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For Small Hands Children at the Workbench

For Small Hands - Children at the Workbench
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										   Children at the Workbench    
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										Children at the Workbench 

											"The objects that are used for practical life... are the objects
										used where a child lives and which he sees employed in his own
										home, but they are especially made to a size that he can use." 
										 --Maria Montessori, _The Discovery of the Child_  

											Believe it or not, even a very young child of two-and-a-half or
										three years can learn to use real tools. It takes a little
										preparation on the parents' part, but is certain to produce happy
										hours of satisfying activity for the child. 

											One of the most traditional toys for the toddler is the
										cobbler's bench with multi-colored pegs to be hammered down with
										the wooden mallet. In fact, you probably grew up pounding away on
										such a toy! Not only do children love to pound and hammer, but
										they also have a keen interest in the work of adults, especially
										when tools are involved. And, of course, they want to do what
										they see adults doing. 

											Before using real tools, children need sufficient muscular
										control. They need eye-hand coordination and the ability to
										concentrate. Using the toy cobbler's bench is a good first step.
										As coordination improves, your child will control the mallet,
										hitting the pegs squarely and consistently. Screwing large wooden
										bolts in a bolt block toy or using large nuts and bolts from the
										hardware store helps with smaller muscle control. 

											Safety and Supervision 

											Children will have safer and more successful experiences when
										they use child-size tools. Be sure to model and demonstrate the
										safe way to carry, use, and store tools. Designate a separate
										toolbox for your children's tools. The toolbox is not another toy
										on the shelf for your child to choose, but rather a special
										activity to do only with an adult. Safety glasses are a must for
										any woodworking activity.  

											At the Workbench 

											It helps to plan, prepare, and practice any woodworking activity
										so your child can safely experience success. First, gather the
										supplies needed to create a hammering or sanding project for your
										child. Make certain that everything works before introducing it
										to your child. Keep in mind that your child enjoys the process as
										much as the end result. Success means being able to use the
										hammer to pound in a nail even if it's crooked or bent; or
										sanding the wood just a bit smoother. Safety glasses should be
										worn with all these activities.  

											Here are a few ideas to get you started: 

										 	* For a hammering project, use big nails with large heads and a
										tree stump (available from your local tree service or firewood
										company) or 2X4 held securely on a flat surface. You might start
										the nail, demonstrating how to hold the nail with thumb and index
										finger, tapping lightly at first. Then your child hammers the
										nail in. A thinner nail can be held in place between the teeth of
										a comb lying flat on the wood. Hold the end of the comb securely
										until the nail is set.
										 	* Once they have mastered the skills, children enjoy nailing
										two pieces of scrap wood together. You can prepare such a project
										by pre-drilling the holes or using soft wood. Hold the pieces
										together while your child hammers in the first nail.
										 	* Sanding a piece of wood smooth is satisfying for your child.
										After you've shown how to move the sandpaper back and forth,
										demonstrate how to feel the difference between rough and smooth.
										A sanding block can be used and the wood can be held in place
										with a vise. Or, move the wood back and forth over a piece of
										sandpaper that is secured to a flat surface.
										 	* With the child-size drill (manual, not power-driven) and
										fairly soft wood, children can successfully drill a hole. Be sure
										to mark the drilling spots in advance and then show how the drill
										works. A vise can keep the wood steady.

											Simple Projects and Repairs 

											Even if you don't consider yourself "handy," there are many ways
										you and your children can work with tools together. The
										woodworking books in our catalog and on our website give specific
										instructions for many simple projects, as well as for the above
										activities. 

											After children show some competence, they are prepared to apply
										their skills to real life situations. You might work together to
										make simple repairs around the house, such as hammering a loose
										porch board or screwing in a towel hook. With an older child, you
										could plan and execute a simple project such as building a box or
										birdfeeder. These projects might require learning additional
										woodworking skills such as sawing, measuring, gluing and
										clamping, painting, etc.  

											Remember to take the time to think through the process, have the
										needed supplies, and make sure all the tools work. Demonstrate
										the activity from beginning to end. Then stand by and watch while
										your child works to become an accomplished, contributing member
										of the family and society. 

											 -- by Jane M. Jacobs, M.A., Montessori Educational Consultant
										at Montessori Services. She is a trained primary Montessori
										directress and also a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She
										has taught children aged 2 to 7 years in Montessori schools,
										Headstart, and also in a preschool for children with
										developmental challenges. In her counseling practice, she helps
										individuals, couples, and families.

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