By Debra L. Karplus, MS, OTR/L
It’s time for another Christmas or Chanukah, or another birthday. Selecting an appropriate gift for your grandchild can be tricky sometimes. Thatboard game that they begged for last year, that you happily purchased, is now sitting at the bottom of a shelf with many pieces missing; it asn’t been played in months.
Giving money, cash or check, or gift cards to your grandchildren for special occasions or milestones seems practical and easy, but monetary gifts typically have little sentimental value. Your generosity with these types of gifts seems to attract little attention or create few memories. Shopping with your grandchild so that he or she can select a gift they desire, while you pay, seems equally lacking in warmth.
Teaching your grandchild basic skills may be the best gift they’ll ever receive.
While “window shopping” online, you spotted a tool kit tools designed for children the age of your grandchild; a set of twenty-five plastic “tools” sells for about twenty dollars. Sure it’s a cute toy, and the little one can work side-by-side with Dad (or Mom) or Grandpa (or Grandma) who’s fixing things around the house. But, for about the same amount of money, a set of real tools can be purchased.
Have you considered giving your grandchild real adult tools? It may sound like a crazy, irresponsible idea, but, think again. Give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach him to fish and he can feed himself forever. It’s an old proverb with much wisdom behind it. Your grandson or granddaughter may enjoy receiving a set of tools, and will especially enjoy the time you spend with them as you teach them how to use these tools correctly.
Your grandchild needs to be drilled in safety habits when working with tools.
Your grandchild needs to learn to treat all tools with respect. Teach them how to correctly hold each tool. Instruct them of proper body positioning to maximize safety. Provide them with work gloves that fit them, eye goggles, and other attire to assure that they won’t become injured.
Even fairly young children can be taught to use simple hand tools. Little ones can learn the difference between a flat head and Phillips screw driver and can be taught how to use both. Get them started by learning to tighten drawer handles, for example. Wrenches and pliers can be used safely by relatively young children in the same way. When you feel that your grandchild is ready, “graduate” to use a hammer and a saw safely. A grandchild who seems to have mastered safety practices can perhaps progress with power tools. A cordless screwdriver or cordless drill may be good for initially learning power tool safety, and possible a sander.
Hammer in school-related concepts while using tools.
Working with tools can create teaching moments. Take advantage of opportunities to utilize measuring skills while repairing or building with tool. Most baby boomers never learned the metric system, but chances are that your grandchildren have. As a student, you couldn’t have cared less about the difference between perimeter and area. And, remember the Pythagorean Theorem that you learned in math class, a2 + b2 = c2. When you were a kid you had no clue that the formula had any practical applications for measuring. Now you know better!
The gift of knowledge and independence are often underrated. But your grandchildren will thank you later for trusting them and encouraging them to use tools to repair or create projects. They’ll have fond memories of this valuable time they spent with you.
Author biography: Debra Karplus is a licensed occupational therapist, teacher, and freelance writer for national magazines, baby boomer, and grandmother of two. She lives in a Midwestern college town. She has been published in Grand Magazine in the past. Learn more about her at http://debrakarplus.blogspot.com.