Updated: Jan 17
A hint of danger adds major excitement to life, especially when you’re a kid. How awesome is it to use grown up tools to bring to life a wild imagination?
Allowing kids to experience the joy and responsibility of the items below encourages uninhibited creativity. It shows them the only thing standing between them and doing something new is the courage to try.
These things, among many others, are little nudges out into the world. They indicate to our kids that we have confidence in them and that we trust them. And all these little acts of independence prepare them to be competent, capable, resourceful adults that aren’t intimidated by the unknown, even if it’s a bit dangerous.
We bought our son a Leatherman Sidekick when he was seven, and we plan to do the same for our girls. This was one of the best gifts we could have ever given him, and if I’m being really honest, ourselves. (Anything to keep them busy, right?!) This tool has been used for endless hours of craftsmanship, mainly while camping. He whittles wood, saws sticks for the fire, snips fishing line, and uses it when in a pinch to remove a hook from a fish’s mouth.
The leatherman has provided opportunities for independence, creativity, hand-eye coordination development, and campsite contributions (like the sticks for the fire). It’s the perfect tool for filling some of the downtime when we’re camping in the wilderness.
Having had two years of experience with the leatherman was recently a source of pride – he dominated earning the Cub Scout whittling chip and was able to help his some of his friends improve their technic. How fun and prideful to be the scout most proficient with a pocketknife! ;)
2. Tool Kit
Our kids have each received their very own toolkits when they turned five. They’re not extensive, but they are perfect for the kid builder. You can find great options for around $20. The main thing to look for is a lightweight set in an easy to use carrying case. The simpler the better – small pieces have a way of disappearing.
Some kids seem to know right away what to do with the set, and others may need a little encouragement. Try starting a few small nails in a board and let them pound them in. Have them check to make sure the screws are tightened on the door hinges. Find the right size Allen wrench to raise their bike seat. It makes our kids so proud when they can use their own tools to help with a task.
The tool kits have also been helpful when trying to teach responsibility for their things. Unfortunately, we have a few rusty wrenches that were left out in the rain one night. Not the end of the world, but bothersome enough to our kids that they now remember to put away their tools.
3. Power Tools
My son recently came in from the garage and asked, “Mom, can you help me get this thing into the drill?” Whoa. Time for some supervision and a lesson on drill bits.
This is such a great opportunity to encourage responsibility, reinforce basic math and engineering skills (measure twice, cut once, right?), and give kids a little freedom to feel like they’re living life on the edge.
Also, don’t underestimate the bragging rights – very few elementary school aged kids can tell their friends that they actually built something using a saw and a drill.
4. Building Materials
This includes wood, nails, screws, duct tape, and anything else they can use to be creative and experiment with some of the items listed above. This has also included rummaging through the recycle bin on numerous occasions. Unless you’re suggesting something they can take apart for parts, the less input from you, the better. I always regret when I try to steer this in a different direction, as it seems to stifle creativity (although usually lessens the mess).
Let's be real; this drives me crazy.
A real life example: I recently took apart a crappy particle board dresser that has been around for WAY too long. As in, since my husband’s college days. I was so over this piece of furniture. I disassembled when the kids were playing outside so no one would be any wiser. I was even super sneaky and put the pieces into black trash bags before setting them beside the trash bin. I wasn’t sneaky enough - my son FOUND THEM (!!). This trash treasure is now in pieces in the garage, awaiting inspiration, after being salvaged from the curb.
5. Rope / Zip Ties / Ratchet Tie-Down Straps / Carabineers
Our kids use one or more of these things almost every day. I’ll admit, we’re in a fairly intense season of both building and pretend play, and all of these items see a lot of action. For what, you wonder? Zip lines, rappeling out of trees, roping off work areas, towing things behind bikes, and tying things together just to drive me slightly crazy. *Don’t be alarmed - zip lining and rappelling were only moderately successful, as feet didn’t leave the ground.* They, however, thought it was epic.
6. Work Gloves
To round out the list of adventure must-haves, every kid should have a good pair of work gloves. This protects their little hands during building and makes them feel legit. And really, isn’t that what we’re all going for?
I’d love to hear if there is anything you’d like to add to this list. I’m always looking for more ways to add a little excitement to our lives!
Our kids know our expectations related to safety are incredibly high. They have taken this responsibility to heart, and although we give a lot of reminders, we rarely have any issues. Please be sure to do the same!