How to Create a Tinkertray
The idea of a Tinker Tray is not new. Some people call them Tinker Tray, some Invention Boxes, some just Loose Parts. The name is not important, the concept however is. Children need opportunities to exercise creative thought, imagination and problem solving. Tinkering, especially with Loose Parts, is a great way to develop this kind of flexible thinking. Enter: Tinker Trays. They are just one way to develop these skills, but an easy addition to your art or play space.
Ours is still a work in progress, Meri Cherry recently shared an awesome one! and you can find tons of inspiration if you search "Tinker Tray" on Pinterest. It can be daunting, however to know where to begin. Our son is working on answer the major question "How Does it Work?" in most of his play these days. He is constantly questioning, exploring, and planning various ways to approach this question. A tinker tray is perfect for him so I stopped stalling and jumped in. Here's how you can get started as well:
Step One: Gather Supplies
The supplies will vary greatly. To begin with find a tray or box of some sort that will work to separate a variety of materials. Thrift Stores are a great resource for this kind of thing. Honestly, the right tray is what kept delaying me from putting mine together. I am still dreaming of a beautiful wooden tray with tons of varied spaces for materials. I haven't found it yet. A simple kitchen utensil tray from Target is doing the job just fine.
Once you have your tray, gather materials. It is best not to over think this. Anything small, interesting, varied could work. I started with things I found in our art basket of collage supplies, plastic gears and some Unifex cubes. I also added Washi Tape and Glue bottles.
The great thing about the Tinker Tray is that it will be constantly evolving. You can add and subtract things whenever you want or need to. Our twins have started doing this as well. We unwrapped a gift the other day that used twisty ties and my daughter immediately collected them for the Tinker Tray.
Step Two: Prepare
To me this is the fun part. Separate the materials in the Tinker Tray. I divided them mostly by item, but a few things (different kinds of rings and cardboard pieces) got grouped together. I also cleared a space on one of our art shelves to store it in a way that would be accessible to our kids.
Step Three: Introduce the Tinker Tray
It is usually best to introduce your child(ren) to a new material or process. This is a great time to discuss any rules or procedures. Our kids can do what they want with the materials, but whatever they don't use should get put back in the Tinker Tray when they are done and they can save their work on a specific counter until they are ready to work on it more.
The Tinker Tray has since launched an interesting project about Skyscrapers and Landmarks that I am excited to share when we are a little further along. The materials have changed quite a bit, but this was a good starting point. It introduced the idea, it got them started and interested, and gave me an opportunity to observe them and figure out where to go next. All I needed to do was begin.
What will you put in your TinkerTray?
I'd love to see other examples. Please share a link in the comments or on our Facebook page!
Tray with Small Spaces
Various Loose Materials
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