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Tinker Trays


Tinker Trays

By Bethany Caldwell, Science Educator

Build your own robot at home

What is a tinker? The short answer is YOU! A tinker is someone who makes things and finds solutions to everyday problems. This simple DIY activity will help you create fun and customizable trays that get your little builder tinkering in no time… no matter the weather!


  • Tray with Dividers (A muffin tin works great!)
  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Craft Supplies You Already Have (This is where YOU decide what to tinker!)


Have your little one explore your craft supplies with you. Have them think of ways they can use what’s available. For example, chenille stems can be used to make bug antennae or even robot arms! Don’t have craft supplies in your home? Take your tinkerer to the craft store with you and stock up together, talking through how each item can help you create something new. Once you have your materials, use your pencil and paper to design your craft project. Discuss what you can use in your tinker tray to create what you designed and get to tinkering!

The Science

Tinkering is a great way to help your little one unleash their creativity as they build and design with their found materials. This activity also introduces the engineering process, teaching you and your child ways to design, build, test and redesign with each project. You can even fold in other sensory lessons like color recognition by only using blue items or trying to match the colors of the seasons with your design!

Further Exploration

  • Lay out your materials and brainstorm how you can use each one: What can you make with craft pom poms? What about paper clips?
  • After completing a design, talk about the choices they made: Why did you use rubber bands for that? How do you feel about your creation?
    • This is a great time to bring in the testing and redesign phase! Reinforce the idea that going back to the drawing board is part of the process sometimes.
  • Let them explore their creativity even further: What would you build if you could build anything you wished? How would you build it? What materials would you use and why?
  • MAKE IT like a master maker all September long at the science center with daily live science demonstrations and hands-on activities for the whole family!




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