Woodworking is a powerful means of building self-esteem. Children feel empowered and valued when they are entrusted to work with real tools. They show their satisfaction in mastering new skills and take great pride in their creations. Woodworking is a unique learning activity for children.
For example, children can work with natural materials and use real tools to solve unexpected problems. They can also express themselves and follow their curiosities while playing with wood. Older children and those more experienced in woodworking will be observed and copied by those who are less familiar and unsure of what to do and how to do it. Exposing young children to real tools as they embark on real woodworking projects has many advantages.
Many are surprised by the idea of young children working with real tools, but woodworking has a long tradition in early childhood education dating back to Froebel’s kindergarten days. Woodworking is an ideal way to help children work in their “zone of proximal development”. For example, Peter recommends introducing woodworking to children in the first year of pre-school by allowing them to play with wooden blocks and objects. Woodworking has a significant impact on children’s self-esteem and confidence and develops a sense of agency, that “can-do mentality”.
The secret to keeping children really engaged in woodworking is that they follow their own interests and solve their own problems to create their work. In the 1980s and 1990s, woodworking was basically eliminated from early childhood education centres in the UK. Woodworking is a wonderful medium for expressive art and creative design and also has the advantage of encompassing many other areas of learning and development, providing a truly cross-curricular activity. My favourite part of Learning Through Woodwork is the section on woodwork projects that can be undertaken in early years settings.
The Big Bang Project is at the forefront of this activity, providing many free resources to teachers around the world, as well as providing training and research into the impact of woodwork on children’s learning and development. In the book, Peter talks about the special ability of woodworking to increase children’s self-esteem and confidence. Paulo, a regular participant at the woodworking table, announced one morning that he was going to create a jaguar. Woodworking provides an excellent play situation for children to engage in problem solving, an important skill for children to develop from an early age for their future.
Children can be taught to use the woodworking area properly and to learn to respect tools, just as in any other area of the classroom. Through hands-on learning, children are building a foundation in their STEAM thinking skills and are much more likely to develop an interest in and pursue STEAM topics – so again woodworking could be seen as beneficial to the wider narrative.