This is the first part in a multi-part series on buying tools for your kids.
Part 1 focuses around buying your kids their first tools. All the tools described in this section are appropriate for kids aged 3 years and older and are to be used with adult supervision.
As a child growing up in a working class part of New England, my father and godfather would always make sure there was a tool or two under the tree for me and brother every year at Christmas. I did not understand it at the time, but they were working to instill a sense ownership and respect for tools into us.
Two important things happened as a result of these tool purchases. First, I had my own tools in hand when I left my parents house and went out on my own. I did not need to buy a bunch of tools. Second, and most important, I knew how to properly use tools and repair things on my own. I did not need to call upon professional repair services in most instances. Having the tools and skills to fix things saved me a lot of money and time as I became an adult. For these reasons, similar to the tradition that my father and godfather had created for me and my brother, I like to make sure that my daughters get a tool or two under the Christmas tree every year.
For someone who was not raised around a couple tool lovers like my father and godfather, buying tools for one’s self can be a daunting task, let alone finding the right tools for their children. For that reason, I decided to put some of my tool buying experiences for my daughters into this blog to share with you all. Hopefully some of you reading this can benefit from the things I have learned over the years.
The best place you can start are with the basic tools that come to mind when someone asks you to name a tool.
For little hands, buy a small and lightweight claw hammer. Some places sell stubby handled claw hammers that may look cute, but I do not believe that they are the best option for kids learning how to properly use a hammer. Having a lightweight, full length claw hammer provides your child with the experience of learning the proper hammer swinging skills they will need as they grow older. Lowe’s sells a lightweight claw hammer designed for kids for around $4 that would be a perfect size and option for a first hammer.
There are two thoughts on where you could go with a screwdriver purchase for your child. You could get your traditional, single blade Phillip’s head screwdriver and slotted (flathead) screwdriver and your kids would be more than happy.
However, I have opted to go with a 4-in-1 screwdriver for my daughters. This gives them the experience of needing to think about which tip is appropriate for the screw they are trying to turn and swapping out bits to get the job done. Harbor Freight Tools has these Pittsburgh 4-in-1 screwdrivers, often at the price of a $1 or $2, and they are perfect as a beginner screwdriver.
What I do not recommend is a 10-in-1 screwdriver or screwdrivers that come with a bunch of different bits. The bits will get lost and are confusing for the children.
One of the most important things you can do is get your child comfortable with wearing safety glasses or goggles when using any sort of tool. Sure the chance that they will get hit in the eye with a flying nail while hammering it into a piece of wood is small. However, to me it is more about developing good tool use best practices. Plus, when using power tools, my girls love to stand nearby and watch. So this helps protect them when you are running a table saw or SKILSAW nearby.
This is one of those things that I will go cheap with. They will be used, abused, scratched and lost all the time by your kids. It happens. So get something cheap, but fits them properly. My children have larger heads, so they are able to get away with adult safety glasses, but you may wish to look online for safety goggle specific for kids. Amazon sells something called JustForKids EyePro Kids Safety Glasses, which come in a 6-pack, are reasonably priced (~$12) and have high ratings.
My girls love using a tape measure. When they were little, they always wanted to help me measure things. As they got older, they wanted to be the ones measuring things. This is a great as it teaches them the important life skill of measurement, but also estimating how long things are (a game we play now is “how long do you think that piece of wood is?”).
Tape measures come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and quality. Tape measures are also something that end up getting misplaced in the shuffle (I am guilty of this even as an adult). So I tend to buy small, cheaper tape measures for my girls. Currently, they have a Pittsburgh 12-ft x 1/2-in QuikFind Tape Measure from Harbor Freight Tools. At around $2, this is the perfect tape measure for little hands. Plus this thing is rather sturdy.
Once your child gets this, teach them to use it and I swear they will spend hours going around the house telling you the length of various things like coffee tables, the dining room table, and even the family pet.
Beginner Tool Box
Finally, the kids will need a place to put all their tools. Many of the toolboxes that are out there are heavy and expensive. Of course you would expect them to be, as they are meant for being used at the work site. However, they do make some smaller plastic toolboxes which are perfect for little hands.
My girls first toolbox was the Voyager 12-in Toolbox sold at Harbor Freight Tools. At around $6, this is a sturdy but light weight introductory toolbox for your kid. It is large enough to carry all of the tools described above and then some. It is small enough for your kid to park in their closet and carry to the work site. My girls had this exact toolbox for 3 years now and just now have outgrown it.
Part 2 will discuss tools that are perfect for Intermediate kids (aged 6-9) and will include things like adjustable wrenches, Swanson speed square, levels, a magnetic tray, and more.
About the Author: Brent MacAloney is a member of the Howard County Dads and has been for several years. He is a meteorologist by trade, but loves to do workworking and building things with his daughters in his spare time.