It wasn’t so long ago that keen youngsters faced a choice between an adult’s “border” fork or spade and flimsy playthings, better suited to the beach than the border. However, the kids’ tools market has really taken off over the last few years and today there’s an excellent range of garden implements on offer from a number of different manufacturers.
It’s great news, of course, but at the same time many parents find the increased choice more than a little bewildering – so here’s our quick guide to picking the right tool for your kids.
1. Get The Size Right
It’s really important to take your time and get the size right – particularly so you don’t land a child with a tool that is just too big to be used safely. Most good garden centres have a range of different size tools, so you should be able to find something to suit all sizes and ages – from enthusiastic five-year-olds to strapping teenagers – without too much difficulty.
Let your child try out the feel of a few – it usually makes deciding which is the most suitable a fairly straightforward job.
2. Think About Weight And Ease Of Use
Weight and ease of use are also important factors to consider. While you certainly don’t want to be buying something that is too flimsy to stand up to a bit of serious use, there’s obviously no point in picking a tool that is just too heavy or awkward for your youngster to use comfortably.
Once again, they’re issues that can almost always be sorted out with a bit of a quick “hands-on” at the local garden supplier – and with the added benefit that your kids will really feel a part of the whole process. There’s nothing quite like choosing your own tools to make you take a pride in them!
3. Look At The Quality
There’s no shortage of garden tools for kids, ranging from high-quality, scaled down miniatures of the best adult tools – and with a price tag that reflects this level of workmanship – to much cheaper versions that are, frankly, little more than toys.
Pay particular attention to any “adjustable” tools that you may be considering. Although they can seem attractive, particularly to parents with fast growing offspring, the quality of some of these adjustables isn’t all that it might be, so make sure they’re robust enough to stand up to regular use.
It’s also essential to keep an eye on safety; are there any sharp bits to cut a child’s fingers, exposed screws to catch little hands or places where skin can get pinched?
You don’t have to pay a fortune to get good tools – some cheap “starter” sets are excellent – but quality is important, so bear in mind you do tend to get what you pay for. In the end, buying tools often comes down to a simple balancing act between getting the best you can sensibly afford and how much use you think they’re going to get.
4. One For Everyone?
Some tools are only ever going to be used fairly infrequently, so it’s not unreasonable to buy one that your kids can share. However, for more “personal” tools that are likely to see a lot of use – such as trowels or hand forks – it’s a good idea to get one for everyone.
There are lots of advantages to this approach. For one thing, it sidesteps any arguments about colour (many very good quality tools now come in a range of “child-friendly” colours) and who gets to use what, when. However, perhaps the most important benefit is that having a tool of your very own is a great way to teach youngsters about looking after tools and taking a pride in keeping them in good condition. Once learnt, it’s a lesson that will last a lifetime.
5. The “Smile Factor”
We’ve all got a favourite tool – one we really like to use – even if we have lots of other equally good spades or trowels in the shed. It just appeals for no particular reason – well that’s the “smile factor” at work and it’s can be a big influence when it comes to buying kids’ tools.
It’s something that tool manufacturers are well aware of, as you’ll soon see when you’re standing in your local garden centre surrounded by a swarm of small-sized forks and rakes in a range of different colours! For every child who is just bursting to have a spade in his or her favourite colour, there’ll be another one who wants a “proper” one just like mum or dad.
You’ll not go far wrong if you guide your youngster to the right size, weight and quality, and then let the smile factor do the rest.
When Winston Churchill famously said “give us the tools and we will finish the job” he obviously wasn’t talking about spades, forks and trowels at the time! Never-the-less, his message is still relevant for today’s gardening youngsters – and given the right tools, they should certainly get the most out of their time in the garden.
One thing’s for sure – there’s plenty of choice!