Hammering (real) Nails

Since my daughter (now almost 3 y.o.) practiced hammering with golf tees back in October, I’ve been waiting and waiting for just the right time to introduce her to REAL nails! After working really well at piercing gumdrops with toothpicks, I had a feeling that the time had come. So I dusted off an old scrap of wood, pulled out our jar of random nails, and threw in a bag of rubber bands just to make it more interesting (inspired by this post at Jojoebi).

We used the hammer from our Melissa and Doug Take Along Tool Kit, and it worked surprisingly well. I gave her a small safety lesson, where I demonstrated how to hold a nail low…right down next to the wood. She was so eager to get to her task, and was fiercely focused.

Once N decided that enough nails were hammered in, she began adding rubber bands. At first there seemed to be an unspoken rule that each nail would be surrounded by one rubber band layer.

And then the rubber bands kept on going around and around the nails. I love all of those colors!

For my friends out there who want to avoid a mess, this is as clean as projects get, and all of the materials can be reused when your child is all done with their nail and rubber band exploration.

If you have a rubber band project that you’d like to share with the TinkerLab community, you’re welcome to share a photo or a link here: Creative Experiment #4: Rubber Bands

What are you building today?

Gumdrop Sculptures

The provocation: A bowl of gumdrops and a handful of toothpicks.

The first question: “Can I eat these?”

Oh yeah, I guess they do kind of look like a snack.

The second provocation (after we each ate a gumdrop, just to get that elephant out of the room): A square base of four gumdrops, attached together with four toothpicks, and one more toothpick sticking straight up out of the base.

And with that, the race gates opened and the horses were off! Without saying another word, N quickly understood the challenge and got right to work. And what small child on a minor sugar high wouldn’t be excited to work with colorful toothpicks and rainbow-colored gumdrops?

Notice little sister in the background. I promise some baby-related activities one day soon.

A few months back I set up a similar provocation with marshmallows and toothpicks, and while we were able to build some simple structures, it was a small flop. It’s easy enough to pierce the marshmallows with toothpicks, but they don’t do as good of a job holding a complex structure together. I also tested jellybeans, but the hard candy surface wasn’t forgiving enough. The gumdrops are really malleable and my daughter didn’t need too much of my help manipulating them. So empowering!

She decided this structure was a cable car — we live near San Francisco, after all — so we found a couple passengers interested in taking a ride.

After she built this form she exclaimed, “It’s a pitched roof!!” Ah, I love witnessing the transfer of knowledge. You never know when these moments are going to hit, and it’s so fun to be there when they do.

And this is what she accomplished before it was time to get dinner ready. After dinner she and her dad kept working on these, and then there was more building the next day. As the structures got bigger and more complex, we talked about the strength of triangles, which added a a new dimension to what she was able to build. Stay tuned for day two!

More on the science behind this project can be found through one of my very favorite sites (and places to visit), The Exploratorium: Geodesic Gumdrops.


Pitched Roofs

Our neighbor’s house had a leaky roof and the handy man came for a visit. This peaked my daughter’s interest and she wanted to know why. If you’ve had a small child living in your home, I’m sure you’re familiar with this barrage of non-stop questions that keep coming even if you’ve already answered them…at least three times: Why is the plumber here? Why is their roof leaking? Why does he have a friend with him? Why do they have a ladder? Why aren’t they fixing our roof? Is our roof leaking? Why is their roof leaking?

It turns out that they have a flat roof, and we have a pitched roof. Not that it really matters, of course, as any roof can leak, but flat roofs seem to be more prone to collecting water than pitched roofs, and there I was explaining this to my 33 month old. My explanation began with the illustration you see above, which I sketched onto our chalkboard. I drew the houses and rainclouds, and then demonstrated how the rain falls differently on the two roofs. I checked in to see if this made sense to her (it didn’t), so I moved on to building a 3-D model.

We found some cardboard in our recycling bin and got to work crafting two structures: one with a pitched roof (our house) and one with a flat roof (our neighbor’s house).

And then we ran a little experiment by placing them in the sink and running “rain water” over them. The water rolled right down the sides of the pitched roof and puddled up on the flat roof. And then, finally, she got it!

A surprise preschool lesson on roofs, science, plumbers, and architecture!

What surprise lessons have you taught lately?

Colander Sculpture

This surprisingly fun sculptural activity kept my 33 month old engaged for a long while. And the added bonus is that it’s also great for strengthening fine-motor skills, making color choices, and developing spatial understanding by making sense of the exterior and interior of an object.

The set up

A handful of pipe cleaners and a colander on a low table.

N wasn’t sure what to make of it at first and asked me to play with her. So we sat down together and I started poking the pipe cleaners in the holes.

Ahhhh, now she gets it. Once the ball got rolling I stepped back to let her explore on her own.

This is so much fun!

Once the top was “full,” she started working on the sides.

Colander Sculpture for Kids | TinkerLab.com

And then she wanted to know what was happening underneath the colander.

After working on this for about 20 minutes, N figured out that she could loop the pipe cleaners and stick both ends into the colander. Cool.

As of late, my daughter has shown a huge interest in building and sculptural activities. Maybe you remember my last post when she rejected the easel? So I’ll continue to continue to support this growing interest of hers and see where it takes her…and you can probably expect more sculptural activities here in the upcoming weeks.

While I can’t remember where I first saw this idea, if you’d like more pipe cleaner-colander inspiration, Anna and her daughters at The Imagination Tree did a similar project where her older daughter incorporated play dough into the sculpture! She packages this and other similar, stimulating activities as “Discovery Boxes,” which you can learn more about here. And if you don’t have pipe cleaners at home, but you do have straws, she also offers a Straw Discovery Box that is a super alternative.

This post was shared with We Play: Childhood 101, Skip to my Lou

Rubber Band Painting

One of the almost-weekly segments of this site is called Creative Experiments, and last week’s experiment was to create something with Rubber Bands. Danielle and her daughter Simone were the first to participate with their Elastic Project, which you can view on Danielle’s blog. I love how they hung the piece from the ceiling. I’ve had rubber bands on the mind all week, and thought I’d make a fun paintbrush out of them. To make it, I secured about six rubber bands of roughly the same length to the back of a paintbrush with another rubber band, wrapped tightly. Now, keep in mind that this is an experiment, and sometimes experiments don’t go as planned!

To get the new brush into action, I pulled our easel out of hibernation because N lost complete interest in it a couple months ago (and it takes up way too much real estate to go unused). When she woke up from her nap she took one look at the easel and immediately complained that the paint pots were missing their lids. Where was that “I missed my easel and I’m so glad to see it again” enthusiasm I had hoped for?! I should probably back up and say that 90% of the time she wakes up from her naps grumpy, but still!! Once she settled into being awake, she said she would paint with the caveat that we collaborate, but she wanted nothing to do with the super neat-o rubber band brush that I made. That’s fine, of course, but I hoped that at least the novelty of it would appeal to her.

So, up there you can see her yellow marks surrounded by a few red rubber band painting marks made by yours truly. The texture created by the brush is pretty random and silly, and I imagine that a child inclined to paint at an easel (unlike mine. sniff, sniff), would probably enjoy testing one of these out. When I was her age I adored easel painting, so this obviously comes as a surprise. But I also know it can’t hurt to keep offering the materials, and if one day she’s ready they will be there for her. There it is: Rubber band experiment 1.0.

Have you been surprised by your child’s distaste for something you really enjoy?