Using real tools helps kids feel trusted, powerful, and capable. It also helps them develop useful skills, improve small and large muscle strength and control, hone self-regulation skills, and more.
This post walks you though the basics of setting up a sawing station and takes a look at keeping things safe.
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The process is pretty straightforward: mark the board, clamp the board, and saw the board. We’ll break it down in a bit more detail below and then take a look at tips for keeping things safe.
We’ve found kids are more successful at sawing if they have a path to follow, so start by using a speed square and pencil to make one a few inches from the end of the board. This line serves two major purposes. First, it serves as a literal path for them to follow with the saw. Second, it helps them visualize their progress as they watch the saw ‘eat’ that line with each stroke of the saw.
The next step is to secure the board to a sturdy surface. This is really important for younger and inexperienced saw users because they are generally not strong or coordinated enough to stabilize the board and saw through it at the same time. Clamping is also for safety–saw mishaps are less likely when the work piece is secured to the surface.
There are lots of clamping options. The best clamps to use are the ones you already have. Below are some shots of sawing setups with different clamps and here is a post about selecting clamps if you don’t have any on hand.
Just clamp the piece of wood securely with the line you made a couple inches beyond the edge of the work surface. The setup below is for a right handed saw user. If the child is left handed, it would be best to flip things and hang the board off the other side of the work surface.
Now, it’s time to saw. The non-saw hand helps hold the work piece. The other hand has some more challenging work to do. Start the cut by placing the saw teeth near the handle on the line and draw the saw back to start the cut. Do a few of these short back strokes. Then, with the saw at about a 45 degree angle, saw away. Resist the temptation to bear down and apply a lot of pressure. The saw will tend to bind up if you try to force it.
Let’s talk safety.
Kids tend to be pain-adverse. Most kids–most of the time–would prefer not to be hurt than to be hurt. The same goes for hurting others–it’s just not something that’s top of mind for most kids. It is highly unlikely little Katrina will go on a saw rampage slicing at herself and her playmates. If a saw injury happens, it’s unlikely to be intentional.
As the adult in the room, our job becomes managing the environment to reduce the likelihood of unintentional injury. Our experience is that most unintentional injuries occur due to distraction (for example, Tim, holding a saw, is distracted by nearby rough and tumble play and accidentally slides the blade across his knee) or lack of body control (For example, Becca, using a hammer, pounds her thumb instead of the nearby nail because she lacks hand-eye coordination).
Here are some tips for abating unintentional saw injuries:
It’s really satisfying to see a three-year-old slice though their first board after 20 minutes of work. We hope you give it a try and are here to offer any additional support. We’d love to see you questions, experiences, and saw station photos in the comments section.
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