Learning by making
One afternoon I walked into my best friend’s house, and on her kitchen counter I immediately spotted what seemed to be a sophisticated science project. It looked like they assembled a light bulb; all the components of how the light bulb worked were in plain sight, yet it was presented as a piece of art. As soon as I asked her what it was, she said, Tinker Crate! She explained that it’s a monthly science kit that comes in the mail, and that she and her husband build them together with their girls, 6 and 7 years old. I immediately went online and discovered a wide variety of options under the Tinker Crate umbrella which span ages 9 to 16-plus.
Tinker crate is a STEM kit, which means it focuses on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Tinker Crate believes that STEM is key to creative problem-solving, a foundation for critical thinkers and a pipeline to innovation. The mission at Tinker Crate is to create projects that “help Tinker Crate kids to build their problem-solving skills, and to gain the confidence and curiosity to tackle problems where there’s no one right answer. We want to inspire kids to see themselves as creators and makers, not just consumers.”
As an advocate for building autonomy in children and nurturing their skills to be able to think and do for themselves, it’s a real joy watching them create magic from these small crates. The projects also have a cool look to them – they’re sophisticated and retro-inspired. We have made small planetariums where my boys had to poke dozens of tiny holes to create the solar system. That night, as the project doubled as a night light, they saw tiny stars projected on the walls of their darkened room. We have also made a rubber band car that allowed them to see different components of a vehicle, and in general how one would be assembled.
My 6-year-old loves to tinker with basic things around the home, like string, tape and cardboard. It is a true joy for everyone in my household to witness, because it’s so basic and yet shows us that he’s developing the skills to see what he wants to create, stay focused and follow through until his vision comes to life. Tinker Crate supports this activity through its low-threshold, high-ceiling projects that work for many types of learners. It is accessible and fun, allowing the learner to dive into the activity with creativity and their own critical thinking, and not so technical that it bogs down the fun.
Every month when the brown-and red box arrives, we’re all excited to see what we get to make; it’s a perfect Sunday afternoon activity that’s fun and supports learning. The reward is a keepsake that in both function and form is a work of art.
BOX: Just the Facts
• You can sign up for the monthly subscription online.
• Cricket Crate for 0-36 months is designed to provide age-targeted information that grows with your baby.
• Koala Crate for ages 3-4 includes lots of high-quality materials for 2-3 creative activities and an activity guide for parents to support inquiry-based learning.
• Kiwi Crate ages 5-8 comes with hands-on fun and kid-friendly instructions
• Doodle Crate for ages 9-16+ includes materials that support new drawing techniques and inspirations sheets with unique materials
• Tinker Crate ages 9-16+ comes with the STEM kit