by Meredith Brustlin, CMNH Educator
Every week at the Children's Museum of New Hampshire we host a program called “Tinker Time”. Tinker Time is a drop-in program that emphasizes the importance of tinkering! Tinkering helps children develop fine motor skills, increase problem-solving abilities, and is an open invitation to foster peer relationships.
What I love about tinkering is that it’s open-ended and no-fail. The carefully selected activities are designed to have many possible solutions and ways to explore. This means that children with different learning styles, who are different ages, and have different interests can all get something out of these activities.
I usually set up the tinkering program with five different activity areas: Art Material Creations, Sorting, Building, Sensory/Texture Play, and Cause & Effect Exploration. I’m sharing one activity from each of these categories, but please don’t feel like you have to set-up all of them to have a successful tinker time! Set up one or two - use these activities as jumping off points and then tweak it to match the supplies you have at home or your own child’s interests - it’s totally up to you!
Art Exploration: Sticker drawing prompts
- Place round tickers (or draw round circles with different colors) on index cards or pieces of paper. Invite your child to use the placement of the dots to make a picture!
- Try putting the same configuration of dots on several pieces of paper and have a “draw-off” with the whole family - see how different your drawings are even though you were given the same prompt!
Sorting: Color sorting
- Gather lots of different art materials from around your house (markers, permanent markers, crayons, hi-lighters, colored pencils) and invite your child to sort them.
- Will they sort them by color? By type of art material? By size?
- Invite children to try and make a pattern using the colorful art materials!
Building: Cup towers w/ manipulatives
- Collect plastic cups from around your house
- Find some small manipulatives - little animal or people toys.
- Build homes for the animals or build fences around them. Hide little people in the cups and guess where they are.
- See who can make the tallest tower!
- Build a tall tower and then throw a ball at it to knock it down!
Sensory/Textures: Cars on Salt
- Sprinkle salt all over a cookie sheet or other container
- Use toy cars, toy animals, or just hands to explore the salt and make designs!
Cause & Effect: Is it magnetic?
- Collect small items that are either magnetic..or not magnetic...and place them in a container
- Find a magnet on your fridge that is powerful enough to pick up some small items
- For younger children: test and see which of the items are magnetic! How many items were you able to pick up using the magnet?
- For older children: invite them to pre-sort the items into piles of items they think will be magnetic and ones that they do not think will be magnetic. Use the magnet to test their predictions!