This is the second part in a multi-part series on buying tools for your kids.
Part 2 focuses around buying your kids tools beyond the introductory tools. All the tools described in this section are appropriate for kids aged 6 years and older and are to be used with adult supervision.
One of the cool things I noticed once my daughters got tools of their own is that they always wanted to go to hardware or home improvement stores with me when I needed to go. They love looking at all the tools. They love bringing their tape measures to the store and measuring lumber for a project. They are totally hooked.
They also are eager to help any time I needed to fix or install something at the house. A picture needed to be hung? I’d hear “Oh Dad, can I help?” Or the car needed a new headlight and I’d hear “Dad, do I have any tools that can help with that?” It was magical. They always want to learn and participate. My ultimate goal was coming to fruition.
As these situations to help came up, I realize there were tools that could be added to their collection that they could use to help me with projects around the house. Below you will find a list of intermediate tools that I recommend getting once you have the basics in place.
Magnetic Parts Holder
As your kids get more into having their own tools and you move away from handing them every single nail or screw that they are going to use and into letting them grab the nails or screws themselves, you’ll realize that nails and screws will tend to go flying all over the place. Kids just do a great job of knocking things over. So I bought the girls some magnetic parts holders from Harbor Freight Tools that do an awesome job holding screws, nuts, bolts, nails, and washers. Put them in the tray and they will never fall out. At around $3 a tray, you may wish to pick one up for yourself if you don’t already have one. I have one on every floor of my house and in my workshop. I use them all the time.
Some might ask why I didn’t put this recommendation in the beginner tools. Well although there is no danger in a kid younger than 6 using a magnetic parts holder, they may have a hard time pulling the screws or nails up from the tray until they are a little older. The magnets in these trays are strong and sometimes it is hard for little fingers to pick them up.
Adjustable Wrench Set
I noticed that when working on things like fixing the girls scooters or automotive work, the girls really had no tools to help me, other than maybe a screwdriver. Most of the work was done with my socket set, but could have been done by the girls with some adjustable wrenches. So this past Christmas I went out looking to get them their own.
I went to Lowe’s and they had a really nice 3-piece adjustable wrench set from Kobalt that came with 6-in, 8-in, and 10-in adjustable wrenches. They were on sale for $13 during the holidays, but are normally $23. Even at $23, these are great wrenches. I also like that they have measurement markings on the side of them that let the kids know the size of the nut or bolt head they are turning.
If you think three wrenches is too much, then I’d recommend just getting an 8-inch adjustable wrench as that should handle most applications that your child would be doing.
My girls love to hang frames on the wall. They also love to make sure things are level when we are building them. For this reason I got them their own torpedo levels.
There are a lot of different torpedo levels on the market. Some have angle finders built into them, some have digital read outs, and they come in all different sizes. I would pass on the fancy and large ones as I like to keep it to the basics with my daughters and their tools. I learned on a simple torpedo level. They have been around for hundreds of years in the same design and still works well to this day.
When it comes to torpedo levels, brand really does not matter as I’ve never had a cheap level break or stop working. Personally, I prefer ones that have a magnet in them, so you can stick them to metal objects. With that said, Craftsman makes a nice 9-in model that you can find at Lowe’s for around $8.
Swanson Speed Square
There is one tool that will become every kid’s favorite as they get older. They will make sure they bring it for any project they work on. For me, that is my Swanson Speed Square. I was gifted one back when I was around 8 years old and have been using it ever since.
Although they have many uses, my #1 use of the Swanson Speed Square is to make sure my cuts are perfect when cutting lumber or ensuring a mitered corner is at a perfect 45-degree angle. It is a really quick way to make sure that the cut you are making is at the exact angle needed every time. It is also the most durable tool that you will buy as it will likely never need to be replaced.
Amazon runs deals on Swanson Speed Squares all the time. Sometimes they package it with a combination square (read next entry) and sometimes they sell them in a two pack of different sizes. Normally they run around $20, but I have seen them lately as low as $9 on Amazon.
Another one of the first tools I got was a combination square. Like the Swanson Speed Square, I still have the original one which was given to me around 35 years ago. And like the Swanson Speed Square a combination square is great for measuring perfect angles.
The nice thing about a combination square is that it has both metric and SAE measurements on the side. Whereas the Swanson Speed Square only has SAE. The combination square also has a torpedo level built into it which will help with quick leveling jobs on small pieces of wood.
Harbor Freight Tools has a Pittsburgh 6-in combination square that costs $6 and is a solid entry level option for your child.
Hex Key Set (aka the Allen Wrench)
I am sure there is not a person reading this who has not received some sort of furniture from a place like IKEA or Wayfair that needed to put together with an Allen Wrench (the lingo I grew up with) or Hex Key (common name). Our house is filled with this type of furniture.
When receiving this type of furniture, they usually supply you with one or two Allen Wrenches to assemble the furniture. Once you are done, those assembly Allen Wrenches usually get tossed. But what do you do when you need to tighten a hex bolt or disassemble one of those pieces of furniture? This is where having your own Allen Wrench set comes in handy.
My girls always want to participate in the assembly of such furniture. So it was important for them to get their own Allen Wrenches. Although their set is on a keyring (which is nice), I wish I would have purchased the Pittsburgh SAE & Metric Long Reach Hex Key Set from Harbor Freight Tools. This comes with 18 different sizes in SAE and 18 different sizes in Metric. At around $8 for a set, this is a great buy.
Larger Toolbox or Tool Bag
In Part 1 of this blog, I discussed buying a toolbox for your kids to hold their tools. That beginner toolbox was great for my daughters for the first 2-3 years as they were collecting basic tools. However, as we got into some of the Intermediate Tools discussed above, the girls started to run out of space in their toolboxes. Plus those toolboxes were getting heavy to carry to and from the worksite.
I’ve been looking for an upgraded toolbox or even a tool bag for the last month. It was really hard to find the right fit without having them there. So in the days after Christmas, we went to Harbor Freight Tools to see what they had in stock. After they tried out all of their toolboxes and tool bags, the girls settled on the Hercules 16-in Tool Bag with 6 Pockets. At around $13, this is a steal compared to some of the similar offerings you will find. Toolboxes and tool bags are expensive!
Upgrading to that intermediate toolbox or tool bag is a big deal and I think having your kids there with you will help a lot. My girls were excited to the moon and back.
We went with the Hercules 16-in Tool Bag as it had an adjustable shoulder strap. As we tested things out in the store, we realize it would be much easier for the girls to carry their tools around if the bag or box had a shoulder strap. They both loved how the Hercules tool bag fit and felt, so they went with it. Upon bringing it home, we realize it was the perfect size for their tools, providing plenty of space to grow, carry and organize their tools.
Part 1 discussed tools that are perfect for Beginner kids (aged 3+) and included things like a claw hammer, screw driver, safety goggles/glasses, a tape measure, and a beginner toolbox.
Part 3 will discuss tools that are perfect for Advanced kids (aged 10+) and will include things like power drills, saws, sanders, stud finders and more.
About the Author: Brent MacAloney has been an active member of the Howard County Dads for several years. He is a meteorologist by trade, but loves to do work working and building things with his daughters in his spare time.