At some point in mothering you discover… a Lego in your shoe. A toy car jammed in where no toy car should fit. Puzzle pieces-turned-coins. Kids have a way of turning the ordinary on its head and making something brand new.
One day, our son ran by us, trailing some long purple thing in his wake. We had to stop him to ask what it was! Turned out to be a small round plastic lidded container which he had sealed closed around a purple playsilk, leaving the playsilk ends hanging down the sides of the container. “It’s a jellyfish!” he informed us. So it was. I never would have thought of that.
Mobilize your child’s natural desire to tinker by creating a tinker box for your kid inventor. Kid Inventor’s Day is celebrated January 17th each year, in honor of Benjamin Franklin – another kid inventor! He invented the first pair of swimming flippers at age 12! So what better time to create this kind of exploratory box of open-ended items.Mobilize your child's natural desire to tinker by creating a tinker box for your kid inventor. Click To Tweet
What goes into a tinker box? Just about anything kids can use to create, construct, invent, and even demolish! Think of it as an extension of the sensory bins used for babies and toddlers. Sensory bin gone LARGE! Our tinker box is housed in a large boot box I had – the hinge-like lid of this shoe box was perfect for the task. And, the box is something for them to decorate later if they want.
I didn’t spend a dime to create this tinker box either – another beauty of it – my husband and I just walked around the house putting bits of this and that into the box.
Items to include in a Tinker Box:
- Binder Clips
- Rubber bands
- Wooden clothespins
- Pipe Cleaners
- Nuts and Bolts and any stray hardware
- Tongue depressors and popsicle sticks
- Egg crates and small cardboard boxes from food items (they’ll love to poke things into the sides, or tape them together to make a spaceship)
- Leftover party streamers
- Old CDs
- Aluminum foil
The list could really go on and on. As long as the item is safe for children to handle, toss it in. The worst that could happen is they won’t use it. But… I bet they will. Open-ended sensory bins have a way of bringing out the kid inventor in everyone!
I gave my son the tinker box and he immediately lit up. He couldn’t believe this box of “junk” was all for him to play with. He set about exploring each piece, asking questions about what things were (I have no clue on some of the stuff hubby dropped in!). Then he started building. He created some swords. Explored various methods of sticking items together. Poked holes in an egg carton. I think this box kept him entertained for a good hour.
**Update: This was originally published on January 16, 2015. It’s been THREE YEARS since I wrote this post, and our boys are still playing with this Tinker Box! Yes, his younger brother now joins him! We’re always adding bits and pieces to the mix. Creating keeps them engaged and busy for hours! Who knows what they’ll create tomorrow!
What other items would you include in a tinker box? What kinds of activities keep your kids engaged for lengths of time?
For more creative play ideas… check out:
For another take on creative play, visit my guest post on the Melissa & Doug blog all about handmade instruments! I think you’ll enjoy seeing how easily kids can make and play their own musical instruments.
Disclosure: I have a material connection with Melissa & Doug as a compensated guest blogger. All opinions are my own.