Not only was I excited about this part of our pumpkin work because MC Hammer’s lyrics kept running through my head, but I was really excited to get my little girl her first real tool! This idea was actually inspired by something H did in her preschool class this year (and then I realized it was all over the internet too!)
This activity basically consists of providing children with a big pumpkin, golf tees (or any other kind of safe peg) and a hammer. I know some people are weary about handing off hammers to their toddlers. If you really want to play it safe, use a toy hammer or a wooden block (I say this begrudgingly), but I strongly recommend you allow them to handle authentic tools and materials. Not only will the experience be more authentic, but it will affect how they view themselves – hopefully as competent and intelligent learners that can be trusted with real things.
Show them how to use it first. Hold their hand a few times, guiding the motion it required. Talk to them about the level of force that needs to be used. My daughter was having trouble holding both the pegs, and the hammer, so I held the pegs for her (while quietly praying she wouldn’t smash my fingers).
While a five-year old may be able to do this independently, I stayed close by, providing active supervision. H was excited to try this but didn’t do it for more than ten-fifteen minutes. At the preschool, there were children who hammered in nearly 100 pegs being super engaged in the process.
This activity can be extended by showing the children how to remove the pegs- either manually, or by using the back of the hammer to wedge them out. In addition to fostering fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination and self-esteem, this experience can be used to augment numeracy and math skills too. You can give the children elastic bands to stretch over the pegs in different shapes (like a geoboard) and explore geometry as well as count the number of pegs used (this is a great time to practice counting in a second language!)
I purchased this child-sized hammer at the Home Depot for less than $8.00. My husband was a little bit confused about why our then two-year old daughter needed a real hammer but I’m sure we will do more projects with it over the summer. You can buy golf tees in the sports department of any store, or if you need to be frugal, post an ad online or visit a golf course and ask them for any loose golf tees they may have lying around.
I can also happily report that H has taken an active interest in tools over the past few weeks. Not only has her fondness of Paw Patrol and Animal Mechanicals contributed to this budding interest, but she has been engaging with a dramatic play tool set and asking us the names of the various tools as she has seen lying around the house. Further fostering her interest in using tools would be a good application of emergent curriculum.