I’m already feeling the push when it comes to my son’s academic future. Perhaps it is because we’ve made the decision to enroll him in preschool starting at the age of two. Brochures are filled with details on curriculum styles. One place even promised to teach my son sign language. Of course, the bigger the promises, the greater the cost. Someone has to pay for that in-class set of iPads.
Eventually we settled on a simple, affordable, no-tech co-op that focuses on play-based learning. And while there is plenty written about the benefits of letting your toddler do his thing, one aspect play-based advocates fail to emphasize is that manual play doesn’t end when your child is finally old enough to begin a formal education.
My husband entered second grade fully aware of his fractions thanks to countless hours spent in the garage with his father. By the time I entered wood shop in 7th grade I’d already designed and built a scooter from scratch with my dad. Between the two of us we’d accumulated more practical mathematical knowledge in the garage than we’d ever get in high school. And all of it began with the fun of a toy hammer and a pretend workbench.
Apparently the benefits weren’t just intellectual in nature. As it turns out, there are some serious long-term physical benefits to working with tools as well:
In a series of studies testing grip and pinch strength, researchers report in the Journal of Hand Therapy that among the 237 healthy millennials studied between the ages of 20 and 34, men today are significantly weaker than their counterparts of the ’80s. Specifically, men could squeeze with 120 pounds of force in 1985 and only 95 today, reports Today.com. The strength of women dropped off, too, but not as substantially.
The prime reason, the researchers propose, is that men are simply less handy—fewer work in manual labor jobs, hence the reduction in strength over these past three decades, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.
According to the researchers, weaker hand strength has been linked to a variety of health conditions including heart disease, stroke and arthritis. Hence medical associations have been warning us for years that too much texting can literally “send us to an early grave.” Creepy, huh? It’s like we were meant to do more with our hands and minds than hit buttons all day.
Want to raise a strong boy? Pull your phone out of his hands, shelve the tablet for a day, turn off the TV and get him into the garage. Don’t have a lot of tools of your own? Head over to Home Depot for a parent-child class on the weekend. There’s more to getting outdoors than nature hikes, swimming pools and swing sets. Whether it’s wood or metal, houses or furniture, cars or crafts, there are tons of activities to be done using good old fashioned ingenuity and manual labor.
And remember, you get bonus points if he sells that birdhouse he made for a profit.
Image via Shutterstock.