Should Children Use REAL Tools?

Boy with toolsShould Children Use REAL Tools? – How to Survive Normal Childhood Curiosity (without saying “No”!)

 “Risk is the “flypaper” of the Gods.
Most flies see the other flies stuck to the flypaper but they still land on it.
In like fashion, human beings need to experience things to better understand them.”    ~ Mark Olson

Should you allow your 3 y/o to use a real screwdriver?

A child’s curiosity is not limited to “safe” play. They are innately curious in all things.

As a parent we need not have much experience to discover that children will often do the exact polar opposite of what we want, especially with “dangerous things”.
But we want our children to be interested in the world around them, don’t we?  So how do we allow them to experiment and experience the world and still maintain our sanity?

To start with, we must take our children’s curiosity seriously. It is an integral part of being human. It is an integral part of living a full, interesting life; which is what we want for our children, right?  But when you have just averted disaster for the second time in an afternoon you may know it is a gift but it sure feels like a curse.

Just saying “No” does not work.

So how do we find the balance between encouraging interest and providing an acceptable level of safety?

Watch your children and identify the “dangerous thing” they are curious about.  Get down to their level and ask them what it is about it they are attracted to.  Tell them that you understand their curiosity, that it is normal and healthy, and that you are excited to see that they are an interesting, interested person.  Tell them that the “dangerous thing” is not for them to play with but that you will set aside time to use it with them.  However, if they touch it without permission then they will loose all privileges.

The critical steps are:

  • Listen, acknowledge their interest,
  • set boundaries and
  • allow them to experience the “dangerous thing” under adult supervision.

This removes the desire for your child to sneak, and encourages them to come ask your permission.  They get what they want; access, excitement and attention, and you get what you want; child development, safety and peace of mind.

The fascinating thing about this is that you are now able to actively encourage your children to take appropriate risks!

When children are taught how to take risks responsibly they tend to develop into responsible adults who possess the ability to responsibly evaluate risky situations.

Which is why I believe “Responsibly encouraging risky behavior in our children makes them safer.”

So, Yes, children should use real tools.  Teach your 3 y/o to use a real screwdriver (in a safe environment). It is good for them, it is good for you.

Your children will not wait for you, they’re curiosity is insatiable. Address it or hide from it, the choice is yours.


I would love to hear your feelings about children using Real Tools.

Is it a good thing? or a bad thing?

Can allowing your children to use Real Tools be done safely?

Is it important for children to use Real Tools?  Why?

If you are not using Real Tools with your children, why not?  What is the main thing/concern holding you back?

Your input will be a great help to me as I develop a program that will help parents feel comfortable providing opportunities for their young children to use REAL Tools.

Please leave your comments below.


  1. My son uses real tools with grandpa. Hes very good at hammering nails into wood a d uses a screwdriver 🙂 he will be 4 in April. Hes always been taught to be careful and has had no problems 🙂

    • Page Olson

      Hannah, I love that your son spends time with his grandpa using real tools. Children need to have close, positive and fulfilling generational connections.

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