Engage in playful tinkering explorations that support literacy!
When introducing tinkering activities with younger learners, we've found that storytelling is a great way to get into a project while supporting language development.
The Tinkering Studio is teaming up with Mr. Limata's Story Time to highlight a series of book and activity pairings that we've tried out with his second grade class. This set of resources includes tinkering activity ideas, a list of recommended story books, online workshops, and recorded readings.
Tinkering Activity Ideas
Test precarious ideas and stay grounded in this high flying activity.
Design fanciful animals using slotted cardboard construction.
Re-imagine a shadow, share with a friend.
Create a memorable shadow scene using everyday materials
Craft a story using just two images.
Build your own moving balancing sculptures by tilting, sliding, and suspending ordinary objects in surprising arrangements! This activity supports learners in playfully exploring balance, stability, centers of gravity, and symmetry in a hands-on, tactile way.
We love to introduce the Balancing Sculptures activity by reading books like Be A Maker (featured below) that explore balance and stability in playful ways.
Check out the full list of books to pair with balance activities in our library of STEAM Literacy Connections.
Featured Book: Be a Maker
Katey Howes and Elizabet Vuković (illustration)
Our favorite spread in Be A Maker features teetering towers of toys, boxes, pillows, and other everyday objects. It prompts, “Make a tower, make it tall. Make it balance, wobble, fall.” It’s a perfect pairing for building balancing sculptures. The entire book is full of beautifully detailed illustrations of a whole suite of inspiring projects. We especially love that it features two friends building collaboratively and a young female builder of color. Listen to Mr. Limata’s Read aloud and support the Exploratorium by purchasing Be A Maker at the Exploratorium store.
Create your own cardboard creatures! This activity is an opportunity to engage in hands-on building, reimagine a box to create a set of interchangeable component parts, flatten 3D forms into 2D shapes (and then use them to build 3D structures), repurpose recycled materials, and explore parts and patterns.
For inspiration, pair the Creature Constructions activity with reading books like Not a Box (featured below) that explore construction in playful ways.
Check out the full list of books about structures and construction in our library of STEAM Literacy Connections.
Featured Book: Not a Box
With simple and compelling illustrations, Not a Box visually reminds us of all the different ways a box is not just a box, if you add a little bit of imagination. We love using it as inspiration for creating our own projects that use recycled materials in creative ways, and taking a second look at everyday materials. Listen to Mr. Limata’s Read aloud and support the Exploratorium by purchasing Not A Box at the Exploratorium store.
Use a flashlight and ordinary materials to create your own shadow landscape! Shadow Skylines is a light and shadow exploration that uses everyday materials to explore shape, form, and structure. Transform blocks, bottles, mugs, kitchen utensils, and other familiar objects into looming cityscapes and ethereal landscapes.
Try reading books like Flashlight (featured below) when introducing Shadow Skylines to inspire imaginative constructions.
Check out the full list of books about light and shadow in our library of STEAM Literacy Connections.
Featured Book: Flashlight
This enchanting and visually striking story is told entirely through images. Use the nighttime adventures of a child and their flashlight to kick off your Shadow Skyline explorations and inspire discoveries about light and shadow. Listen to Mr. Limata read Flashlight and support the Exploratorium by purchasing Flashlight at the Exploratorium store.
Similar to seeing shapes and animals in cloud formations, shadow remixes invite learners to use their imaginations and share what they see in a shadow.
We've found Duck! Rabbit! (featured below) to be a great way to introduce making your own Shadow Remixes. You might even start out by making a rabbit shadow with your hand, and then trying to turn it into a duck!
Check out the full list of books to pair with light and shadow explorations in our library of STEAM Literacy Connections.
Bring a story to life using stop motion animation! This movie making technique is used to make feature length films, but even just two frames can tell quite a story. Start small and see where your narrative takes you.
We love using artist and illustrator Hanoch Piven's book Let's Make Faces (featured below) as inspiration to bring everyday objects to life with Two Frame Animation.
Check out the full list of books to pair with animation explorations in our library of STEAM Literacy Connections.
Let's Make Faces
There are so many faces to discover in our world, all you have to do is look. Is a button just a button? Or is it an eye? That stick of gum sure looks like a mouth. How about some old yarn, unraveled from a scarf—that could be hair. Put all these objects together and you can make a face. Then, use stop motion animation to bring those faces to life. Learn more about books to pair with animation on our STEAM Literacy Connections page.