Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Teaching a Kid the How's and Why's of Hammering a Nail

(I really, really hope I'm doing this right. If you're an expert, and I'm not explaining this right, please comment so I'm not giving out the wrong information!)
We're still trying to find a retired carpenter to properly teach Builder Boy some basic skills. Until then, I'm doing my best based on information available online, and some guesses.

We started with a YouTube video. (Actually, we just did our best a few weeks ago, but this is how we started trying to do it the professional/correct way.)

It's all very well and good to tell your child that they need to hold the hammer at the end. But what if they need some convincing? After all, their natural tendency is to hold the hammer near the head because it has better control there. For that explanation, I drew a hammer on a piece of paper and then cut it out. I then drew a "nail" and a "board" on another piece of paper. I then used a brad and poked holes on the "hammer" handle near the head, in the middle, and near the end. (I also figured out the best place to poke the holes in the paper beforehand.) I then had Builder Boy move the handle of the hammer and it showed that if you're holding it near the head, the handle has to move a lot for the head to move a small amount. (Okay, not the most technical explanation.) Then we tried swinging in the middle, and the two sides moved the same amount. Then we tried near the end, and we only had to move the handle a little for the rest to swing a lot. The lesson learned was that holding further back took less energy, and that meant he could hammer more nails than if he was holding closer to the head of the hammer.

It was a good demonstration and visual for Builder Boy, plus, it moved, which is always good for a kinetic learner.

Then we went out to the garage (WAY too hot outside) and Builder Boy got out his tools. We chose an old piece of particleboard to practice on. We learned on the first day of Architecture School that real wood is much harder to hammer into, and I thought it would be better to build the skills and muscles on something easier and less frustrating. That way he builds muscle memory that will help him when he does move on to regular wood.

When it came to holding the hammer properly, Builder Boy had trouble figuring out how to grab the hammer with his thumb aligned with the shaft. So we started by just putting his thumb on the handle of the hammer with the rest of his hand open. Once his thumb was aligned, then he could close his fist, and his grip was more accurate.

We talked about how this position lines up his bones and muscles in the best way possible for the optimum strength and most efficient use of his body's energy. I had him hold it in different grips, and swinging at different angles, to test if that really was the case. (It was.)

Builder Boy needed to be reminded many times not to make a straight up and down motion with his arm, but a swinging motion. Early Bird, who was watching the whole time but isn't interested in trying himself, pointed out that the movement is like a joint.

Just to prove what Mommy was saying was true, I had Builder Boy try hammering nails into the particle board holding at different places on the handle, and trying the up&down like elevator or the swinging like a joint. I told him that while he might not notice much of a difference now, he'd notice it if he had to hammer as many nails as a carpenter does!

Okay, this may all seem like overkill for teaching. And if your kid is just fine picking up a hammer and swinging, that's wonderful; go for it! Then there are the kids who argue, complain, or just have to know why. This is for them.

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