The Importance of the Proper Tools

I’ve always believed that kids deserve as good-quality art supplies as we can manage. This doesn’t mean the most expensive, but the tools and supplies we provide for our kids shouldn’t lead to frustration. The pencils and crayons should draw smoothly, the pastels should feel good against the paper, the paper itself should hold up to whatever’s being applied to it, and for goodness sakes, none of the teeny tiny paintbrushes and the watercolors that stay dry and colorless no matter how much water you add to the measly little block. (I always wondered, as a kid, how famous artists created such amazing watercolors. Learning about tubes of watercolor paint was a revelation, I tell you.)

Many products and supplies geared towards children are just not up to the task of carrying out the child’s ideas. But when I notice I need, I try to fill it; when a child has a desire, I try to make sure he or she can carry out the task. I don’t want an idea to fail simply for lack of the proper tools.

Not too long ago I decided to try sewing while G kept me company at the art (and sometimes sewing) table. I hadn’t tried this in a while, but I was making an apron for her and she was invested in the success of the experiment! She played with buttons, looked at some sewing books, and then wanted to play with, and then cut, some fabric scraps. I have a pair of fabric scissors set aside for this use, but they’re much too large for small hands, so I gave her some scissors from the art table. But cutting paper dulls scissors, and it was hard work to cut the fabric. She was very patient with it, but I decided I needed to get her scissors with blades that were sharp enough to meet her needs and desire.

After some research and asking around, I decided to try to find Fiskars 5-inch blunt-tipped scissors. Unfortunately, my local Joann’s (where the scissors were 50% off this week!) didn’t have those exact scissors, so I bought a 5-inch pair with slightly sharper tips than I wanted, and the 7-inch student scissors, which are also blunt-tipped. I’d thought the 7-inch ones might be too long, but they actually are just fine.

Can you see the small smile on G’s face? When we tried the scissors and she realized how easy it could be to cut fabric, she was so, so pleased. So satisfied. Like I said, she’d shown remarkable patience with the dull scissors, but I have a feeling using scissors that cut so easily was a revelation akin to my watercolor discovery. It is amazing to realize that something you want to do doesn’t actually have to be difficult.

We worked on how to safely hold the fabric and the scissors. (Her fingers are a little closer than I’d like here, but she was careful the whole way through.) I made sure she was always cutting away from herself, not towards her fingers or her body, and I didn’t take too many pictures because I was more concerned with holding the fabric to make her cutting work easier. She was intent on cutting small pieces, and then she needed a place to put them.

She was happy for quite a while, cutting up scraps and putting them into a glass jar. I think I’ll keep the smaller, sharper scissors for me and the student scissors will be hers. They enable her to do what she wants to do.

In the course of asking around to figure out what sort of “real” scissors would be appropriate for a two-year-old, I know I ran into some who disagreed with the idea outright. Here are some things I considered:

* This is not G’s first experience with using scissors. She’s been experimenting with cutting paper for a while now.

* The desire came from her–she had a plan and a need, and when a child (or anybody else) wants to do something, that person is likely to be invested in learning how to do it safely.

* I’m willing to sit with her and take the time to show her how to use the tool safely and supervise her at all times.

And, of course, respect–I respect her needs and desires and recognize it’s my job to help her fulfill them to the best of her ability. G, being the youngest of three, has always done things a bit ahead of schedule, and I’m not saying every 2 1/2 year old is ready to cut fabric with sharp scissors. I am saying that it’s so important to know the kids we are working with, provide them with the best and most appropriate tools that we can, and never underestimate their abilities.

(G, happily modeling her new apron!)

5 thoughts on “The Importance of the Proper Tools

  1. Jill

    Ya. I’m with you on this one. You know my kids have been brought up around pins, needles, scissors, shears, yadda yadda. I taught them how to use them safely or leave them alone, depending on their temperament. Sure, they can still put their eye out. They can put their eye out with a stick they pick up in the yard too. Very well put, though, and persuasive argument. Nice to see most of you today.

  2. Michelle

    Harper has been trying to use scissors since she could walk. It’s not like I could stop her from conning her sister into letting her try out hers. So, yeah, it’s better to make sure they have a safe environment and supervision so they can experiment. I’m definitely going to have to see if I can find some of those fiskars at my store. Or maybe online when they have free shipping and a coupon.

  3. Sue

    Yay for you, and your little one! I think you are right in saying that kids need good tools to accomplish their goals. Wholeheartedly I believe it! I especially like that you mentioned taking the time to teach safety and to supervise. May I be so bold to suggest that your little one be taught to cut with the scissors blade resting on the table as much as possible..for added safety? A sweet post. I love your philosophy and am bookmarking your website.

    1. amy

      Thanks, Sue! Yes, I had her resting the scissors on the table & that’s one of the reasons I didn’t take many pictures–she was having trouble/forgetting, so I held the fabric for her down at the table so she remembered the rest the scissors there, too. I’m glad you commented and will be checking your kids & sewing site as well!

  4. Pingback: The Importance of the Proper Tools (II) | kids in the studio

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