Dear Aunty Aidan,
My child is hanging around my workshop. Is this a good idea?
Fearing the Smashed Thumb
I think: hooray for your child, who is interested in what you’re doing and, hooray for you for realizing the richness such involvement will offer to you both relationship-wise and skill-wise. I also think: what a great way to counteract passiveness, fuel the imagination, and support brain development!
The prerequisite of any Practical Life activity is that a child master the necessary expertise using REAL gadgets before applying that knowledge to more sophisticated projects. Toddlers can increase their shop vocabulary by identifying tools (needle nose pliers, allen wrench) and their attributes (sharp, heavy, hexagonal, slotted). Primary students can sort/match the nuts & bolts & washers and classify the screwdrivers, hanging them on the pegboard. Hand the Elementary students a hammer and watch their attention to detail and their ability to follow a logical sequence as they turn scraps into something of beauty and utility.
Of course, there are inherent dangers so safety is of the utmost importance and, of course, you should model same by wearing protective gear.* Truer work of the hands there is not, especially protecting that thumb of yours and theirs.
*Or live on the wild side: check out 50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do) by Gever Tulley.