My grandson pulled at the wrapping paper. He succeeded in tearing off one piece and started passing it back and forth between his hands. He was not the least bit interested that the paper was hiding his present. At that point, I should’ve realized that perhaps 8 months old is too early to give him a farm tool as a gift.
Still, I was determined to start him off right as a member of the family’s Mill Valley Chestnut Farm, so I did what any grandparent would do, I quickly tore off the remaining wrapping paper and unveiled the box.
Again, disinterest. But when I opened the box to show him the shiny new nut roller, his eyes locked on and his hands grasped the silver wire cage. He proceeded to spin the basket and put the handle in his mouth. It turns out a nut roller is very entertaining as a toy, proving that it is never too early to give a kid a farm tool.
For the most part, we farm families give our kids toy carpet-farming tractors and even mini battery-powered UTVs on their birthday or holidays. All of which are fun, but I contend maybe we are missing out on giving them the real tools to spark a lifelong love of farming.
Farm tools for play
Ok, so it’s real — a nut roller is a good farm kid gift. I can only imagine my grandson using it to pick up Legos and plastic animals around his room. I mean, how fun would it be to clean up a room with a farm tool like that? By the time our trees produce, he will be a pro and walking the farm rolling up chestnuts. But it’s not the only farm “tool” in his nursery.
When I look around his room, his mom used a small water tank as a toy box. Today, he fills it with stuffed animals and metal tractors. When he’s older, it will be water for the sheep.
There are so many other cool farm tools for kids if we take the time to look. Here are a few ideas:
Small feed bucket. This can be used to pick up and store any toy. Or a farm kid can roll balls into it from across the room and then toss them in the air. It’s a great training ground for carrying and then spreading feed to livestock.
Wall-mounted grain or hay feeder. What kid wouldn’t want to try their hand at chucking clean socks into this farm tool for storage? Think about the precision they will have when loading it with hay or grain in the future. But don’t skimp. Give them the real feel and mount it!
Plastic pitchfork. Ok, don’t go bringing in the metal-tonged-accident-waiting-to-happen pitchfork. Instead, choose plastic. This will be great when kids are asked to pick their clothes off the floor and put them in the laundry basket. Just think of all the arm strength they will build. That muscle memory will be great cleaning barn stalls as they get older.
Calf halter. Honestly, these leather straps make for great teethers. Just make sure they don’t try the metal part. (Of course, they will likely only try it once.) During their early years, no stuffed animal will be safe from being led around with the calf halter. And when your farm kid is ready to put it on a real, live calf, think of the thousands of hours they spent perfecting the skill through play. Just make sure they adjust for size.
Make it safe
All joking aside, there are some farm tools that kids can play with and those that they can’t. As parents, look at the tools from an age and safety perspective. Some gifts such as plastic pitchforks may need to be for your middle schooler who seems to never pick up their clothes.
However, I encourage you to think outside the box when gifting to your kids or grandkids. Honestly, I never thought my grandson would take to the nut roller this soon. I truly believe by allowing him to use it in unique ways as he grows up, he will not only become comfortable with it, but also enjoy it.
My hope is that those same feelings, from just one small farm tool gift, will transfer over to our family’s farm.