Today, our baby Delaney got to try out one of our girls’ favourite crafty activities — poking pins into foam blocks. In the past, we’ve enjoyed doing this to create patterns and to thread beads onto the sharp pins.

It could seem like a dodgy activity for a 17-month-old, but today we saw that young children can demonstrate fine motor skills and safely handle sharp pins. Katrina — whose house we’re staying at — says that with the number of sewing and craft projects she always has on the go, there are always straight pins within reach of the children. As a result, her daughters have learned how to handle pins, needles, scissors and other craft tools from a very young age.

As appropriate for the individual, it’s safe to teach a toddler good handling techniques. So we put some pins in front of Delaney, Tahlia and Calista to see how they would play with them.

Playing with pins, June 2011
17-month-old Delaney carefully picks out pins from her container and then hands them to 3yo Calista and 2yo Tahlia for them to poke into the foam circle.

Delaney playing with pins, June 2011
Later, Delaney uses fine motor skills to put the pins into the styrofoam block.

I’m not necessarily advocating pins for all toddlers. Any parent would need to decide if their child is ready for such an activity, but I think it’s easy to underestimate how well our children can react to a mildly dangerous activity.

David and I deliberately don’t molly-coddle our girls, and they sometimes hurt themselves. However, within that experience of pain is also a valuable lesson — our daughters learn where their own boundaries are and how to gently stretch their own comfort zones as they gain confidence and skills.

At the same time, we as parents see our children taking risks, learning lessons and finding motivation within themselves to grow. It stretches us as parents — as we hold our tongues, stop issuing multiple warnings and offer counsel instead of commands.

Why not let your toddler take a risk today?