Tools and preschoolers may seem like a dangerous combination, but an eye for safety and a little creativity results in age-appropriate activities. Tool-themed activities support gross and fine motor skills, while woodworking activities encourage a sense of accomplishment and confidence when young kids master the new skill.
Construction Paper Tools
Cutting out paper tools is a creative introduction and helps preschoolers learn how each tool looks. Print or draw basic outlines of common tools, such as saws, hammers and screwdrivers. The kids cut out the shapes, which helps with their fine motor skills and helps them focus on the shapes of the tools. Let the kids paint the tools. You also can use aluminum foil to cover parts of the tool cutouts that would be metal, such as the blade of the saw.
Preschoolers learn how tools work with a matching game that pairs up tools with their uses. You can use either toy tools or pictures of tools. You'll also need a corresponding picture for each tool that shows how it is used or what other materials you use it with. You might match a hammer picture with a nail picture, for example. A screwdriver picture would go with screws. To increase the difficulty, make three pictures for each tool: the tool itself, the material it's used with and a picture of the tool in use. Pair a hammer, nails and a picture of someone hammering a nail in a wall, for example.
A workshop area in the classroom gives preschoolers a chance to use real tools. Let kids play with scrap wood and real tools. Sand the wood carefully to smooth out rough spots and sharp edges. This area needs constant adult supervision with only a few students working at a time. Keep the area separate from your existing block area so the kids don't use the blocks with the tools. A large, thick block of wood works well for learning how to use hammers and screwdrivers. Demonstrate how to use the tools safely. You may need to help young preschoolers hold the hammer to use them safely. Start the nails or screws in the wood so your students don't have to hold them and risk hitting their fingers. The kids can then hammer or screw them in. Put bolts through a board so your students can put nuts on the other end of the bolts to practice hand-eye coordination.
An adult who works with tools on a regular basis is an ideal candidate as a guest speaker. One of the parents may have woodworking experience to share with the students. If not, contact a local carpenter or handyman. Ask the guest speaker to bring in some of the tools to share what they do. If a safe demonstration is possible, let the guest speaker show how the tools work. An alternative is to watch videos of people working with a variety of tools.
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