Toy tools are an excellent way for children to play on their own and use their imaginations. When kids play independently, they create their own stories and role play adventures. These play tools allow them to use their imaginations, be creative, figure out how things work, and problem solve. This weekend, my husband helped his father re-shingle their roof, so Ky and his cousin spent the weekend pretending to fix their own roofs too. They also created their own stories and acted out how they were going to fix various items in the house that they could touch, like a stool. They also fixed items that they imagined, like a pretend roof and a railroad track. Their "Creativity expanded using problem solving skills, social skills, language skills and physical skills" (https://childdevelopmentinfo.com/child-development/play-work-of-children/) while they played together with their toy tools. My 9 month old played along too and was using her blocks to hammer the stool. Although she is young, I do believe that she is learning as she watches and imitates the actions of her older brother and cousin. Additionally, allow children to use the tools the way they want. As you can see in the photo, my niece is using her screwdriver to hammer, but that is fine. They are learning through their own exploration of the tools and their imaginations are not tied to the physical objects they are using.
Real tools are an excellent way for children to play with their parents or caretakers. It is a time for children to spend quality time with parents and learn to work cooperatively with them. The Montessori and Reggio approaches to learning believe that children should have access to real objects to play with. Children tend to be more interested in real tools and these real life tools give them important real-life connections. Using real tools provides them a sense of pride and self-confidence, that they are able to use objects that real adults use too! "Children always prefer to learn about and to study and interact with the real world in all its glory" and through that, it "nurture[s] the child's exploration and creativity" (http://www.montessori.edu/prod.html). You do not necessarily have to build anything specific, just hammering a bunch of nails or screwing some screws into a piece of plywood or log is both fun and educational!
As a literacy lover, I will also attempt to suggest a few books that can go along with your play time. Here are some books about building and tools!
Look at the Building by Scot Ritchie
Tap Tap Bang Bang by Emm Garcia
The Toolbox by Anne Rockwell
This website has articles about child development and a page about Montessori way of thinking.
Learn more about Montessori:
Learn more about Reggio:
Here is an awesome website where you can buy real tools made for littles.