Tinker Table for Creative Playing

I first heard about the idea of a decrease in creativity through Sir Ken Robinson. He elaborates on his well- known Ted talk about how schools may be ruining children’s creativity. He speaks about seeing the many kinds of abilities that each child possesses and giving them the opportunity to seek it out as opposed to one discipline being ‘worth’ more. He goes further and says that creativity should be treated in the same way as literacy. Children are not afraid to be wrong so they will try just about anything. But eventually we end up growing out of it and a fear of making mistakes awakens.

From there I was lead to Gever Tulley, the founder and director of the Tinkering School. One will learn that you can figure things out by fiddling around and that nothing ever turns out as planned. You may learn to follow through in order to finish a project or to deal with an outcome that is unsatisfactory and that transforms into something else completely. The main purpose is to give a child the opportunity to build, create and allow his strengths to blossom.

On this thought, I decided it would be wonderful to give my son the opportunity to create, build, destroy and rebuild. I wanted very badly to make the tinker table and offer it to him as a present. But then I was reminded in what I believe, in what I base KOOP- Kid Owned and Operated Play children are the masters of their play and they need to lead. I had to stop myself for making the table for him and allow him to take the lead. I said: “hey, you want to make a tinker table?” After a short explanation of what it is, we ran outside and collected things for his tinker table. Now I don’t think he has an idea of what he wants to make but he loves to collect and then count what he’s collected. He took a bucket and filled it with junk. Let’s call the kettle black… it was some nature and mostly junk. One person’s garbage is another’s treasure, right?

Tom chose rocks, broken electronics, squirrel fur (gross) some bark, some broken branches with leaves, cards- all the cards he could find and more. Yes we will still go together to Habitat for Humanity and the IDEA store.

5 things to remember when making a tinker table at home:

1. Place- choose a space that your child will use. I know that my son would only use the table if it was in a place that we could see him and converse. We chose the laundry room since it is right off the kitchen. There is also a door so he can shut it to keep his toddler sister away. There is easy access to the outdoors so he could collect more materials. I would have preferred it out of sight out of mind but as long as he doesn’t interfere with the laundry then it’s all good.

2. Let your child lead- you can make the prettiest most organized tinker table but ask yourself will he use it? You can have it orderly and make it look appealing but remember this is his space and his choice of materials. If he is lacking a material that might be beneficial to his work, drop it nearby without saying a thing. He might see and pick it up and use it or it might sit there but you didn’t interfere or lead the way. If he is unaware of some of the materials there is no harm in introducing them.

3. Let your child have tools- you heard me, tools! In the beginning teach him the importance of using tools properly: how to hold them and in which direction to cut. He will be careful. I would start off simple: screw drivers, hammer, saw, wrench, measuring tape and maybe a clamp.

4. Don’t make him clean up – Let this space be his. You can teach him that a clean work space is one that is safer to use and that tidying up for the next use is important. But what I mean is don’t make him put away a project he is in the middle of making. Sometimes a project evolves over time.

5. Younger sibling option- Make sure you have a younger sibling option with many of the same materials. This will alleviate unwanted fights and hopefully the amount you hear: “mine, no mine…”

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