Monday, February 21, 2011

For The Love of Tinkering

Not a third world country just a 100 year old basement
 These kids come from a long line of tinkers.  Their great grandfather enjoyed tinkering with stained glass and terrariums.  Their grandfather enjoys tinkering with wood and electronics.  Their dad enjoys tinkering with paper and pencil. They enjoy tinkering with everything! 

They recently received a huge cache of figurines from their great grandpa's collection. They are thrilled!  They set right to work tinkering up an environment for the little guys. The paper, scissors and tape are flying in the basement.  I love it. I love seeing them engaged. I love watching them move and manipulate the pieces. The ideas are flowing and so is the teamwork.  Have you ever noticed that? If my kids are actually engaged in a project there is so much less fighting.  Don't get me wrong, the Tindle kids argue plenty but when they are really interested in something the squabbles dissipate. I love it! 

Logan floating his homemade canoe
He's pretty excited!

So what is tinkering and who is a tinker?  Well it can really be anything but it generally has to do with making something, especially a surprising something.  It can be big or little, take months or seconds.  Tinkering is what the tinker makes it.  Here are some photos of things we've tinkered in the past year. 

Carter displaying his bat box.
This kid has mad building skills.
They've worked with paper, wood, cloth, yarn, paint, glue, tape, string, branches, water, plastics, bricks, rocks, leaves, acorn caps, lots of recyclables. Most everything we've tinkered has come to us second hand or been purchased for very little money.  Many of these things were just something that the kids thought up and decided to do.  Some were more directed but most were kid led. Really that's the best kind of fun, right? 
Layne with a syrup arch shortly after
 visiting the St Louis Science center.


 We take as many opportunities as we can find to let them just go for it. There are tinkering spots everywhere.  We love the many child based museums, art and science centers that we have visited and we've had some amazing tinkering experiences there but most of the time we tinker at home or in our community. 

We built this sculpture on the beach
at one of our favorite campsites.
Tinkering is great.  It isn't a craft or a science experiment.  It isn't really art or math. It's definitely not report writing or spelling. Yet, somehow it is all of those things.  My kids would never be able to build a pulley system for their tree house without a little understanding of how simple machines work. When tinkering a recipe, units of measurement become critically important.  They use color, line, contrast, tints and shades to tinker cards for their family and friends.  Every academic discipline can be explored more fully through tinkering.  What a lovely thing.

Everyone tinkering with their new
color wonder cars. 

If you would like more information on tinkering check out this info by Gever Tulley the founder of Tinkering School.  You can also check out the blog Get Your Mess On to meet a mom who has taken the concept of tinkering and run with it.  Take a look at Berkeley's Adventure Playground for the ultimate example of child led tinkering and how far it can really go.  Don't you think every city should have one of these?

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