Our son ran by us one day, trailing a long purple thing in his wake. We stopped him to ask what it was! Turned out to be a round plastic lidded container he had sealed closed around a purple play silk, leaving the play silk 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. Given some open-ed items, kids can invent amazing creations! Tap into kids’ natural curiosity and ingenuity with this idea to create a Tinker Box for Kid Inventor’s Day!
At some point in parenting you discover kids have a way of turning the ordinary on its head. Making something brand new out of what you thought were tried-and-true toys. You’ll find an assortment of objects in random places – but your kids can explain why each of them are there: a Lego in your shoe… treasure hunt. A toy car jammed where no toy car should fit…rock slide. Puzzle pieces-turned-coins…grocery store play. All these little bits and pieces become food for the imagination.
PS: I first wrote this post in January 2015…This box has been in play for FOUR years now!! I have updated this post to reflect what has worked best and share ideas for both older and younger kids.
Create a Tinker Box for Kid Inventor’s Day!
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 invent by creating a tinker box for your kid inventor!Mobilize your child's natural desire to invent by creating a tinker box for your kid inventor! #tinkerbox #kidinventorsday #play #imagination Click To Tweet
What goes into a tinker box?
You can put all sorts of household items into a Tinker Box. 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 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 create a 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. UPDATED: As years passed and items get used up, I’ve often “reloaded” the Tinker Box with fresh items inexpensively at the dollar store
Tinker Box Items:
- Tape (Scotch, masking, and painter’s tape work best for younger children. Duck/duct tape and/or electrical tape for older)
- Binder clips
- Rubber bands
- Wooden clothespins
- Plastic spoons
- Cork pieces (perfect for creating floating inventions)
- 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
- Dental floss (makes great string for older kids; please don’t put in a toddler/preschool box)
- Magnetic metal containers (to store small parts)
- Pencils and/or markers
- Scissors (older kids)
The list of items you could use to create a tinker box could go on and on. As long as the item is safe for children, 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!
Celebrate Kid Inventor’s Day with Tinker Box Play!
To celebrate Kid Inventor’s Day, 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. His Tinker Box kept my five-year-old entertained for a good hour.Did you know? Benjamin Franklin was a kid inventor! He invented the first pair of swimming flippers at age 12! #KidInventorsDay #tinkerbox #playideas #play #creativity #DIY #parenting Click To Tweet
**Update: It’s been FOUR YEARS since I wrote this post in 2014, and our boys still play with their Tinker Box at ages 6 and 8! 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?
Shop for Tinker Box Items
Although you don’t need to spend a lot of money (or any!) on a Tinker Box, as your kids get older, or if they develop a specific interest, you may want to add more specialized items. Check out these ideas. I love the Loose Parts Play book ideas!
Tinkering Labs Electric Motors Catalyst STEM KitUgears Theater Mechanical 3D Puzzle Wooden Construction SetFrogTapeD-Ring Spring Loaded Gate Small Carabineers ClipMy First Tool Set by DIYjr – Real Tool Set for KidsLoose Parts: Inspiring Play in Young Children (Loose Parts Series)Loose Parts 2: Inspiring Play with Infants and Toddlers (Loose Parts Series)
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! 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.
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