Recently I brought out my toolbox to work on some projects around the house. I am not what most people would consider “handy”, but I know the right way to hold a hammer and can do a few things we need around the house from time to time. Each time I’ve done this, my son has been really interested in helping me and really wants to hold the hammer. So when he expressed interest in helping me again after seeing the tools I decided to take advantage of the moment and give him the opportunity to learn some skills and have fun. I remembered that a lot of the best learning moments happen with really simple everyday opportunities. So we set to work!
We grabbed the toolbox and the hammer and grabbed some nails. These were real nails and screws and not toy nails and screws so I made sure that he knew he could not handle them without me being in the room and supervising. We grabbed an empty diaper box that was lying around (which I know every single household with a pre-potty trained child has somewhere!) and started “building”. I helped him start the nails into the box and then watched and encouraged him to finish off the nail and make sure it was all the way in. He really enjoyed using the hammer and learned the best way of holding it. We also focused on taking shorter, direct swings rather than a really big and inaccurate swing. We then pulled out some screws and looked at the difference between a nail and a screw. I asked questions while we worked. The screws have ridges, why do you think that is? The nail head is flat while the screw-head has indents, why? Which do you think is stronger, the nail or the screw? Why is that?
We talked about these questions and answers as we hammered the nails and screwed the screws into the side of a cardboard diaper box. He was building his brain, but also building finger dexterity, wrist strength and his knowledge of how to fix things and be “handy”. We then looked at the other tools that caught his eye in the toolbox and I explained (to the best of my ability) what each tool was for and how to use it. He really enjoyed feeling like he was building and working on things and helping his Dad, and learned a few things in the process. And the only damage done was to the side of an old diaper box!
This was a really good reminder to me that taking advantage of a child’s natural curiosity can allow me to have a great bonding and educational moment with my son (or daughter when she’s old enough!). I could tell he felt valued and cared for as I involved him in what I was doing, carefully listened to and answered his questions, and trusted him with “big boy” tools. He also gained some valuable experience and knowledge that will serve him as he grows and needs to fix toys or things around the house or help me with big projects. I got to feel like an “expert” as I explained to my son what each tool was for and how to use it (a treat for me given my aforementioned lack of “handiness”) and got to spend some really good bonding time with my son. It was definitely a reminder to make sure I don’t let myself get too busy and focused on my to-do list and to be on the lookout for more great brain-building moments with my son.
For more articles from this author, check out his blog at This is Fatherhood!