Recently, my little one has shown a lot of interest in Dad’s tools. She loves helping Daddy fix things around the house and hanging out in his garage. As a bonus, I was able to take her to visit our local auto body shop, and the guys there showed her their big tool boxes and how they used some of their tools. She talks about “the shop” nonstop and even uses her play tools to “fix” her stroller and play cars.
Unfortunately, we can’t go to the body shop or help Dad fix things around the house every day, so I embraced my tot’s enthusiasm for tools and came up with these fun learning activities.
Hammering Golf Tees
I gave her a tray with her toy hammer, golf tees, and a foam block that I got at the Dollar Store (in the floral aisle). I showed my toddler how to use the hammer to tap the tees into the foam and use the back of the hammer to pull the tees out.
Hammering golf tees marked a winning activity in our book! Not only did it give my toddler some fine motor practice and satiate her thirst for all things tools, but I’ve rarely seen her so focused on an activity!
She started working on her golf tees and didn’t look up. I prepped dinner, chopped veggies, and even washed potatoes (one of her favorite tasks) while she quietly engaged in this activity.
Tools and a Box
Because my little one loved hammering golf tees so much, I setup a quick workbench for her. Using a small cardboard box, I punched holes in the top with scissors and slit the sides partway. Then, I pushed my toddler’s toy screws and nails through the holes to make them big enough. The finished product wasn’t pretty, but it was quick and very effective!
My toddler loved using her saw on the sides (mostly because of the noise it makes), and she enjoyed using her hammer, screwdriver, and wrench to bang and turn her nails and screws. Overall, I highly recommend this activity! It’s fast, easy, and effective!
Measuring Tape Activities
We used a measuring tape to learn about long and short as well as tall and small. My tot really liked when I measured her height and measured other objects around the house to see if they were taller or shorter. Overall, this was an easy activity to reinforce the concepts of size and measuring. While this exercise didn’t hold my toddler’s attention longer then 10 minutes, she did get really excited a few days later when I was measuring the rug on our patio and insisted on helping.
I had trouble finding some tool-themed printable activities online, so I created some! Check out my free printable tool-themed activity pack here. My toddler really liked the puzzle and hardware matching game. In addition to these, I’ve included a matching card game, I-spy, and height activity. These printable activities make a great addition to busy binders and busy bags!
Tool Show & Tell with Pappy
Show & Tell with a favorite grown-up makes a great five minute, no prep activity! Simply ask another adult to show your child some of their tools (safely). We let my toddler hold and explore Pappy’s hammer, screwdrivers, wrench, and more. She loved hearing about how Pappy uses each tool. So, let them try on your safety glasses, feel sandpaper, and tell them a little about your favorite tools. Kids feel so loved, trusted, and “big” when you let them handle some of your possessions..
Fix-it Pretend Play Ideas
I am all for pretend play, but my little one can wreck havoc on my nicer furniture and electronics with her little wooden hammer. To help her embrace her passion for tools and save my furniture, I provided ample pretend play ideas. That way, she could bang, wack, and drill without destroying our home. Here are four pretend play ideas for future handymen (and women):
- Auto Body Shop – Because my tot loved her visit to the auto body shop (and the employees were so kind as to take the time to show her a few of their tools), we set up our own shop with her toy cars. She pretended to fix each car and take it for a test drive.
- Lawn Mower Tune Up – My tot loves “helping” Daddy mow the grass, so we gave her bubble lawn mower some tune-ups. She even pretended to add oil (so cute!).
- Workin’ on the Railroad – We used her tools to work on her wooden train set. She gently taped the tracks together and fixed the train after derailments.
- Fix-up the Farm – Another favorite toy marks my tot’s Little People farm. We used her tools to fix the stall doors, silo, bell, and roof. Each time the animals “broke” something, she pretended to fix it.
Melissa and Doug’s tool puzzle has been a huge hit since my tot’s interest in tools sparked. The puzzle doesn’t pose much of a challenge for my two-year-old, but we’ve had a lot of fun using it to develop her vocabulary. First, she assembles the puzzle while I ask her a little about each tool like it’s name and how to use it. Next, we re-assemble the puzzle playing I-spy (another favorite game of hers). It’s a great way to review the tool names and uses.
Crush It! Bin
I gave my toddler my small hammer and pliers and showed her how to crush cereal with them. Given the general destructive nature of a toddler, I really thought that she’d love this activity. While she did like that I shared some of my tools with her, this activity was a bust for us. That said, I think it’s worthwhile to share, because I’m sure that another child may really love crushing and smashing things with a small hammer. Please be sure to have your child wear safety glasses when doing this activity.
Field Trip to the Children’s Museum
Our local Children’s Museum has fabulous tool-related activities including building with nuts and bolts, creating electrical circuits, pulleys, levers, plumbing, and various marble runs. It was so cool to take her to a place with a lot of hands-on STEAM activities.
At one station, we attached pieces of metal with real nuts and bolts. The nuts and bolts were big enough for her to twist and tighten. In fact, it was such a great activity that I’ve been thinking of taking a trip to the hardware store just to get her a few large nuts and bolts to practice with.
She also really loved the various marble runs. Although she didn’t show much interest in building one yet, she liked to watch the chain reactions, pulleys, ramps, and gears.
Another favorite station included various pipes and wrenches. When she turned the wrench, the water would flow. It was a really fun cause and effect activity, and, of course, she was excited to use a wrench!
Books About Tools
As with all of our educational themes, we borrowed some topical books from our local library. My toddler really liked Tap Tap Bang Bang by Emma Garcia as well as The Toolbox by Anne & Harlow Rockwell. We also tried a Handy Manny book. While my toddler really enjoyed the Handy Manny book, I’m not sure that she really understood the connection to using tools.
Tool-themed Screen Time
- Handy Manny – We borrowed a Handy Manny DVD from the library that had a few shows on it. My toddler loved watching this show, and it really inspired her to play with her toy tools.
- Blippi the Handyman – In this 10 minute YouTube video, Blippi energetically uses tools to “fix” a sink, car, and workout machine. My toddler loved this video!
- Blippi Tools Song – With only a minute of screen time, this song is fun and entertaining for tots interested in tools!
I am so blessed that our library lends Discovery Bins– really nice, educational toy bins. Recently, my tot selected the tool bin (of course), so we got to experiment with a lot of different pretend tools. If you’re in the market for toy tool kits, here’s our brief review of our three favorite toys.
- Melissa & Doug Take-Along Tool Kit – A wooden toy set with hammer, wrench, screwdriver, nails, and screws. One neat feature is the wooden pieces of various sizes and lengths with holes in them that kids can attach to each other or the tool box. It’s great for building fine motor skills.
- Learning Resources New Sprouts Fix It! This tool box includes a variety of hand tools for open-ended play. One thing I really liked about this tool kit was that the tools were made of a soft rubber, so when my toddler inevitably took the hammer or saw to my nice furniture, it didn’t knick or harm the furniture.
- Fisher Price Drillin’ Action Tool Set – What a cool tool set! I think I liked it more than my toddler (and she liked this a lot)! Not only can you pound and pull out the nails with the hammer, but the drill turns the screws in and out of the box. The drill was a favorite for many play dates at our house!
Do you have a good tool-themed activity? I would love to hear it! Please share your favorite tool toys, activities, printables, books, shows, and anything else you can think of in the comments below! My toddler and I would love to try some of your ideas!