Safety will be the first consideration when children learn about and use tools for carpentry, plumbing and other types of construction.


General Safety Rules

  1. Anyone who is supervising woodworking must:
    1. Check all tools prior to use.
    2. Have prior training regarding H.S. policies and procedures regarding the use and supervision of woodworking activities.
    3. Ensure that children are wearing safety devices; gloves and goggles except for in cases where it may impair coordination
    4. Volunteers must observe teachers demonstrate how to supervise a woodworking activity prior to supervising this activity.
  2. Tools are to be used only when a trained adult supervises.
  3. Tools are used only in the woodworking area. Children will need to learn that tools are not toys and can be dangerous when not properly used.
  4. No more than two children should be at the workbench area at a time. Children who are observing should stand well away from the area. A crowded work area can contribute to accidents.
  5. The work area should be kept free from clutter, with only the materials in direct use in the area. Hardware, glue, and accessories should be stored conveniently nearby, but not on the bench or in the work space.
  6. Drilling, hammering, sawing will only occur on specific pieces of wood and careful attention will be paid toward ensuring the workbench is protected from these activities.
  7. Stains, shellacs and other chemical substances used for woodworking are potentially toxic and not allowable for use.
  8. Tools must be put down immediately if children in work area have a disagreement.
  9. Children must return tools to their proper storage place. If storage is in a tool box rather than a rack, for safety purposes, teachers will need to hand children new tools.
  10. Children who cannot observe the limits will be asked to leave the area and find a different activity.
  11. Each classroom will have a reference copy of Woodworking for Young Children by NAEYC. This book will have many ideas and concepts that new teachers can utilize to make the child’s woodworking experience successful and safe.
  12. Teachers and Volunteers will model safety practices through demonstration and by wearing protective safety devices (gloves and goggles).

Setting up the Classroom/woodworking environment

  1. Tools should be introduced to children prior to use. Safety concepts and use of glove and goggles should be demonstrated and discussed at this time.
  2. In order to reduce noise and distraction from other activities it is recommended that a special construction area be set-up outside or away from other activities.
  3. To maintain safety while using the tools the ratio should be one teacher per two children at a time.
  4. When possible arrangements should be made to have extra volunteers to help supervise other activity areas that the second teacher typically would supervise. These activities should be planned ahead with safety and low maintenance in mind.
  5. To avoid conflicts as much as possible, it is recommended that children be allowed to choose a partner to work with
  6. Choosing the right kind of wood is an important element in assisting children with successful carpentry skills.
    1. The wood used must be a soft wood. Pine (white, eastern, western, sugar) is ideal and highly recommended. Second choices would be Cedar, Poplar, White, Black, Red, Sitka and Engelmann Spruce and Insulation board or Fiberboard is great for beginners.

Specific Tool Safety


Children are still developing their fine motor abilities and it is important that teachers ensure that the hammers are used to tap not drive nails into holes.

  1. Basic hammer skills must include becoming familiar with the weight and size of the hammer and nails.
  2. Goggles and Gloves should always be worn unless a child cannot effectively see and manipulate the tools when using these safety devices.
  3. The most appropriate nail to begin with is a 1.5 inch roofing nail which has a larger surface of impact and allows the children to place finger low enough under nail head to not crush finger.
  4. Children will only hammer with the face of the hammer head and only onto the piece of wood they are working on
  5. Nails must never be left protruding through a piece of wood even for unfinished projects. Take all protruding nails out of wood for safe storage and keeping.

Drill and Saw

  1. Safe drilling/sawing will require the use of the workbench and a vice or “C” clamp.
  2. Children must wear gloves and goggles and keep their gloved “free” hand safely away from where the saw might slip and cut them.
  3. Saws are only for sawing. Pounding with the saw may break its teeth. Weight on the side of a saw may bend it. A Bent or rusted saw will not slide through the saw cut well. This is why saws are hung up in their places immediately after use.
  4. The wood must be placed so that it extends past the workbench surface by at least 6 inches. The teacher may need to begin the saw cut or drill hole first to ensure success and demonstrate safety.
  5. The wood should be less than 1 inch width and diameter to begin with and as the child begins to master the tool use, the size can be increased.

Also see: Accident policy,Classroom Safety policy,Developmentally Appropriate Materials policy,Promoting Physical Development policy,Classroom Environment policy,Settingup the Physical Environment policy,Exposure Control / Bloodborne Pathogens policy

This policy complies with Head Start Performance Standard 45CFR Section 1304.22.
It was approved by Policy Council on February 10, 1998.
Updated July 2008

© 1995-2009.Head Start of Lane County. All rights reserved.

REVIEWED: April 2021