Recently, I wrote a short article for Make: magazine about my experiences looking for "real" tools for my daughter. I thought I'd share what happened next...
I put off the actual buying of the tools for a bit, but when the holidays rolled around, my oldest (almost 4 years old) daughter asked an elf to tell Santa that she wanted a "wood set with tools." (I was amused that she didn't ask Santa directly. This was possibly becuase (a) she'd already asked Santa for three things, which is our family limit, (b) the line for Santa was long, or (c) as she put it "the elves are the ones who use tools.") Now that it was an official request, I figured I better start looking more seriously!
I started by going to a local "big box" chain hardware/home-repair store. When I got there, I figured I'd ask a sales clerk for suggestions. I asked the man in the tools section for some help, and couldn't help but notice that he looked uncomfortable when I said I was shopping for a child. He waffled a bit about how they didn't really sell things for children, and then he asked how old my daughter is. Here I must confess that I lied. I started to say "four," and stopped myself. I then said "eight." (I figured that if they couldn't help me shop for an eight year old, a four year old was out of the question.) The reply? He looked at me a bit wide eyed and said. "Eight? That's really young. I didn't have woodshop until my last year of middle school, and that school doesn't even do that anymore. Eight?" This is when I knew that this shopping excursion was going to be a challenge. I said that I thought eight (thinking four) was a good age for a hammer, nails, saw, and hand drill. (They didn't have non-powered hand drills, though.) After watching him uncomfortably look at saws I thought I'd throw him an easy request. "How about safety glasses? Can we just get a pair of kid safety glasses?" The reply "We don't have those." I guess I could have picked my own hammer or nails at this point, but decided to leave.
Later that day, I was in a small shopping district buying some other presents. As I walked to my car I noticed a small hardware store on the corner. On a whim, I went in, not expecting much. However, when I said that I was trying to buy tools for my daughter, two of the sales clerks jumped up. The first suggested I look at the smaller hammer that they had just sold to a dad and son, the other started walking me down the aisles pointing things out. Then they asked "the question." "How old is your daughter?" When I said four, they nodded and said that was a bit young, but that was all. And who knows, perhaps four is a bit young, but my daughter asked, and I'm willing to supervise. I'm happy to say that I was able to pass my shopping notes on to some elves, and that there was a saw, hammer, nails, hand drill, tool box, safety glasses, and wood under the tree a few weeks ago.