Hammering Nails -Great Way to Burn Energy & Raise Self-Esteem

hammering nails.jpg

The first time I was in a Waldorf Kindergarten classroom I saw a tree stump off to the side of the room.  Interested, I went over to investigate.  The top of the stump was covered with nails.  Beside the stump was a wooden basket with a small hammer and a tin of nails.  I thought, “Do they actually let little kids use a real hammer here?  That seems a little unsafe.”  As it turns out, they did allow small children, as young as four and five years old, to use a real hammer and nails. They actually encouraged it!

Children know the difference between plastic toy tools and real ones.  Using real tools to do real work sends a few messages to a child.  The first one is, I think you are old enough to handle a real tool.  I have found that children ‘live up’ to our expectation of them.  Waldorf teachers are masters of setting the stage and pouring meaning into simple rituals.  The act of giving a child a real tool can be done in a way that conveys the message of responsibility and trust.

When children realize the value of the gift, they take their new role very seriously. Young kids are masters of imitation and therefore can observe an adult use a tool safely to learn proper technique. A few verbal directions and a good model is enough to teach a child how to be cautious.

The second message sent is, ‘I trust you’.  Children can feel the importance and the power the hammer possesses.  They are careful to use the hammer for its intended use only.

hammering nails stump

Engaging in real work that is physically taxing is a wonderful way to work out feelings of frustration or anger for a young child. Digging a deep hole with a shovel, moving dirt in a wheelbarrow, carrying wood, or hammering nails are all fantastic outlets for a child’s pent up energy.

Hammering nails can become rhythmic (once you get the hang of it) and is very satisfying.  You can actually see the direct result of your expelled energy as the nail moves into the wood after each whack of the hammer.

wood working centre

I set up a woodworking center in my home daycare to support the idea of children using real tools. My neighbour had a tree he was cutting up so I asked for a stump. Then, I included some spare pieces of wood (my father suggested I choose soft woods like cedar.  It would be easier for the nails to go through soft woods for my beginner wood workers).  I added some nails with big heads, a pencil and a tape measure.  I put the tools in a basket that can easily be lifted up high when the room needs to be baby safe.

I must admit, I was still a bit worried even though I’ve seen this type of wood working centre set up in a Waldorf school.  It turned out to be a fantastic addition to our home daycare.  The hammer and nails are available whenever the mood strikes and have been used frequently.  There was one small whack on the thumb in the beginning but it was a minor blip in the whole process.  My son received a child sized tool belt for his birthday from his grandparents and loves to wear it while he is working.


tool belt

Happy Hammering Everyone!


  1. thats kinda cool idea for kids to learn about real tools.

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  2. I love this idea. I’ve been trying to acquire a tree stump for a while now. We don’t have hammer and nails accessible but we so have a wood work hand drill. I started off letting my then 3 year old drill pumpkins. Now it is really available if he wants to drill planks of wood in the garden. is very therapeutic. Thanks for sharing this on the Sunday parenting party, I’m pinning to our board.

  3. Love this idea. I have used stumps in my preschool classroom before. But, first we do a small group to introduce the concepts you mentioned. We do, however, include safety goggles. Only children with goggles may use the tools. This also helps with limiting the number of participants.

    • HowToDaycare says

      Excellent point Janet, safety goggles are a must. My little ones love wearing the goggles. I had to get extra pairs because the goggles often transform into a scuba mask or race car goggles during pretend play!

  4. Great idea! I love giving my children work that they love to do. My kids love sponges and I will let them “clean” anything! I can’t wait to try this with my girls. Thanks so much for sharing at Mom’s Library!

  5. What a fab idea! I’d never have thought to do it but I can see what what you mean about it giving a sense of responsibility and pride. Thanks for linking up to our Parenting Pin-in Party.

  6. This looks so neat! Every one of my kids would love a hammering station! Thanks for sharing this at Teach Me Tuesday at Preschool Powol Packets!!

  7. are you all kidding me, my daycare kids would be putting the nails in their mouths and they are four, they would be trying to hammer each other. Yikes. Did you move your daycare down to your basement I noticed you used to have it up stairs. Love the site so informative you are so awesome for putting up this information.

    • HowToDaycare says

      Tina, good point, you do need to know your daycare kids and how they would react! A four year old brain is different than an adults. My four year old son and I were standing beside the hammer when a fly went buzzing past. He grabbed the hammer and said, “Don’t worry, I’ll swat him!” Supervision saved my walls. 🙂
      I have two playrooms, one up and one down. We use the downstairs one for a change of scenery now and then. I love everything daycare related so it was difficult to stop myself from turning every corner into a child friendly play space when I first opened my doors. 😉


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