What the heck is tinkering anyway you might be wondering? I get it. Tinker, tinkering, tinker trays, these words keep coming up all over social media. What does it even mean? Why tinker? What’s it all about? Is it just a trend? Let’s discuss.
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I first heard the word tinker about ten years ago when this little art studio called Tinker something (I can’t remember the full name) near by, opened and then closed before I ever got a chance to visit. I remember looking at their website in awe and thinking this is something I could definitely get into. A few years later I was introduced to the blog Tinkerlab by the super talented Rachelle Doorley (who I now get to call my dear friend. Check out her amazing book! You’ll love it.) and was intrigued once again. What is this tinkering they keep mentioning? Then my own path as a blogger and mother began and I started experimenting with different materials and tools and projects on my own and with my family.
Soon this idea of tinkering became clear to me. It just means messing around with stuff until something great happens. At least that’s how I define it. The real definition is…
Tinker – attempt to repair or improve something in a casual or desultory way, often to no useful effect.
I kind of like my definition better but fixing a problem is definitely a great element of tinkering.
Soon I began to apply this idea of tinkering to the work I was doing with children. I made my first tinker tray and I was totally hooked. They are kind of intoxicating with all those little collections of treasures and possibilities.
So, now that I have my own art studio, Open Studio time was a priority for me to set up. I want children to be able to come into the studio and work freely to tinker, to figure things out, solve problems and create new ideas, or improve on old ones. I want them to keep working until something great happens.
It’s been about two weeks since I opened the art studio. We don’t even have a sign yet but we’re open! We’ve had two Open Studio days so far (every Tuesday and Thursday from 3-5 if you’re local) and my girls have attended both of those and every moment in between. I’ve watched as they’ve embraced the studio as their own, along with all the supplies in it. What’s been especially amazing is watching them tinker.
They found these little clear bottles and have been non-stop with them ever since. They call them fairy potions but they are so much more. By tinkering with these bottles they are figuring out balance, making important decisions, collaborating, using their imagination, experimenting with new tools, learning about science, counting, making patterns, laughing, connecting, and engaging.
I took these pics a few days ago. Since this day each one of these unique “fairy potions” has turned into a super hero with a cape, shirt, hair and head. I’ll try and grab a pic to share them. By allowing children the freedom to tinker, we are offering them limitless possibilities that can someday act as a prompt for limitless possibilities for their future.
Because after a few days of filling bottles with fairy potions and then turning them into super heroes, my kids came up with a no mess “sand art” bottle method using no sand whatsoever. Yup. Look closely. Not a grain of sand in sight.
There are so many different people and problems in the world and we are going to need some serious problem solvers to help us figure it all out. Start ’em young and let them tinker. If not for them, for us. We need all the help we can get.
Thanks for reading along everyone. And if you like this post, please check out this one called Let Them Paint, Here’s Why. I think you’ll like it too. Or you can try my ebook, Art Secrets Every Teacher Should Know…a Reggio Inspired Approach. Thanks so much! xo Meri
Where are those little sand art bottles from? They are perfect! And the squeeze bottles for the sand? Pompoms are very clever of them to have figured out! My kids are still too little to have a dedicated in their reach art space but it is a dream of mine to figure out how they can. The other problem is that most of our house is carpet…
Hi Karina, I got them from a place called Trash 4 Teaching. It’s like a supply surplus store for educators and artists. it’s really cool. I’m always on the hunt for stuff. Carpet can be tough for clean up. I hear you. Maybe a inexpensive rug over the carpet area that you can wipe. Ikea has great plastic ones.
I just LOVE your blog. As a mom and a children’s librarian, I am a huge fan of tinkering and art-making. As a mom, I let my own own kids have access to a wide variety of art supplies from a young age–it’s easier to get your own time to make stuff when they are making stuff too! As a librarian, I am a huge proponent of process art. I agree that providing kids with the space and supplies to experiment we are providing them with so much more. Thank you for the work you do and your wonderful ideas!
Kara, thank you so much for your kind words. I love hearing that you agree and you’re bringing open ended thinking and process based art to your own children and students. Sounds wonderful! Thanks again! Meri
Wonderful article! We love tinkering 🙂 Those no sand, sand bottles are fantastic! I’m totally in love!
Aren’t those amazing?! They caused quite a stir in the studio. We went through all my little bottles in two seconds! Thanks for stopping by : )