While most preschoolers are honing their fine and gross motor skills with activities like coloring, gluing, and molding play dough, students at one British nursery school are working on more real life skills through the use of hammers, drills, and saws — and we're not talking about lightweight plastic versions of the tools. Yup, students at York House Nursery in County Durham are encouraged to play with traditional carpentry tools in an effort to enhance their learning experience.
According to the manager of the school, the program was first introduced two years ago and has been a huge success. "Can you imagine digging in the garden with a plastic spade or cutting a cucumber with a plastic knife and the frustration it could cause," Barbara Corrigan told Tomorrow's Guides Ltd. "We introduced real tools with the initial idea of providing real life experiences for our children. Incorporating these into the nursery environment has made it more inviting for the children, which in turn, has made them more focused and motivated to learn."
Among the benefits Corrigan sees are increased communication, development of gross motor skills, and even prewriting skills. The wielding of the heavier tools helps the children develop strength in their hands and arms that can benefit them when it comes time to learn handwriting. Another unexpected benefit — longer concentration as the students focus on finishing their tasks.
And lest you worry that the heavy tools and sharp edges pose unnecessary dangers to the students, the school says it is well-prepared for the activities. Students are supervised during all tool play, are taught to play within their own space, and are even taught how to conduct a risk assessment of the activities they are about to engage in.
"It has been a long journey and taken a lot of time to educate both practitioners and parents, but they are now on board, understanding that the positives hugely outweigh the negatives and that safety is always our first priority," Corrigan said. "Our children feel very important and grown-up when using the tools, thriving on the responsibility."
I don't know about you, but I could stand to learn a few lessons from the real tool play myself!