One of the most enjoyable and educational things you can buy
your boy (and girl?) is a set of screwdrivers. Having done
that, you also need to supply him with things to take apart.
If you don't, you risk being greeted with a triumphant, "Look
what I did, Abba!" and seeing the innards of your favorite
appliance spread over the table.
Chazal mention that one should buy earthenware pottery to
give to children so that they can break them. A child needs
to see the effects of his actions and learn how to control
and channel them. Learning about being destructive is a part
of learning about being constructive.
Undoing screws helps develop fine motor skills. Seeing how
devices are fitted together and how they can come apart helps
develop the imagination. Remembering how they fitted
together and then trying to re-assemble the parts also helps
develop the visual memory.
It also teaches a child to work patiently and quietly at a
task. It teaches him to direct his efforts efficiently and
plan an approach to tackling a complex task. It teaches him
to be tidy and not lose any parts and to gradually increase
his efforts when a task needs more effort.
Sometimes, a screw just will not budge, or parts are locked
together and he cannot see how to disassemble them and then
he learns to deal with frustration and perhaps even failure,
and then to admit defeat gracefully.
Your child might need to appeal to you for help -- and then
you might succeed or you, too, might not be able to do the
job. And your son can learn that even an Abba can have a hard
time trying to do things and even he can fail!
When your son takes an appliance apart, he will see how all
the individual parts work together to accomplish the task for
which the appliance was designed. He will begin to see how
much thought and technology goes into its construction. Then,
when he looks around him at the world, he will be able to
recognize that there, too, is design and purpose. And he will
be able to understand that people also need to play their
roles in life so that we can, together, achieve the Divine
When he takes the appliance apart, he will also try to
understand how it works. Some aspect will be beyond his
understanding and then he will ask you to explain how it
works. You might be able to give him his explanation; you
might need to tell him that it is too difficult for him to
understand because he has not learned enough to be able to
understand you if you do try to explain; or you might have to
tell him that you do not know either.
All of these options are preparing him for his future
learning of halocha and hashkofa.
After your son has successfully (or unsuccessfully)
dismantled various items, he will probably develop the urge
to repair broken furniture, appliances etc. Before allowing
him to attempt to repair anything, warn him about the dangers
of electricity, hammers, saws, drills and so on.
Preferably, your house should be fitted with a high speed
earth-leak detector to reduce the dangers of electric
As much as is safely and economically possible, encourage
your child to `have a go' at repairing things -- with you
simultaneously accepting the risk that he might not succeed
and may even do more damage. But, of course, if he does fail,
you should not chastise him, though some gentle, constructive
advice might be acceptable.
He will eventually be using the selfsame skills and self-
confidence he is developing now to build sugyos in