I wish I could remember who originated this idea. I wish even more that I had. It is sublime. I saw it either in a book or a newspaper and immediately recognized it as the perfect way to start your children on their life away from home.
So the question is, what is the universal need in a new household, whether a college dorm or an apartment? What does every young person, striking out on their own for the first time, need? Okay, besides fairly frequent, and seemingly neverending, supplemental deposits to their checking account.
Here's a hint; to individualize their new residence, the child will almost always have a picture or poster that hangs on a wall. To hang it will usually require a nail. What? No hammer? Bingo!
Tools! It's not mentioned in Maslow's Hierarchy, at least not that I recall, although I didn't research it too heavily for this essay; frankly I haven't looked at it since college, a long time ago. No, food and esteem are still right up at the top there.
However, imagine that first afternoon or evening alone in that new house with towels to fold, clothes to hang up, dishes to put away, walls to accessorize…Sooner or later they're going to need a hammer, or screwdriver, or drill.
If you stop and think about it, there are probably a half dozen tools that are pretty indispensible for even the smallest and plainest domicile. So here's what I learned and here's what I did for my kids: I gave them a toolkit.
Now, don't run out to Dollar General and pick up sets of screwdrivers from the bargain bin. Anyone who has spent much time around tools knows the difference between made in China and Snap-on. It's not just about price and aesthetics. They really do work and last better. This is going to be a gift that will last a lifetime; one that will be built upon and added to, and one for which you will be remembered.
Also remember that you won't need to do this in one fell swoop. You can start in their high school years and give a part of the whole kit at various gift giving times. Just don't go nuts like some of us tool junkies and make every gift a tool!
I started out with a nice canvas bag by Klein (no, not Calvin), a 16" plumber's bag, if I recall. The first gift also included a hammer, some pliers, and screwdrivers. For subsequent gift giving opportunities I added other items from the list below. Just imagine what will be needed first, start from there, and work along.
Many of the hand tools can be Craftsman, but you are encouraged to step up the ladder just a bit when you get to power tools (if you do) and get Makita, DeWalt, or even Milwaukee unless you don't have any, yet. Among the best buys I made was a Makita cordless. I couldn't believe how often that got used by my daughter.
There are many more items you can add to your list. That's one of the beauties of this gift; it's open-ended. You can fund an entire shop if you want to. But the important part of it is what is needed in those first couple of years. Use your imagination.
Here's an important point; for those unevolved neanderthals (like me, apparently) struggling to keep sexist issues away from your children, daughters benefit every bit as much from a tool collection as sons. Despite appearances (and maybe even protests initially) this is absolutely gender neutral, unless you look for tools with pink handles.
Last updated: 27 January 2009