Do you remember working on house or car projects with your father growing up? Were you an apprentice or were you the fetcher? Did you sit and watch and hand him an occasional tool or were you in there doing it with him? (BTW, this also works for Moms – whether you were the sole parent and did all the odd-jobs yourself, or translated into the kitchen). Or better yet, do you do house projects yourself and have little ones tagging along behind to do it with you?
While I understand the plight of most parents when working on jobs around the house to get it done quickly and correctly, we have an even greater responsibility to teach our kids how to do it quickly and correctly so that they’ll be able to do it themselves when they grow up! But we have to teach them the correct way, so here are some safety tips to help train your children to become more self reliant!
Tool Safety Tips for Kids
Always wear eye protection
A stray splinter, a stray blob of paint, dust from a sander – the smallest of things can harm our eyesight if we don’t wear proper protection. Kids are no different. They also don’t know how to shield their faces or all those things we’ve learned to do to help protect our faces when working on something, so make this a priority. We have eye protection in a bucket at the tool station in our garage just like we have it in our range bags.
Protect the ears and hands, too!
We also require ear protection when working with larger power tools, and gloves for most projects where splinters or a slipped tool might injure a hand or leg. We keep a container of ear plugs around, plus ear protection, and have work gloves for everyone. Until you’re ‘suited up’, no one works on the project.
Start with the small tools first
Until kids are large enough and strong enough to work with the force of power tools, stick to smaller hand tools and power tools. While we’re not big fans of kid-sized tools for real work, there are smaller versions of adult tools that little hands can work with.
Make sure you stick with them using a tool, guiding with your hands, until they show sufficient mastery of that tool.
The Rules of the Tools
Set up rules of which tools can and cannot be used. Use the right tools for the right job, and that tools always need to be used with adult supervision below a certain age that you set up for your household. Repeat those rules every time you work together on a project.
Model good tool techniques
Make sure that you are using tools for their correct use with your kids so that they don’t pick up unsafe habits, or learn that the rules don’t really apply because Dad or Mom never do it. Show them how to properly carry hand hand tools off.
Wear good shoes, no baggie clothes that might get caught in something, long pants/sleeves when appropriate, and kepe them protected!
Set them up to succeed
Set up small practice projects to teach them proper techniques and give them a chance to use their tools before handling something big. It builds muscle memory, confidence and gives them a better chance to tackle the big things without harming themselves. Use soft woods for cutting and hammering to make tasks easier and safer.
Keep a first aid kit handy
No matter how careful we are, accidents happen in the workshop. Keep a first aid kit handy, with emergency numbers listed for poison control as well as 911.
Teach good tool maintenance
Messy hands or tools can lead to accidents. Blades/saws that are not sharp enough lead to accidents. Work stations that are messy lead to accidents. Teach proper clean up and maintenance for all projects at any age.
More great resources:
- 10 Tools Every Kid Should Learn to Use
- Pine Car Derby – great first project that teaches science, too!
- Take Advantage of Kid’s Workshops at Home Depot or Lowes
And to show you how we do this..here’s a project we worked on for the Fall decorations we do at our house. Not only did we add a fresh layer of paint to the porch (and taught the youngest some proper painting techniques), we built these rustic pumpkins and let the kids do the work!
Build a Rustic Pumpkin Patch
- Cedar 4×4 post (you can use whatever you’d like, but we chose it as a more durable wood for the weather)
- 1 large dowel – 1″ cut into stem length pieces (with a lot of leftover for other projects)
- Mitre saw – or handsaw or whatever you can cut the post with. Lowes couldn’t cut it for us because their shop saw doesn’t do that thickness.
- Spray paint – We used the Valspar Micromist paint + primer in , but Krylon has a pumpkin orange interior/exterior paint that might work for you, too.
- Sander or sanding blocks/paper
- Drill with auger tip
- Wood glue
Measure your post. We cut it into 3 different lengths to stagger the patch, but you can make the pumpkins as tall or as short as you’d like. Just measure twice, cut once 🙂
Use a grinder or sander to rough up your edges. We even used this piece because it was more rustic looking with the crack (we put some wood glue inside once dried to help it stop cracking any more). This is a good project for bigger boys/girls who have the strength to hold it – taught him about how a grinder works and the damage it can do if you aren’t using it on the wood properly. Good thing this project is VERY forgiving and loves the rustic look.
Use a sander to round off edges and take of any remaining spurs or extra rough patches on the post. This was great for the younger son because it didn’t requrie as much strength or precision, but gave him a great opportunity to learn to use the sander on large projects (not just his pinewood derby cars).
Use the auger bit to drill a hole in top of the post to fit the ‘stem’. We had daddy do this one since it was a bit dangerous, but the oldest son did help.
Spray paint your parts. The kids loved this step!
Once dry, put some wood glue into the hole, and insert your stem pieces.
Once the glue is dry, cut off about 1.5 ft of electrical wiring (we bought this by the foot for about .25/ft in the electrical department off the spool. It’s copper wiring wrapped in green plastic. I didn’t get a photo before doing it), and wrap the stem with a loop, and twist the loop to help keep it in place. Then curl the vine ends as you like.
Some alternatives to decorating… paint your post white or dark brown, then paint with orange, then sand off the paint where it would normally wear on edges, and make an even more rustic look. Or you can dry brush it after you’ve painted. You can make smaller versions of this to put indoors, too!
The tallest post is about 3.5′ tall.
Not only can helping our kids learn to use tools to do house projects for themselves when they get older, and be contributors to your home(stead) now, the projects can be creative and fun!! Just remember the 10 Tool Safety Tips!
YOUR THOUGHTS: What other tips do you have for teaching kids how to use tools safely?
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