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Tinkering For Kids and 5 Steps To Start Now

New Ideas are born through Tinkering

Encourage your child to take things apart, tinkering offers valuable skills like problem- solving, critical thinking, builds up confidence and allows your child to explore and use their imagination to create anything they dream up.

Setting digital boundaries and limiting screen time, can help you to create some cherished memories and spend some quality time together that you’ll look back with fondness.

By everyone putting down some screen time you may be concerned about what can we or my kids do now. If you ever wanted to be MacGyver, now is your chance as well as your kids. It’s called tinkering. A fun activity that’s great for the brain.

What is tinkering?

The English dictionary explains it this way,” to make small changes to something, especially in an attempt to repair or improve it”

A tinkerer, “one who experiments with materials and ideas to fully understand their capacities and who further investigates better solutions to current problems.”

Tinkering for kids is thinking with their hands and bringing their ideas to life.

It's identifying problems and creating solutions and gaining confidence through problem solving. It's Taking things apart to see the mechanics of how it works. Using their imagination to create something new. As well as improving on and learning to becoming better problem solvers.

There are many occupations that come from tinkering. Engineers, scientists, chefs, woodworkers, graphic artists, architects and builders and nearly every creative individual.

How fascinating it was to learn about Henry Ford, who was a tinkerer. His father had given him a pocket watch, and in his early teens he he took it apart and put it back together again so many times that at the age of 15, friends and neighbors came to him to fix their watches. He was so good at it that he got the reputation of being a watch repairman, before becoming a machinist and later the founder of the Ford Motor Company.

Henry Ford patient, persistant, problem-solving...tinkerer

Let The Tinkering Begin

1. Make a designated Area with a Tinkering Box

Younger kids: Desk area or small nook

Older kids: Basement, garage, or outdoor clubhouse with a Walkie-Talkie to keep connected.

Fill the Tinkering box with:

Younger kids: tape, glue, tooth picks, stapler, elastic bands, string, small hammers and screw drivers.

Older kids: low-temperature glue gun, screwdrivers, pliers, hammer, nails, washers, wood blocks, magnets, wires,

(These are just a few ideas)

2. Use Various Recyclables

Toilet paper and paper towel rolls, card board boxes, shoe boxes, plastic cups, egg, milk yogurt cartons, Popsicle sticks, wine corks, plastic lids, and cereal boxes are just some examples.

3. Engineering Challenges

Ask questions like:

  • What did you design?

  • How does it work?

  • What parts were hard to make?

  • Does this work and look like you thought it would?

  • What would you do differently next time?

Have some challenge cards in the tinkering box or ask them to solve a problem.

Tinkering Challenge Cards

4. Reverse Engineering

You can either use old castaways or go to second hand stores for old appliances and electronics. You could also find cheap dollar store toys to take apart.

(Old VCR's, CD players, old toys and teddy bears) Take it apart and see how it works.

  • Easy Alarm Clock - From Khan Academy, "A reverse engineering" how to video

  • Simple Tap Light - From Khan Academy, "What is inside a tap light?" video

5. Embrace The Mess and Take Time To Tinker

You are watching new ideas come to life, creativity, imagination, problem solving, critical thinking, and focused learning.

Your "little inventors", need a supportive environment to tinker away at. One project may take a week.... or more. Embrace the mess.

If messes bother you:

  • have a designated area for the mess

  • buy a large trunk to keep supplies and materials in

  • buy medium size containers that can stack so your little inventors can separate their tools from their materials

Creative, Problem-solving tinkering takes time. Some ideas to find or 'make' time:

  • Keep weekends open

  • decrease screen time (encourage them not to be consumers but suggest that in decreasing screen time they could make their own blog or YouTube channel with all their new creations)

  • make one-on-one dates with your kids and put it on your calendar

**Safety: Each child should learn how to use each tool properly as well as when and how to use safety glasses and work gloves**

Have you tinkered with your kids? How did it go and what did you do?

You are one in a million. Have a fabulous day!

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