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Tinkering Towers

Tinkering Towers
Tinkering Towers

Stacking objects to build unusual towers is a simple activity for makers and tinkerers of all ages. We approach stacking as a way to begin exploring balance and stability while embracing iteration (everything will fall over!), using familiar materials in unfamiliar ways, and meaningfully engaging with counting and measurement. 

More about our approach and ideas for starting points are below — including some of our favorite books to use as inspiration. 

Share your towers and ideas with us using the hashtag #ExploringBalance

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Stacking is a simple starting point for entering into explorations of balance and stability. Look around your space and find some objects to stack. Here are some categories of materials you might look for: 

☐ Multiples: You might start with many multiples of the same material, like blocks, books, pasta, strawberry baskets, rocks, or even toilet paper. 

Everyday Objects: Find a series of objects that you might not normally stack, like toys, kitchen utensils, paint rollers, Rubik's cubes, mugs, and other household items.  

☐ Natural Materials: Gathering branches, pine cones, shells, and other natural materials to turn into towers. 

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Get Started with a Story

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One cat sleeps. Two cats play. Three cats? Stack! 

One of our favorite ways to get started with stacking explorations is to read an inspiring book. Stack the Cats by Susie Ghahremani, is a playful launching point for explorations of balance and stability. We love it for its bright and beautiful illustrations, but also because it introduces concepts and vocabulary that have to do with balance, stability, and numeracy. It prompts questions like: how many objects will you stack in your tower, how tall is your tower, and how can you measure it? 

Below are two examples of spreads that we like to pause on and talk about with learners. Check out more tinkering activity and book pairings on our STEAM Literacy Connections page.

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This page introduces vocabulary to describe towers. Words like teeter, totter, and wobble can help describe stable and unstable structures. 

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The spread introduces counting and measuring in a playful way! How tall is your stack, and how can you measure it? How many objects did you use?


Ideas and Tips

replace this text Stack some cats! Take inspiration from books about balance when deciding on materials
replace this text Look outside. Collect stones and other natural materials to create stacks outdoors.
replace this text Look inside. Look around your space for materials you might not normally build with. 


replace this text Document your tower.
Take a photo and add labels to identify different materials in your stack. 
replace this text Collaborate. Build together as a family or with peers to create more complex towers and keep track of what you make. 
replace this text Add drama. In the words of a 2nd grader, you can "cheat" by building your tower on top of a table to make it even taller! 


Take it Further

If you're interested in building on these initial investigations of balance and stability, try out some of the following ideas for projects and extensions.

→ Build a Balancing Sculpture

→ Drawing Balancing Sculptures

→ Towers, Bridges, Seesaws, and Slides

→ Exploring Balance

→ Creative Constructions: Make with Multiples