Inspire Little Inventors | Upcycled Tinker Box

One of my greatest passions is inspiring children to use their imagination and creativity to explore the world around them. I love to see what happens when a child is given a box of materials and left to be curious and invent. The process is magical and almost mystical. In our home, one of our favorite spaces for creating and inventing is our Upcycled Tinker Box. Filled to the brim with materials and tools, the possibilities are endless.

inker Box for Inspiring Little Inventors


Tinker. To Tinker. Tinkering…

What does that mean? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word Tinker :: “to repair, adjust, or work with something in an unskilled or experimental manner.”  That is exactly what we do around here… TINKER.

Whether its tinkering with a jar of loose parts, creating with boxes or experimenting with goos and concoctions… my boys are always tinkering

All day, every day.

In fact, I think people think we are a little nuts when they come over to find our latest project hanging from the ceiling, attached to the deck, or running along a wall. So it is no wonder that we fell completely in love with the blog, Tinkerlab, and her new book, Tinkerlab | A Hands On Guide for Little Inventors.

What is a Tinker Lab?

According to my friend Rachelle of Tinkerlab, a Tinkerlab  is a space where “big thinking takes place”.  It can be a kitchen table, a science area, a play space, or even a dedicated design space. Its a space where creativity, invention, experimenting take first place and become the focus.  In her book, she has an entire chapter on creating the perfect tinker space and setting the mood for creativity to take control. 

In our home, we do not have a “school room”, “craft room” or dedicated space for learning. Instead we have invitations and creative prompts throughout the house. As I mentioned before, one of our newest and favorite places to tinker is our upcycled tinker box for outdoors. Even though we had this before I ever read Rachelle’s book, I knew it was the perfect fit to illustrate the awesomeness and inspirations that can come from reading her book.

Tinkerlab The book

Creating Our Tinker Box

We are lucky. We live in an urban area with great resources. One of our favorite places to visit is the Rebuilding Exchange, where they literally have filled a giant warehouse with materials from old buildings, schools, and projects. You can find doors, hinges, tubes, carpet squares… you name it! So when the boys and I wanted to make a Tinker Box of our very own, we knew just the place to go.

First step. Find materials that are good for tinkering and inventing.

Recycle Center Tinker Collection

Tubes, vents, hinges, shutters, switches, and pipes. The boys were on a mission. They wanted anything they could get that resembled the parts of a factory. In Rachelle’s book, she includes several supply lists from discovery supplies to tools needed for any good tinkering project. It is such a great resource for picking just the right materials for your tinker box or tinkering space.

Tinker Cart Full of Materials

We were all set! Want to hear the coolest part? This whole cart cost us $10! It was amazing. When we can’t go shopping at the exchange, the boys and I go “alley shopping” as they call it. We go the day before or the day of recycle pick up so that we can find some of the best materials for tinkering that are safe and clean.

What Did We Do With Our Tinker Box?

Tinker Box materials

Once you have your Tinker Box created, the creative and inventive juices can fly. We have created cardboard cities, tube marble runs, and many other things with our indoor tinker boxes, but this time we wanted something bigger, something grander. The sky is the limit with your space and Tinkerlab is the perfect book  that beautifully describes tips for setting up and implementing the perfect tinker space. She even has loads of ideas of investigations and tinkering that can be done.

The boys really wanted to make a large size marble run outdoors. So we got to work picking the perfect tubes and attaching them to the deck with twist-ties.

Giant Recycled Outdoor Marble Run

This is where the tinkering really begins. One tube would be placed, the balls would be tested, and then another tube after. This process is ongoing and continues to be built on each day. The first day they made one path and were quite pleased the ball actually transferred from the top of their contraption to the bottom.

Outdoor Recycled Ball Run

The tinkering began to pay off. In fact, they created a “pinpall” game system which even included a ball return to the player on the deck. At one point I think they had engineered a coin slot that had a pulley system. Eventually this needed repairs and I wasn’t able to get pictures. But you can see just how inventive the Tinker Box encourages the children to get.

Outdoor Tinker Wall

You know what I love most about “Tinkering”? I love how it is a state of mind, a way of life. Rachelle describes 10 Tinkerlab Habits of Mind in her new book, which are so simple, yet so eye-opening.  Creating a tinker box follows each of these principles and her book is the perfect companion to what I already knew as an educator. Its like I was talking with my best friend.

The boys didn’t stop with their ball run. The next modification was to make the run work with water balloons. Yep, you heard me right… WATER BALLOONS. They designed a game, where one person was the catcher and the others were on a team attempting to get the balloons past the catcher. It was so much fun to watch as they tinkered, invented, and worked together as a team.

Water Ballon Recycled Run

They had to align it just right, make the balloons just the right size, and then work together to make their invention playable.

Water Balloon Run.

One of my favorite parts of tinkering with young children is watching in just as much amazement as them when their contraptions actually work as planned. With the help of Tinkerlab, I know I will never grow short of ideas to help inspire my children to create and invent. Her book is beautiful, inspiring and utterly breathtaking.

Water Balloon Outdoor Tinkerlab

Do your little ones tinker? Do you have a tinker box or a tinker lab in your home? I would love to see your creative spaces and I know Rachelle would too. She has even set up an amazing Facebook group for fellow Tinkerers and Creative Souls! I love being part of this group and would love to see you there too!

Connect with me on FacebookTwitterGoogle+PinterestInstagram or subscribe by email so I can hear all about your fun!


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11 thoughts on “Inspire Little Inventors | Upcycled Tinker Box”

    1. Lemon Lime Adventures

      Thank you so much! So glad you like it!

    1. Lemon Lime Adventures

      Thank you so much! That means so much to me! Can’t wait to see your tinker area!

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