I consistently let both kids (5&8 years old) use real tools and knives. I believe there is a time and place for plastic toy versions of both of course. Like when you want to get a picture of your son dressed as Stitch cutting vegetables for supper and you need both hands to use your camera and his knife skills aren’t quite there yet.
But for the most part they use real knives when helping to make food. My 5yr old cut the peppers for supper last night and as soon as my husband walked through the door he wanted to show off what he accomplished. He was so proud and I even got him to eat some which was an added bonus! They also use real hammers, screwdrivers, nails, and saws.
We have rules about leaving your tools around and when they are able to use them but for the most part they are free to pick up a hammer, grab some nails, and start building! A great way to start them using tools is to get a piece of styrofoam (hardware stores sell them in sheets like the one pictured below for cheap!), some nails, screws, screwdrivers and hammers. They learn so much just by playing with these simple materials! I also picked up a pair of safety glasses from the Dollar Store because after seeing Grandpa at work he decided he needed to be safe too.
There are so many benefits of letting your kids play with tools:
- building confidence & familiarity with tools
- fine motor skills
- gross motor skills
- shape recognition
- sense of responsibility by making sure tools are taken care of properly and not left outside
- develops their imagination (what can we build? What materials should we use?)
- builds muscle
- hand eye coordination
- allows them to explore different textures
As the parent let them lead. They may not hold the hammer right or turn the screwdriver the right way but let them explore and play to figure it out. That is part of the fun!