Making Onigiri with Children
This Week's Toy Library Haul (at 3.5yrs)

Montessori has no limits + Introducing a Hand Drill

Hand saw and clamp wood working at How we Montessori

One of the most important things Montessori has taught me is not to limit the child due to their age, but rather follow their interests and ability. I've also learnt that no matter what we are teaching the child, there is a natural progression, we start with one skill and keep on adding as long as the child's interest and ability keep up.

In keeping up with Otto's (43 months) woodworking we've recently introduced a hand drill. Everywhere I read said wait until the child is four before introducing a hand drill, but as he's had so much exposure to working with wood and good hand strength and coordination, I wanted to give it a go. We started using the drill with Balsa wood, and he found it easy. Using the soft Balsa wood makes the difference. It's a great start, he learnt how to hold and use the drill and was able to make lots of holes. I'm sure these skills will assist him when it's time to use harder woods. 

Hand saw and clamp wood working at How we Montessori

Today we also practiced with the Palm Drill. Palm Drills are really useful to use at Forest School, on nature walks (think drilling into conkers) or when out and about as they can easily fit into a pocket or small bag. Palm Drills require the child to press and rotate the drill at the same time, so it's a great activity for developing the muscles of the hand and arms. Again the Balsa wood is soft and easy to drill into.  

Hand saw and clamp wood working at How we Montessori

Otto is well into the tinkering phase of woodworking. Today all he really wanted to do was hammer. If he couldn't get the screw in all the way he would hammer it. If he couldn't push the dowel in the hole he would hammer it in. This experimental phase is super important and as much as possible I stay out of the way. 

Hand saw and clamp wood working at How we Montessori

This is a great tip from Pete Moorhouse, a large magnet makes picking up the screws and nails fun and easy. 

Hand saw and clamp wood working at How we Montessori

It's also a bit of a science lesson! 

Hand saw and clamp wood working at How we Montessori

Today while tinkering Otto used all the screws and nails that I had put in his tray. I limit the number I put out simply because I don't want a huge amount to pick up afterwards, but today taught me to put out more. I think he would have keep on going if he had more to screw in and hammer.

A hand saw will be our next step! Is anyone else loving woodworking with their preschooler? I've found this work incredibly rewarding and I would love to set up a permanent woodworking table outside.

We've also started using a clamp. You can see the blue clamp in the first few pictures. It's really important to clamp the wood before using the drill. We found clamping with wood useful when hammering too. It frees up Otto's hands to focus on the hammering and the clamp keeps the block of wood perfectly still. Highly recommend. 

Previous woodworking articles you might enjoy include:

My woodworking with children guide is Learning Through Woodwork: Introducing Creative Woodwork in the Early Years by Pete Moorhouse. Pete has a ton of experience with woodworking in early childhood settings, from three years+.

Resources: We use a Stanley Hand Drill and various drill bits. Montessori Services has and recommends the Fiskars Hand Drill. Our Palm Drills are from Muddy Faces (UK). If you are in the UK Muddy Faces has a good range of Hand Drills and wood working tools. In New Zealand have a look at Kids Carpentry Supplies.

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