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“Kid Wood” and “Real Construction Tools”

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Real Construction Kid Wood Starter Set

Have you heard about “Kid Wood” and “Real Construction” tools? These sets have been out for a year or two now, so you may have already spotted them in stores or a TV commercial. Kid Wood is an orange foam-like product that’s designed to simulate real wood, and Real Construction tools, made out of plastic, are used to saw and modify the foam. These products are recommended for kids 6+.

From the manufacturer, Kid Wood material is specifically created to look, saw and nail like REAL wood, but is designed for safety and easy for kids to use.

While I can understand the rationale behind these products, that plastic tools and foam project boards are safe for kids, aren’t these just toys? On the bottom of the products you’ll see a warning that “adult supervision suggested.” Although children can be creative, I doubt that most 6 year olds can create the type of projects shown in the many sample photos on their own.

Quite a few online reviews complain about the lack of instructions, but we saw full instructions online, although in a non-printable one-step-at-a-time format.

Real Constuction Screwdriver and Hole Saw Set

An add-on "Real Construction" tool set

I remember having a small project set when I was young, maybe 9-12 years old. It came with a mini hammer, mini coping saw, a bunch of hardware, and some wood. I could have used a little more guidance with it, but I don’t remember ever injuring myself. But then again, I was exposed to tools and woodworking at a younger age.

I don’t think anyone will disagree that kids can benefit from adult supervision when woodworking or faux-wood working. So if there’s going to be supervision, why not bust out the real tools? There are plenty of kid-sized tools available, and there’s no real harm in teaching them properly at a young age.

You can check out the line of Real Construction starter kits, tools and hardware at Amazon.

During a recent trip to Lowes, I spotted a couple of Red Toolbox project kits for kids. If their tools and kits are a serious as the Red Toolbox workbench I wrote about a while back, then the kits may be worth a closer look.

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14 Responses to “Kid Wood” and “Real Construction Tools”

  1. Tom says:

    I have seen these and think they are silly.

    When my oldest was 4 we made him wood toolbox for his screwdrivers, adjustable wrench, hammer, and pliers. A good project and we made it together in an hour or so. Some things I cut on power saws, and some we did together with handsaws. I have found that pull type saws were more intuitive for a kid. Also easier to get a straight cut.

  2. Juan Manuel says:

    When I was a child, 6 or 7 years with my brother had a set of real tools for kids. Hurt us do not remember, maybe a few hits on the finger with the hammer. But I think that any kid can hit anything.
    Not that the tools are dangerous.
    Overprotect children may make them more vulnerable to the outside world.
    A child who uses a saw I think it knows how to measure the risks and take precautions, that makes one to be responsible.
    While it is true that in your country, the industry is very careful about the judgments of his consumers.
    Sorry for my bad English

    Juan Manuel
    from south of south, Argentina

    • Bob A. says:

      I agree with you – when we overprotect children it does make them more vulnerable to the outside world. I think many people who did not learn to use tools as children are the ones who grow up and cut their finger off with a power saw because they don’t respect the tool. It is much better to learn with a small bruise as a child than with a missing thumb as an adult.

  3. Steve says:

    I’ve started my boys out with real tools. Here are a couple of articles on my blog…

    http://shopngarage.com/2011/12/childs-folding-workbench/

    http://shopngarage.com/2010/09/a-childs-tool-kit/

  4. Mrs. ToolGuyd says:

    When I was a kid in camp we had wood shop where we used real wood and real tools. These items are just pointless, especially since they require adult supervision.

  5. Robert says:

    Mrs. ToolGuyd says:

    “When I was a kid in camp we had wood shop where we used real wood and real tools. These items are just pointless, especially since they require adult supervision.”

    While there’s some validity to your point, it’s not entirely fair. To call them pointless is harsh. In spite of adult supervision, I can’t completely turn my 8 year old loose on the “real deal.” It’s not the same as something like this. He can learn the mechanics of a saw for example, and have more direct control over the outcome. Depending on the age, I wouldn’t allow a child to handle certain tools with or without supervision. That’s true even if I was in direct view. Again, it depends on the tool and the age of the child.

    In addition, it’s far easier for a child to cut and work with a much softer material like this. My son would be so frustrated with a wooden board and a standard saw, he’d give up before he even started. He couldn’t cut a board without my physical assistance. If I physically assisted, he wouldn’t get the same feel for the mechanics. If you’re talking about power tools, which aren’t part of this set, that’s different. Then again, there’s no better way to learn than to start with basic tools. This kit is more about concepts and learning in my opinion, than actual projects. They’ll do the real projects later. They need the basic hand eye coordination skills in the beginning.

    Robert

  6. James C says:

    I think you’re preaching to the choir here, Stu. I’m sure 90% of the readers here were introduced to real tools at a young age. But really, is there any harm in this product? No one is forcing anyone to buy it, or preventing anyone from giving their kids (properly supervised) real tools. I say, if it’s the stepping stone needed to get a kid interested in real tools, then I’m all for it.

    Oh, and the “adult supervision suggested,” I bet that’s just for legal purposes. You should see the all-caps, bolded warning paragraph on the sticker attached to the plastic bags wrapper of my unopened bucket-boss-for-coffee-mugs that’s sitting on my desk. Warning labels and disclaimers are getting more and more absurd.

  7. Robert says:

    You’re right James. I don’t have a problem with kids using real tools either. That’s not really the point here anyway. No specific ages have otherwise been mentioned. If a kid is ready, hands on with real tools is great. In fact, I purchased a small socket set with a ratchet driver and adjustable wrench for my son for Christmas.

    With this, I feel that some people overreact to what is essentially a kids toy hobby kit. Not only is there nothing wrong with it, but it’s a great starting point for some kids. I don’t view it as any different than Lego’s or an Erector Set. My son has learned a tremendous amount by simply following directions and building simple Erector models. When a child is ready for certain tools, there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. To call this “pointless” however, is a stretch. It has every bit as much point as any other building kit that is targeted towards kids.

    Robert

  8. fred says:

    I can recall a set of tools that I got as a boy – that looked a lot like some I still see. It included a claw hammer with a cast iron head. The claw broke when attempting to pull a nail – but I nonetheless loved the set – probably more for its possibilities than its realities. The same could be said for the Gilbert and Chemcraft chemistry sets I received as Christmas presents. No – you’re not likely to see their equivalent on the market again – and it may be that some of my fellow chemistry set recipients or their friends were done some harm by the inappropriate use of their contents – but I suspect that others were inspired by the experiments that you could undertake. When my kids grew up – our society was on the path to the litigious state that now exists – and “helicopter” parenting was also well underway – I nonetheless sought out opportunities to introduce them to real tools as their capabilities allowed. Cutting out simple Christmas ornaments and decorations out of plywood on a scroll saw and then painting them – was a favorite – and those items still get pulled out and placed around their houses today. Both also still have and use the tool totes that they made as youngsters.

  9. Sam says:

    At a very young age, I had a set of real (though small and cheap) tools which were mine. It included a small coping saw, screwdrivers, hammer, tape measure, and even a chisel (though not sharp enough to be useful). I still have most of the components sitting in various corners of my shop. Did I hit my thumb with the hammer and cut my finger with the saw? Yep. But it taught me to respect tools without causing damage beyond what a band-aid could handle. My son is just a baby, but I intend to assemble a similar set for him when he’s developed a bit.

    The only use for this product that I can see is to pacify the children of parents who are terrified that their child might get hurt.

  10. Robert says:

    “The only use for this product that I can see is to pacify the children of parents who are terrified that their child might get hurt.”

    That isn’t even worthy of a response.

    Robert

  11. Maikeru says:

    I’m going to have to admit that my upbringing included both handyman type activities as well as arts and crafts, so this perspective may just be mine and mine alone.

    I can kind of see the idea behind these kits as it would seem to allow the kids to do things such as cutting the material without worry about cutting/smashed fingers and emergency room visits. I think the adult supervision aspect comes in since the dust created by cutting is likely a mild irritant as well as the potential for creating choking hazards with the material scraps. Personally I think that this might be a good, low-risk way to teach craftsmanship and proper tool usage if you find that the child is interested in doing what their mother or father are doing.

    Of course in my own upbringing my father let me pound nails into scrap wood to create things at the age of 6. He eventually bought me my own hammer (which I still have in my toolbox as my primary hammer) at around 8 since the tack hammer was too little to drive some of the nails that I wanted to drive. Also there was that one time that I used his full-sized hammer and I managed to smash one of my thumbs just enough to cause it to swell up for most of the day and to freak me out pretty badly.

    At about 9 I was purchased two basic, full-sized screwdrivers (a phillips and a slot) to use on simple projects—he bought me a full-set a few years after that when it became apparent that I was quickly becoming the person doing most of the basic assembly of things (shelving, furniture, etc) around the house. Before I left for college I was given a full set of precision pliers as well as a basic ratcheting hex-head wrench set in SAE and metric—though currently I’m looking to get ones with longer handles (like those Craftsman Premium ones—gorgeous things) since the ones that I have are too short for certain applications.

    To this date I’ve only cut myself with a non-shaving blade once—when getting just a hair overzealous with trying to clean/treat the blade of an inherited Asian-style cleaver. I’ve also only managed to get myself with a hammer twice thankfully. To sum it up I think that what ever way you want to teach kids how to safely use tools is up to the individual teaching. However, this is just another method for teaching such things.

  12. Stuart says:

    Since posting this, I read another article about these toys in Make. The author mentioned how one of the commercials shows a kid sawing their hand for the camera and then showing an uncut hand. If she observed her kids doing the same, she would correct them as to the proper usage of the tools.

    The projects utilizing these foam materials are too complex for most kids to build solo. If adult supervision is needed to help guide a project alone, why not use real tools and either balsa or something like basswood. Heck, even foam-core boards can be used. A small hammer and coping saw can’t cause much harm unless one is trying really, really hard to injure themselves.

    • Maikeru says:

      Admittedly balsa, basswood, and foam core would be good solutions too. As for coping saws, I’m thinking that a jeweler’s coping saw would be best since they tend to be a bit smaller. As for small hammers my sibling was often handed a light-weight tack hammer to use when helping us put things together.

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