LEGO Tinkering Explorations
Tinker with your LEGO bricks in a new way—construct whimsical contraptions by combining LEGO with everyday materials. You can playfully investigate topics such as kinetic sculptures, marble mazes, sky parades, art machines, moving critters, and more!
Feeling social? Share what you make. Use the hashtag #LEGOtinkering and you might be featured on the Exploratorium's Explore page!
Start with LEGO tinkering
There are endless ways to combine the LEGO construction kit with craft materials, pegboard, and even circuitry and microcontrollers to create tinkering projects. LEGO Tinkering experiences are open-ended and learners choose what they want to explore and create within a broad exploration area. Here is a collection of explorations ranging from starting points into playing with phenomena to more involved tinkering projects.
Invent different shapes and games to play with tops made of LEGO bricks. The variations and possibilities are endless!
LEGO bricks are great for ball-run mazes designed to send a rolling ball through a labyrinth.
LEGO constructions are wonderful tools to start exploring how we and other things in the world don't fall down.
Use LEGO components to create percussive sounds with recycled materials, or instruments made with guitar string and resonant bodies.
Build a unique cable car and send it out over a course made out of string.
Create a puppet or automata to tell an imaginary story.
Attach markers to LEGO moving contraptions to create art machines that draw patterns as they move.
Create a critter that walks, scoots, or wiggles across a rugged landscape.
Helpful tools and more projects to spark your imagination.
Tops are easy to make with common LEGO bricks. Playing with them is as engaging as constructing them. Inventing different shapes and games to play with tops opens up many tinkering opportunities. More about making tops with common materials here.
LEGO bricks are great for ball-run contraptions and maze games designed to send a rolling marble or ball through a labyrinth. With just a few simple LEGO bricks and a plate you can quickly create your own maze game!
Don't tip over! Balance is a wonderful place to start when exploring the idea of how we and the things in the world don't fall down. Use LEGO connectors, wheels and beams to build and explore the idea of balance and tinker with that amazing force: gravity.
Gather some LEGO parts and start with your own hand. What can you balance? One brick, a short brick, a long brick? Connect some together: what balances and what falls?
You can make a stand with a dowel stuck in a block, or a tightrope with a string stretched between two dowels. Try taking a construction of LEGO pieces you could balance on your finger and balance it on the stand: does it still stand? Now try balancing on the string (hint: try using a wheel resting on the string): does it fall over?
Now explore! What happens as you add more parts? Do you need symmetry? What materials might you add that interact with the breeze or wind — feathers, paper, straws? Can your balanced construction turn into a kinetic sculpture? You can read more about getting started with explorations of balance and play here!
The possibilities for sound making with LEGO sound machines are broad, from percussive sounds with recycled materials to instruments made with guitar string and resonant bodies. A set of LEGO motors combined with a custom-made pegboard that fits with the LEGO system provide the basis for this exploration. For more information about the sound machine activity, including instructions on how to make pegboard, click here
SkyParade is an invitation for learners of all ages to build a unique cable car and send it out over a course made out of string. It works best as a group activity in which kids can imagine and create their own contraptions and test and play with them together. Find detailed information on how to set up a sky parade here
With a motor, some gears, an axel or two and a few more LEGO pieces combined with colored paper, cardboard and other craft supplies, you can create a puppet or automata to tell an imaginary story or even what you did that day. This activity works really well with a DIY LEGO pegboard. With the pegboard you can put the LEGO gears and motors behind to move your creations.
Check out these tweets for some more storytelling inspirations!
Attach markers to LEGO technic pieces to create surprising and delightful art machines that draw patterns as they move. With a selection of LEGO parts and a motor, you can create endless variations and make unexpected discoveries. Mess around with different ways to make moving machines, experiment with different drawing implements, and create your own custom mix of LEGO parts.
Create a critter that walks, scoots, or wiggles across a rugged landscape. Critter bodies consist of a LEGO pull-string motor and are made from a combination of LEGO and everyday materials. The environment drives the investigation and encourages frequent testing and iteration on ideas.
The combination of LEGO pieces, craft materials, and custom parts made through digital fabrication has proven to be an interesting way of engaging in quick prototyping of delightful tinkering ideas and in collaborating with tinkerers around the world.
A few helpful tools to start LEGO tinkering:
Quickly build at a larger scale and create a stable base for any project with this custom pegboard. Learn more
Add motion to your creations with a LEGO motor and battery pack, or take it to the next level with a programmable LEGO WeDo controller
Parts, parts, parts!
Find the right LEGO parts and techniques for your project. Here is a guide focused on functional construction with LEGO
Make your own connecters with wire, hot glue, tape, even drilling to add LEGO pegs to objects so you can connect craft and found materials to your LEGO creations. For more elegant connections, a 3D printed part that fits with the LEGO system (e.g. our LEGO pen connector) is worth the effort
Projects to spark your own investigations
To join the community of educators and makers tinkering with LEGO and get inspired by the many making projects that use LEGO parts in new and unusual ways, follow the hashtag #LEGOTinkering on Twitter and share your own ideas with the same hashtag. Here are some highlights from the twittersphere!