Hammers and Pumpkins
November 2019


The preschool children have been demonstrating an interest in using real tools such as scissors to cut construction paper and newspaper and large metal tweezers to pick up and transfer small objects. When we brought out a real hammer to crack open our acorns as part of our acorn project investigation, the children showed excitement and passion as they took turns manipulating the hammer.

To extend this interest and further the children’s learning and development, we decided to implement another hammering experience for the children to engage in. We provided hammers, golf tees, and pumpkins, and allowed the children to take the lead in their own exploration. We discussed safety when using tools, and wore safety goggles (swimming goggles) to protect our eyes. “You need to stay back from the hammer or you will get hit and have to go to the hospital” explained Megan. Miles proudly explained “I can wear my scuba goggles!” as he showed his friends his goggles from his scuba diver Halloween costume. Each experience was unique, and the children each developed new skills or built on previous skills across many developmental domains. While some children went straight to hammering with full confidence, others carefully observed their peers before joining in. Some used one hand to hammer, while others used two. Some held the hammer at the top, some held it in the middle, and others held it at the bottom of the handle. They experimented with distance and levels of force as some held the hammer close to the tee and did light tapping motions, and others held the hammer far away from the tees and swung with stronger hits.

One of my favourite parts about watching the children complete this activity was seeing them independently problem solve as they faced challenges in their play. The first test the children usually faced was how to get the golf tee to stay in the pumpkin. Through trial and error, they used their motor strength to attempt to push them in using their hands, and for some, this worked. For others, they carefully held the golf tee on the pumpkin with one hand, and hammered it in using the other hand. I used scaffolding to support the preschoolers by asking questions, making suggestions, and providing demonstrations when necessary. Throughout the activity, I lessened my support as the children developed and demonstrated their skills all on their own. “It’s rolling away” said Mimi, as she noticed the pumpkin falling onto its side when she began hammering the golf tee. To overcome this obstacle, she used one hand to hold the stem of the pumpkin to stabilize it in place, and used the other hand to hammer with. Many other preschoolers used this technique too, along with holding the back of the pumpkin rather than the stem.

The preschoolers turned this experience into much more than a motor skill activity, by incorporating different elements into their exploration such as creativity, imagination, and even dramatic play. Some children created faces with their materials, which prompted discussions about body parts and emotions. “He has eyes and a nose, now he just needs a mouth and a body” said Miles. “Mine’s a happy pumpkin” explained Finna. Megan made a “ghost pumpkin” and Nikolas designed “a big house”. Meredith made “an Elsa castle”, and used three golf tees to represent “Elsa, Anna, and Christoph”. Joshua and Van also utilized the golf tees as characters. “You can have the daddy one” said Joshua as he handed a tee to his friend.

Many meaningful questions were also asked and explored, such as “Are we going to eat these pumpkin seeds?” (Meredith), and “Why isn’t it working?” (Korah). Observations and conclusions were made such as “It went flying in the air because I hammered it too hard” (Markus), and “It’s a small pumpkin” (Addilyn). Social and cooperative skills were built as the children expressed and exchanged ideas between one another. “You need to twist it to get it out of the pumpkin” Eloise explained to one of her peers. “Here, let me show you” said Nikolas when one of his friends asked what he was doing. The children used their own words to describe their motions, such as “hammering” (Aelan), “carving” (Oz), “building” (Markus) and “smashing” (Van). They demonstrated pride in their work and accomplishments. “I did it!” said Dax.

We plan to include more inviting activities in our program as our preschoolers pursue their exploration between cause and effect, prediction and hypothesizing, problem solving, exploring spatial relations, and other important developmental concepts. To expand on our tool use specifically, we could incorporate real nails or screws to advance our hammering skills.


“Children benefit significantly from having long periods of time to explore in environments equipped with interesting, open-ended materials that can be used in many ways, inviting investigation and complex play”. (How Does Learning Happen? Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years, 2014, Pg.36)


Two children using hammers to poke golf tees into pumpkins

Two children using hammers to poke golf tees into pumpkins

Two children showing off their pumpkins

Two girls using hammers to poke golf tees into pumpkins

Two girls using hammers to poke golf tees into pumpkins






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550 Chesapeake Drive
Waterloo, Ontario
N2K 4G5

Hours of Operation
6:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

(519) 747-0054


Headshot of kathleen Henderson

Kathleen Henderson, RECE 

Headshot of Michelle Hiebert

Michelle Hiebert, RECE
Assistant Supervisor