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Three Starter Wood Working Activities - for 3 years +

Montessori toddler hammer nails tree stump at How we Montessori

I've been inspired to try some woodwork with Otto since reading Learning Through Woodwork: Introducing Creative Woodwork in the Early Years by Pete Moorhouse. Otto turns three this month so I wasn't sure how to start. Learning Through Woodwork contains good tips for introducing woodwork and it has lots of beautiful photographs of children 3-4 years old working with wood. The author believes that the preschool years starting from three is the ideal time to start woodwork! This feels entirely in line with the Montessori way of thinking.

Today I want to share three ways I've introduced woodworking to Otto. Above and below he is hammering nails into a tree stump. This is super simple to set up if you have a suitable space in your yard. I have started hammering the nails in and he hammers them all the way in. The purpose is for him to develop skills and awareness about how the hammer works. This is not easy work and requires concentration and persistence. 

Montessori toddler hammer nails tree stump at How we Montessori

I like to use these short and stubby hammers, they are heavy but this one has a good grip and is easy for the young child to use. We use flat head nails.

Montessori toddler hammer nails tree stump at How we Montessori

This is a super simple hammering tray. Again the purpose is to develop hammering skills. The nails are hammered into Balsa wood just to get them started and the child is required to hammer the nails all the way in. The advantage of using this tray is that it can be used inside and the Balsa wood is really soft, Otto finishes this quickly and easily. Balsa wood can be expensive but just a few pieces in the beginning stages can be worth it as it is so easy for the young child to use. We can deconstruct their work and reuse many of the same pieces.

Montessori woodworking hammering hammer nails wood tray activity at How we Montessori Otto 2years 11months

This is wonderful for developing coordination, core and arm strength. Close supervision is required but this is well within the skill set of many three year olds!
Montessori woodworking hammering hammer nails wood tray activity at How we Montessori Otto 2years 11months

Next is more of a creative woodworking tray. This is simple glueing but allows for some construction and allows the child to wonder what they can build with wood. I was completely surprised by what Otto built and how much he loves this tray.

Montessori toddler hammer nails tree stump at How we Montessori

Paste and stick. Think your three year old can't build with wood? Think again!

Montessori toddler hammer nails tree stump at How we Montessori

We are using Balsa wood pieces, a few crafting wood blocks, dowels and some PVA glue. 

Montessori toddler hammer nails tree stump at How we Montessori

All the mess is contained on the tray. 

Toddler woodwork creations with paste glue at How we Montessori (1)

I can see some bridging work and Otto tells me he has built a helicopter.

Otto painting wood work helicopter at How we Montessori 2 years 11 months

After it has dried Otto paints his helicopter. This is just the start of child-led, interest based learning. 

Resources: We use the hammer and safety glasses from the Stanley Jr Tool Box (also available at Montessori Services, in Australia at Spotlight) and the stubby claw hammer from Muddy Faces (UK).

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