Here’s a safe way for a toddler to take a first try at using a hammer and nails, just like the grown-ups! Simply use a Styrofoam board as a base and large colorful golf tees as the “nails”.
I set out the board and first showed Veronika how to poke the tips of the tees in. This took a surprising bit of strength, and after her first few popped back up, she was soon an expert at it!
Next I showed her how to use her toy hammer to hammer the tees in the rest of the way. She quickly picked up this step of the game, too.
Truly you can just let your toddler have fun with all the items from here. If you want to guide the play a little bit more, try forming a few simple patterns from different color tees (“Green, orange, pink!” she noticed), or name the colors as you hammer them, or count each tee as your toddler hammers.
Mostly, I let her play solo. It turned out Veronika was way more interested in taking the tees in and out of the Styrofoam, and less interested in the hammer, but that was fine too.
It took quite a bit of her concentration and strength, so I was proud watching her!
When she tired of that, leftover tees were fun to play with (under supervision) or tap together like rhythm sticks for a little music play.