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  • Laura Johnson

Real things with real tools

I remember my daughter's shock - at age 4 (after a year of Montessori school) that her toy vacuum with a smiling face and rolling eyeballs wasn't actually vacuuming anything! She never used it again after that sad day, even though she had played happily with it for a year before her discovery.

On the flip side, my husband, Wes, still remembers being in a Montessori classroom at age 4 and being allowed to use real tools to make things and clean up. It made such an impression on his mind - at a young age he remembers very little from!


I'm not at all against play kitchens or play tools - not all real tools are things you'd want a young child using without help or direction, and pretend play has SO many wonderful benefits.


When we are here at Forest Friends, teachers are present and watching, training young ones how to safely use real shovels and hammers, scissors, mops, sponges, sewing needles, manual orange juicers....you get the idea! Children are so capable and love the sense of independence.

There's also a 'hidden' curriculum here - using tools to complete tasks works on executive functioning skills, hand strength for writing, and hand-eye coordination. And kids just WANT to do it - even (and sometimes especially) those friends who are reluctant to draw or write just yet.


You can do this at home, too! Teach your child how to safely handle and respect tools and distinguish between a tool and a toy. Then work with them side-by-side to learn to chop (bananas are a great first chopping exercise), dig in some loose dirt, or even hammer small nails with large heads (like roofing nails) into soft wood, like pine. Put the tool away and clean up your work space together a part of the "work". Your child will love it, and so will you!

Making a birdfeeder and learning to spread.

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