Book: Learning Through Woodwork by Pete Moorhouse

 “Every so often a book is written that helps practitioners to develop their work in deep and far reaching ways. This is that sort of book.” Tina Bruce CBE


This essential guide provides clear and comprehensive support for those looking to introduce creative woodwork into early years settings. With theory, practical advice, stunning colour images and case studies, the book will inspire practitioners to embrace woodwork and encourage children’s independent creative learning.

Focusing on the numerous benefits that working with wood offers young children, from boosting their self-esteem and problem-solving skills, to enhancing their communication and social development, the author draws on over 25 years of experience to discuss each and every aspect of establishing woodwork in the early years curriculum. Including practical information on materials and tools, staff training, and health and safety advice, this go-to guide provides a treasure trove of ideas to engage children at various stages of development, drawing the maximum benefit from working with wood and tools.

Both inspiring and informative, Learning Through Woodwork will become an essential tool for early years practitioners and teachers wishing to explore and develop woodwork provision.

‘The Definitive EY Book for Woodwork. Destined to be a classic’  Juliet Robertson, Consultant

This book was waiting to be written for a very long time. It puts woodworking at the heart of the early years curriculum, providing a history of woodwork in the early years and linking its use being advocated by Froebel, Susan Isaacs and many other pioneers. It provides lots of guidance, advice, practical tips collected and learned over many years of using tools and working with young children. More than this, Pete’s approach is truly creative. The book is not about projects and end outcomes. It’s about exploring with materials and tools. I particularly liked the ways into woodwork beginning with heuristic play and a clear developmental progression of tool use. It’s a book that I know I will still love and return to for advice and thoughts when I retire… and that’s a long way off!   

‘A must for anyone wanting to do woodwork in early years education’ Catrin Thomas, Teacher

This is just what I’ve been looking for. It’s a really comprehensive book – giving a thorough account of all the learning associated with woodwork. It has lots of information on all the practicalities of introducing woodwork in the classroom – with all the most useful tools and health and safety guidance etc. I would totally recommend this book to all those working in early years and some really fab pictures to bring it all alive. From what I’ve seen young children really can get a lot from doing woodwork. Catrin Thomas

“Invaluable resource”   Rachel Edwards, Head Teacher, Park School and Children’s Centre

“This book covers in considerable depth the impact woodworking can have in early years education. It looks in detail at the many learning and development outcomes and gives a comprehensive account of what you need to get started. Pete’s enthusiasm is clearly apparent as is his commitment to encouraging children’s creative thinking. It is clear that using wood as a creative material can help develop children’s imagination and creativity as well as develop many other skills. Working alongside Pete, I have seen children learning at the deepest level. For some children, working with wood was the key that unlocked the barriers to learning. The impact has been long term. Woodwork has demonstrated that it is a very popular activity with children, and provides a rich source of enjoyment as well as learning. I have seen at first hand how young children, their parents and carers, and the adults who work with them, have been inspired by being involved in it. I very much encourage you to introduce woodwork in your setting and I am sure that you will find this book an invaluable resource.”
Rachel Edwards
Head Teacher, Park School and Children’s Centre, Gloucestershire

“timely and informative” Neil Henty, Early Years Educator Magazine

“The benefits that working with wood offers young children shine through in this timely and informative book that will become a mainstay of your setting.”
Neil Henty, Early Years Educator Magazine

“authoritative text” Susan Ogier, Senior Lecturer in Primary Art and Design Education, University of Roehampton

This very attractive book is a welcome addition to the bookshelves of any early years practitioner looking to develop creative and practical ways for children to learn about the world around them.

Written by professional sculptor and art-educator Pete Moorhouse, this authoritative text is littered with wonderful colour illustrations that emanates from his own experiences and practice in working with young children, which cannot help but engage the reader. The principles underlying the concepts in the book gives validation to the points made, all in a very visual and accessible way for the busy teacher.

The focus on ‘woodwork’ comes at an opportune time and serves to reinvigorate this art form, and to ignite a passion for ‘making’, along with the processes that use what have (unfortunately) become unconventional materials for young children. As a former early years educator myself, I remember a time when every early-years setting had a workbench and real tools, as part of the provision: young children were taught processes and techniques, and learned to use equipment safely and with respect.  As mentioned in the foreword by Tina Bruce, a society gripped in fear of health and safety regulations has led to a lack of training and therefore lack of confidence and knowledge in this area. One result is that woodwork, as a medium, has vanished from most primary schools and early years settings.

Today’s children are growing up in an increasingly digital and virtual world. It is becoming more likely that they will lack multi-sensory experiences during their young lives, and it is very easy for them to become passive consumers rather than active participators. This book is therefore an excellent reminder that we need to engage children in their real world, by giving them real experiences, using real materials. The author supports the notion of the child as defined by Loris Malaguzzi (1993) as ‘rich’ in potential, strong, powerful, competent, curious and, most of all, connected to their environment, to adults, and to other children through their experiences.

The book is carefully structured to guide the reader through a detailed rationale for teaching and learning through woodwork; these concepts build in a natural way as the book progresses, and are all underpinned by theoretical and pedagogical perspectives, as well as being placed within historical and current contexts. The case studies, as well as the photographic illustrations, interspersed throughout the chapters, all emphasise key principles for good practice, and bring the themes to life. The snippets of conversation and dialogue, recorded from conversations with children engaged in the projects, cannot fail to demonstrate the deep learning and thoughtful and reflective comments that children are capable of under the right conditions. As readers, Moorhouse gives us an insight into how his philosophy, and his vision for what is possible, can be made into a reality in any classroom or setting. The tone of the book is spot on, and speaks to the reader, making us feel as though we are being well advised by someone who understands.

The book is large in size, so that the physical handling of the book by the reader complements the physicality of the messages inside. The book design could have been more ecologically sound as there is quite a lot of wasted space, for example there are 16 pages to get through before we arrive at the introduction! However, the layout consisting of fairly large print and inspirational, colourful images is a very refreshing format in our age of austerity.

Essentially this is a very accessible ‘how to’ guide, but without a hint of the usual ‘here’s one I made earlier’. The key ingredient is the innate belief in the creativity of the child, and the promotion of Elliot Eisner’s (2002) concept of ‘diversity of outcome’.  I thoroughly recommend this book and the philosophy that is contained within it. I hope that Moorhouse writes again, and that his new book is directed at key stage 1 and key stage 2 teachers who might need reminding of the rich creative potential of every child.

Susan Ogier

Senior Lecturer in Primary Art and Design Education, University of Roehampton

“Children need to make things”    Doug Stowe, Educator USA

This book is excellent for helping parents, and teachers begin the journey of woodworking with kids. It is full of delightful images of children at work, along with the lovely things they’ve made. It also discusses the pedagogy and benefits to be derived from this important activity. A section on needed tools and techniques will be helpful.

Children need to do real things. They need to be trusted with real tools. Our schools have placed too much emphasis on academic work and have missed the important point. Children develop confidence for participation in the real world through working with wood (and through other direct hands-on learning).

As a woodworking teacher friend had told me years ago, his students become engineers, orthopedic surgeons, doctors of all kinds, scientists, scholars, inventors and citizens. If a few become plumbers and carpenters as well, that’s a good thing.

I teach woodworking grades K-12 at the Clear Spring School in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and have done so since 2001. I can assure you that this book will help you to get started. If you are already woodworking with kids, it will become an important resource and source of further inspiration.

Douglas Stowe

“Highly Recommended”    Dominik Magyar, School Director

An amazing book by an amazing man! It is highly practical and based on genuine knowledge about how to maximise the educational benefits and learning opportunities offered by woodwork, particularly in the Early Years.

“If you want to nurture well-rounded, healthy, creative children, then get this book and start your own woodworking adventure!”   Ruth Churchill-Dower Director, Earlyarts

If you ever wondered what woodwork has to do with little children, then the answer is writ large in this wonderful new book; ‘EVERYTHING!’. In this superbly practical, and beautifully illustrated book, the talented sculptor, educator and trainer, Pete Moorhouse, lets us in on his secrets to enhancing young children’s creativity learned through many years of practice. Setting out a clear pathway of theory and tradition in early years woodwork dating back to the 19th century, the author enhances this evidence with a wide range of relevant case studies, showing techniques that any teacher or parent could support their children to use in the classroom or home, to great effect. Children’s voices are beautifully captured in the case studies, and the ideas for imaginative projects are inspiring, along with resource lists and top tips for tools, materials and safety.

Woodwork is one of those rare artforms that engages every single sense in the body simultaneously, underpinning the very core of how young children learn through their senses. It enhances imagination, problem solving, strength building, coordination, risk taking, physical, cognitive, social and emotional development and speaks to the characteristics of very effective learning. If ever a nursery only offered a woodwork pedagogy of the sort set out in this book, they would be well on the way to developing well-rounded, confident, thoughtful, curious, engaged, healthy, self-controlled, creative analytical and highly skilled young people. If those are the sort of qualities you want to nurture in your children, then don’t hesitate to do what I did; get the book and start your own woodworking adventure!

“Essential book for all Early Years Settings wanting to develop quality practice and creativity”   Anni McTavish, Leading Creative Consultant

I was delighted to get my hands on a copy of this book. It reminded me personally of a brilliant woodwork class I attended in my teens, (I made a table!), and the skills and discipline I learnt. This book is a must for any early years setting, or interested parents or grandparents who can see the value of creative woodwork, and want sensible, clear guidance as well as inspiration. I really like the links to theory, plus the historical context, along with all the practical ideas. It is a delight to see the pride, concentration and satisfaction showing on the children’s faces, and be signposted to all the important learning that is going on. Highly recommended.

Available from