were enhancing their hand/eye coordination as they hammered nails into the wood & used a combination of upper arm & wrist/finger strength to apply downward force as  they turned the screwdriver. These are indeed advanced motor & coordination skills.

The 'windmills were really taking shape now & talk had begun concerning where we were going to put them. They had to be accessable while remaining safe when not in use. We decided to add them to our wall which is situated under our fence.

Our maintanance man offered to attach them to the wall, but suggested he could add a buffer between the pieces of wood so that little fingers wouldn't get jammed as the pieces spun. I told you I didn't think of everything. Anyway, several weeks later he finally arrived with the equipment he needed & the children finally had their windmills.

These windmills may  only be around for a few months as we are getting a complete makeover of our playground in December. It is my hope however, that they are included as part of that new environment or added to the older children's playground seeing as many of these children will be using it next year. It is theirs & they deserve to keep enjoying the result of their hard work for as long as they can.

Real Tools = Real Life = Real Fun


  1. Real Tools = Real Life = Real Fun ... What a great mantra! I LOVE seeing children using real tools. Good on you Greg!
    Donna :) :)

  2. What a brilliant idea, Greg, and good to know that I'm not the only one who finds things take on a whole new direction in the blink of eye! What lucky children to have you in their centre.

  3. Hmm... I think we all need a woodworking week where we blog about woodwork projects in pre-school. Every post makes a difference and sends a strong message to other practitioners that it is a fundamental childhood experience. Thanks for this post.