In my Figment Creative Labs art classes, we explore a lot of different materials and do a lot of exploratory play. I often offer the kids a selection of loose parts to inspire creativity or as an invitation to play or create. This could lead to them building something, or to imaginative play. I usually do not give them step by step instructions, because what they come up with on their own, is most often, more exciting than what I could ever dream up. I love to watch their minds in action and listen to their stories. It is interesting to see how different children decide to use the same materials in very different ways. We often talk out a plan together, if we run into engineering road blocks when designing. It is all about problem solving and figuring out what works and does not work. The process is the most important part of an activity. That is where we learn. (Note: With older kids and lessons on more precise things, obviously my teaching style changes.) Here is a quick video of a tinkering session at Figment using bins from our tinkering station:
Offering children loose parts is a great way to inspire open ended play. There is no right or wrong, only what they choose. I am reminded of a holiday workshop. When the parents came for pick up, one of the little girls ran to her mom in excitement and told her, “We played with choke able things!” Mental note: for small loose parts play, shoot for age three and up.
Now to the project at hand. In class we made our own Figment Creative Tinkering boxes. I acquired a bunch of wooden cigar boxes from Austin Creative Reuse. I spray primed the tops of the boxes with Flat White Spray Primer. This gave the kids a nice surface to paint on.
I gave them paint pens and Sharpie markers to draw on the boxes with, then they added acrylic paint. A few of the kids asked to add glitter towards the end. I said, “Why not.”
I filled the boxes with some loose tinkering parts to get them started. I instructed the parents to add glue, tape, and scissors to the boxes. I think a few of the parents were confused why I was sending their kids home with a box of “trash”, but I hope they are pleased when their child spends time making something with my old wine corks and loose parts. Wether you have a tinkering station in a classroom, or a tinkering tray, table, or a Figment Creative Box… loose parts play and tinkering are essential for early childhood development and promoting creative thinking. Here are some great resources to check out: