Preschool Tinker Labs


A year or so ago I stumbled across the book called “Tinkerlab:  A Hands-On Guide for Little Inventors” by Rachelle Doorly.  The book contains hands-on activities that encourage children to explore art, science, and more.  This book was so inspiring and was really the driving force behind a series of programs we now do at the library for children ages 3-5. These programs, by far, have been and remain to be, some of our most well attended programs.  The feedback we get from parents is fantastic.

What do these programs consist of?  We schedule one program each month of our programming sessions.  They are meant to be a time where children come to play, explore, tinker, and create.  The programs run for one hour and children ages 3-5 and their parent/caregiver are invited to explore stations that all revolve around the same theme.   We encourage children to investigate, explore, and participate in whatever way they want.  Sometimes a child will stay at one station for the whole hour, and we are fine with that.  While we do set out some directions/suggestions at each station, every activity is designed to be explored independently as well.

Some of our most popular themes have been:  It’s Dark in Here:  We played in the dark with homemade light tables, flashlights, and things that glowed.  ​We included translucent blocks and shapes, water beads, glow-in-the-dark letters and critters, and more.  Sensory Bin play:  We had fun with sand, popcorn kernels, beans, rice, water beads, and pipe cleaners.  We shared with parents the importance of play and using our senses to investigate the world around us.  Play Dough Picassos:  Children rotated through four different playdough stations:  Mr Play Dough Head, Play Dough Mats, Play Dough Bakery, and Play Dough Mud.  There was lots of creative play and discovery happening.  Marvelous Music:  We made beautiful music with carpet drumming and water xylophones.  We crafted egg shakers, balloon drums, and kazoos.  We ended with a marching band around the library!  
Crazy Painting:  
Children participated in marble painting, mesh dabber painting, painting with cardboard tubes, bubble wrap painting, popsicle painting, blow art, color mixing bag, stamps and ink and painting with different objects.  Building with DUPLOs: Children explored with LEGO Duplos by painting, stamping in play dough, counting, measuring, creating patterns, sorting, making tanagrams and building.



Kara Fennell Walker works as the Head of Youth Services with the Geauga County Public Library in Middlefield, Ohio. She is writing for the ALSC Early Childhood Programs and Services Committee. If you would like to learn more about her early reader backpacks, you can email her at kara.walker@geaugalibrary.info.

One comment

  1. Jennifer Edwards

    This sounds amazing, and I would love to see if this is something I can offer my customers! If this program is for 3-5 year-olds, how do you handle families with younger siblings? How many families are allowed to attend these programs?

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