The Wonder of Woodwork! – Guest blog by Pete Moorhouse

Alistair Bryce-CleggBoys Learning, Child Initiated Learning, construction, Continuous Provision, Creativity, Nurseries6 Comments

When I was training to teach and after I qualified, I remember most Nursery and Reception classes that I visited having a workbench as part of their provision. As time went on and the world got a little bit Health and Safety crazy, they all seemed to disappear. The skills that children can learn whilst carrying out this sort of play and exploration are invaluable – so I am really pleased to see that workbenches appear to be on the rise again!

This week I am really pleased to have a guest blogpost from Pete Moorhouse who, amongst other things, is a woodworker who works with children…

The Wonder of Woodwork – Guest blog!

Woodwork provides a unique learning experience for young children. It is rich in so many areas of learning and development and it is an activity which children really enjoy doing, being absorbed for extended periods of time. It encompasses creative thinking, maths skills, scientific investigation, physical development and coordination, developing language and vocabulary, and much more.

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It is wonderful for building self-esteem and confidence. This is for a combination of reasons; through being empowered to use real tools, by being given responsibility, accomplishing tasks that they initially feel to be challenging, gaining new skills and finally taking pride in their creations.


I’m passionate about the depth that woodwork has to offer. I have worked as an Artist in Residence in early year’s settings for many years, introducing children to many different provocations to encourage creativity. I have found woodwork has consistently provided the children with a profound experience. With the decline of woodwork in primary and secondary schools this could be children’s only experience of working with tools. Woodwork provides a wonderful medium to explore creative thinking and creativity, increasingly important qualities in our changing world as are the skills to make and repair.


The first thing visitors notice when they observe our children working with wood is their deep levels of engagement and concentration. Secondly they comment on how long the children seem to remain absorbed in their explorations. Many people are surprised that we consider introducing woodwork to young children, largely with concerns over safety. We have been successfully introducing woodwork safely to pre-school children for many years with no serious accidents.

Woodwork has much to offer children as it is so rich in learning opportunities and has many possibilities for creative exploration. It is essentially a huge win win. It is an activity that they greatly enjoy, being deeply involved and concentrating for sustained periods and it provides a rich multitude of associated learning and development.

Children immediately feel valued. Once involved, the delight, satisfaction and pride in their own work and learning is clearly visible. This sense of empowerment and achievement provides a visible boost to their self-esteem and self-confidence.


At first the children are “taught” in a traditional sense how to use the tools and try techniques in a safe and appropriate way. As they make their first few tentative taps with the hammer you can tell that they are often a little apprehensive and question if they will be able to do it, but very quickly they are banging in nail after nail with confidence and delight. As soon as they have mastered this basic skill they can move into open ended creative exploration, joining various sections of wood to make all sorts of creations.

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Woodwork allows the introduction of new layers of learning as new tools and skills are introduced once the children feel confident – starting with hammers, screwdrivers, and a saw, then moving on to introduce drills, clamps, wrenches, pliers, spanners and so on. Children develop through their own learning at their own pace and find their own challenges.

As the children explore the tools and their possibilities their creative thinking and imagination really begin to emerge.

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Practitioners and parents are often concerned about the potential risk and possible litigation. Woodwork is actually a low risk activity if it introduced and supervised correctly. It also provides children with an opportunity to experience risk in a controlled way, allowing them to make judgements and naturally self-risk assess. Of course there will be small injuries from time to time such as banged fingers or a small cut but certainly nothing more than other playground injuries. The biggest risk is not allowing children to experience risky play and learn about their own limits so they can then make informed judgements when facing other life situations.


Many school activities were affected by over zealous health and safety policies in the 80’s and 90’s. At the time the feeling was that health and safety was paramount but this was at the expense of opportunity irrespective of the benefits. This climate of risk aversion was heavily influenced by the increasing litigation and compensation culture. Fortunately the climate is now changing as pioneered by the Lord Young Review of Health and Safety. The recommendations of the review, “Common Sense, Common Safety” were immediately accepted by the Government in October 2010. The emphasis of the report was to encourage settings to embrace risk in a positive sense and not to allow it to limit valuable opportunities available to children. This sentient was echoed by subsequent reports from the Health and Safety Executive (2012) and the Department for Education(2013).


Working with real tools has the potential to offer children many new experiences. It provides another medium for children to express their creativity and explore problem solving. It may be their only chance to experience woodwork in their entire education as fewer schools offer woodwork in primary or secondary. Woodworking is a kinesthetic experience that embeds a deep memory. Once having experienced and learnt how to use tools it becomes a part of their vocabulary.

It would be wonderful if every child could have these experiences. As a practitioner, it is such a joy to see them so engaged in an activity. It is a delight to watch their creativity and see their pride in their achievements – it always leaves me feeling uplifted.


My book on woodwork published by community playthings can be downloaded here or hard copies can be ordered free directly from community playthings:

I deliver CPD and inset training throughout the country:

You can also contact me at:


So, dig out your workbenches and lets get to it! Have a great Bank Holiday weekend.



6 Comments on “The Wonder of Woodwork! – Guest blog by Pete Moorhouse”

  1. Wow! So inspired by this. Would love to be lucky enough to win this!! We are developing our outdoor area and hadn’t considered a woodwork area, but I am now!

  2. Pete does a lot of work at our Nursery School and we get so much out of it. Woodwork is such a special, creative and open ended way of teaching all of the different areas of learning. The children get so much from it, learning to manage risk, problem solve and persevere.

    Libbie (St Werbs)

  3. We have a woodwork area in our EYFS setting and in the three years it’s been there we haven’t had a single accident – touch wood!! The children love it and after learning basic skills like hammering and sawing they are able to make whatever they like. Great for developing creativity and also for their physical development.

  4. I have been teaching foundation children woodwork for the last 4 years we have a wooden summer house out knitted out with the wood work area. I start at the beginning of the year with pictures and look at where wood comes from and the end product. I have very supportive leader and the children just love it. They have learnt about hammers, hand drills, Bradels, saws and different types and have made several proje to over the years such as a boat, robot, train and heart as well as making getting the chance to explore and use their knowledge about the tools they have learnt independently.

  5. Exactly what I want…we have been discussing a workbench just this week, and where to start. Sounds like your book and possible training is just the thing we need ! We also are hoping to have some practical input like this from Forest Schools , which some of our staff are trained in…sounds like a fun summer term coming up!!

  6. I have this book already and I am so keen to introduce woodwork into my setting. As I’m sure is common in a majority of mainstream primary schools, I am faced with immediate skepticism and ‘health and safety’ concerns which are likely to inhibit my chances of success! I shall share this book and this post among my colleagues in the hope of inspiring a positive change! Thank you so much for being right ‘en pointe’ with your post topics, as always!

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