At an in-service last week, after seeing this poster, I had a great conversation with one of my class’ teachers about the word “tinkering” and how great it is when parents allow their kids to tinker around, exploring, testing, fixing, breaking, and fixing again. So many skills are learned by this kind of hands-on exploration.
So, what is “tinkering”? Let’s ignore the definitions that say things like “unskillful or clumsy worker.” I like:
- To manipulate experimentally.
- To try to improve something by making small changes or adjustments to it.
- One who enjoys experimenting with and repairing machine parts.
Children at play, discovering new materials, and exploring new uses for familiar materials are Tinkers. People who were allowed to tinker a lot as children often become engineers, or scientists, because of that approach of “what happens if I try this? Oh cool! Now, what if I do that? Ooh, even better!”
People who were allowed to tinker a lot as children also become chefs, woodworkers, architects, computer designers, graphic artists, fashion designers, and builders. Learning early on the joys of building and creating and refining sets a lifelong passion for hands-on work in a variety of fields. (Check out this great post on The Importance of Learning to Make Things.)
How do you encourage your children to tinker? Give them lots of open-ended materials (cardboard boxes, toilet paper tubes, tape, string) and time to experiment. Talk to them about their creations, asking about the process and what they learned along the way. Ask them what they want to do next with their experiment.
I like this post from Kids Stuff World on Ten Powerful Life Lessons from TInkerlab. A couple of her lessons are:
- The results are not as important as the process.
- The more exposure you have to a material, the more you will learn what you can do with it.
- Think of everything as an experiment.
Allowing your child to play, and tinker, and putter around, helps to ensure that as they get older, they meet this definition of Tinker: “somebody good at many tasks: somebody able to do many different kinds of work successfully.” (Bing dictionary)
If you’re in the Seattle area, and want to do some tinkering with your child, join our Family Inventors Lab!