Creative Challenge | December 2015

Thank you to everyone who participated int the November TinkerSketch Challenge. It’s been fun to see your interpretations of the daily prompts and I love hearing how it’s brought more creativity and meaning to your days.

While we’ll take a sketch break for the holidays, I’m reviving the Creative Challenge Project. Some of you may remember this from the early days of TinkerLab.

The Creative Material Challenge on TinkerlabBecause the holidays can get so busy, this is all about slowing down and noticing beauty in the basic materials that surround us this season.

I don’t want you to go out and buy anything new for this: simply use what’s available and challenge yourself (and/or your kids) to make, build, and create from what you already have.

Would you like to join me?

How the Creative Challenge Works

    1. Gather your materials
    2. Come up with a plan
    3. Run the project
    4. Document it
    5. Share it on Instagram: #creativechallenge @tinkerlab

Try this with Kids

Many children enjoy the process of designing from their own ideas, and self-directed projects encourage confidence and critical thinking skills.

Here are some tips for collaborating with your child:

  • Share the four material prompts with your child to get his or her ideas flowing.
  • Show your child the material for the week and ask her what she could create with it.
  • Gather examples of each of the materials and place them in an accessible spot where you can use them when inspiration strikes.
  • Brainstorm a list of ideas together.
  • Talk about the importance of being resourceful. Art supplies don’t have to be purchased at the craft store, and can often be discovered right under our noses.

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Join our community and you’ll learn:

  • How to simplify your life and make more room for creativity
  • How to make hands-on making a part of your everyday life
  • Easy, actionable ways to raise creative kids

Invention Ideas for Kids: DIY Kids Invention Box

Today I’m sharing FULL instructions on how to build your very own DIY Invention Box for Kids, a gift that offers endless invention ideas for kids. This box of goodies is designed to inspire children to explore materials in new ways, experiment, test, play, and turn imaginative ideas into a reality. My children have had boxes like this for years, and theirs have since grown to include supplies that they collect on walks, at birthday parties, and from our kitchen pantry.

The Perfect Gift for Little Inventors

The Invention Box would be an amazing, thoughtful gift for the young makers on your list. This can also be scaled up for a class of children or scouts.

While there are a few supplies involved, once your Invention Box is built it can provide your child with HOURS of imaginative play.

If you like the ideas you see here, you will probably love my book: TinkerLab: A Hands-on Guide for Little Inventors.

Maker your own TinkerLab Invention Box

Essential Supplies

Note: This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for supporting TinkerLab with your purchase!

TinkerLab Book. Pick up a copy of TinkerLab: A Hands-on Guide for Little Inventors. The dimensions are 7″ x .5″ x 9.4″. It fits nicely in the storage box below. The book is distributed by Random House and found available wherever books are sold.

Storage Box. We use this photo box. This translucent box by ArtBin is nice because it’s clear and has handles, and a shoe box would also work nicely.

Glue Gun. Cool Shot Super Low Temperature Glue Gun. If you’ve never used a glue gun with kids, you’re in for a treat. Kids LOVE the empowering feeling of using glue guns, and this low heat glue gun is my all-time favorite because the tip stays relatively cool and won’t burn little fingers. It also stays cool enough that the glue won’t melt and drip out of it if you have to walk away. Let’s just say that I may have discovered this when I accidentally left it plugged in all night long.

Glue Sticks. Cool Shot Super Low Temperature Mini Glue Sticks

Scissors. Fiskars 5″ Safety Edge Right Handed Scissors or Left Handed Pointed Tip Scissors

Tape. Roll of Duct Tape in Plain Colors or Fun Patterns

Inspiration Cards. Include a short stack of inspiration cards to pull it all together.

Make your own Invention Box for Kids

Prototyping Materials

You will need supplies that fall into five general categories that are borrowed from the Stanford’s Prototyping Cart (see page 211 of MakeSpace for more details):

  1. pliable materials
  2. connectors
  3. structural items
  4. utensils
  5. treasures.

You don’t need to include everything that I’ll share below, but you should try to include items from each category.

For this particular kit, the essential supplies (see above) are a TinkerLab book, storage box, low heat glue gun, glue sticks, scissors, duct tape, and inspiration cards. The rest is up to you!

The following is not an exhaustive list, but it’s my go-to list of things that come from the dollar store, my pantry, Amazon, the craft store, and our art cabinet. If you’re pulling kits together for a large group, you might find it easier to buy in bulk. However, if you’re pulling a kit or two together, you can easily source materials from what you already have. I’m including some links below if you’re buying in bulk and to clarify what some of these items are. Once the invention box is in action, feel free to replenish with favorite items and even include your child in the process of filling your box.

Pliable Materials: wire, fabric, foil, paper…

  • Wire: colorful plastic wire is great for kids, If you include wire, be sure to also include a wire cutter.
  • Shiny paper such as aluminum foil
  • Wrapping Paper cut into smaller pieces
  • Fabric, cut into 4″ x 4″ pieces (or thereabout)

Pliable Materials for the TinkerLab  Invention Box

Connectors: duct tape, string, and hot glue (from a glue gun)…

  • String: I like this hemp cord because it’s natural, comes in multiple colors, and it ties off well due to its texture.

Connectors for the TinkerLab  Invention Box

Structural Items: wood blocks, CD’s, craft sticks, straws, plastic cups…

Structural Items for the TinkerLab  Invention Box

Utensils: scissors, Sharpie permanent marker/s…

  • Fiskars 5″ Safety Edge Right Handed Scissors or Left Handed Pointed Tip Scissors
  • Sharpie fine point permanent marker. I’m comfortable giving my kids permanent markers because we have a lot of practice with them and I know they will respect the Sharpie. However, I do not recommend including a Sharpie for everyone. Use your best judgement on this one.

Utensils for the TinkerLab  Invention Box

Treasures: googly eyes, buttons, stickers, bottle caps…

Treasures for the TinkerLab  Invention Box

Invention Box Card Set

TinkerLab Invention Box Cards

Print the Cards. Select: Fit to Printable Area. Print onto a heavyweight paper such as card stock. Cut the cards by cutting the paper in half, and then in half again. You will now have four cards. Paper clip them together. Place the cards on top of your Invention Box.

You can find the card set here and print them right away.

Make your own Invention Box for Kids


DIY Invention Box for Kids from TinkerLab

Invention Ideas for Kids

Here are a few more activities to try with this kit:

Build a Rube Goldberg Machine

Make Found Object Critters

Create Recycled Sculpture



Creative Challenge #12 | Cupcake Liner

TinkerLab Creative Challenge Cupcake Liners

August has arrived and we’re ready to see what you’re making with cupcake liners! I can’t believe that this is our 12th Creative Challenge — man-oh-man!

I announced this newest challenge in this post where you can get all the details. And if you’d like to see ALL of the past creative challenges, you can find them here.

TinkerLab Creative Challenge | For Kids and Adults | Cupcake Liners

Catch the Creative Challenge on Pinterest

Pop over to our Cupcake Liner Pinterest Board for more cupcake liner inspiration. I’ll be pinning your ideas to our board!

Add Your Cupcake Liner Project

Okay — do you have a CUPCAKE LINER project to share? Go ahead and add it here. Sharing your project here gives TinkerLab permission to share a link to your article in a future post. 

Join the TinkerLab Creative Challenges

Every two months we host a Creative Challenge, where we invite you to invite you to create with a common material . The objective of these challenges is to explore a material’s potential, build creative confidence, encourage invention, and envision new purposes for common objects…. skills that are at the heart of innovation. 

Do you want to know more about our creative challenges?

TinkerLab Creative Challenge Cupcake Liners

This is our 12th challenge! Can I get some applause? To see them all, simply scroll to the bottom of this post.

Now I have some big news for you….

If you’ve been following these challenges or have entered them before, I’m adding one really BIG CHANGE this month, and I think you’ll like it.  All of the challenges up to this point have been open to kids only. I love kids, of course, but why should kids have all the fun? So, this next challenge will be open to everyone. Do you have the crafting/experimenting bug? Join me!

TinkerLab Creative Challenge | For Kids and Adults | Cupcake Liners

Will you join the next Creative Challenge?

If you’d like to join one the next challenge, plan to come back during the month of August with a link to your blog post (we’ll have a place here for you to share) or share an image on Instagram (tag it with #tinkerlabchallenge) of you or your kid/s in action.

TinkerLab Creative Challenge Cupcake Liners

Should I join the Creative Challenges? Is this for me?

You might be wondering if this is worth your time. Well, here are some of the reasons to join in…

  1. You or your child will most likely enjoy the process of designing a self-directed project that encourages confidence and critical thinking skills.
  2. You’ll enjoy sharing with all the other Creative Challenge participants. It’s really fun to see how people interpret the same materials in different ways.
  3. If you’re a blogger, you’ll probably enjoy a boost in traffic.

Okay, I’m in! What do I need to do?

  1. Gather your materials
  2. Talk to your child about his or her plan, or hatch your own plan
  3. Run the project
  4. Document it
  5. Share it with us on August 1. There are 2 ways to share: We’ll post a Linky on our site that you can link your blog post up to and/or you can share on Instagram with the hashtag #tinkerlabchallenge

TinkerLab Creative Challenge Cupcake Liners

Got it! Can you give us some ideas to help us get started?

Sure! You could:

Grab a Button





Creative Challenge #11: String

Creative Challenge for Kids | String |

Creative Challenge #10: Eggs

TinkerLab's Creative Challenge for Kids | The EGG Challenge

Creative Challenge #9: Egg Cartons

egg carton challenge

Creative Challenge #8: Paper Bags

paper bag museum maps

Creative Challenge #7: Magazines

Creative Challenge #6: Cardboard Box

Creative Challenge #5: Plastic Bottle

Creative Challenge #4: Rubber Bands

Creative Challenge #3: Legos

Creative Challenge #2: Pasta

Creative Challenge #1: Toilet Paper Roll


String | Creative Challenge for Kids

Welcome to our 11th Creative Challenge for Kids! The key supply for this challenge is string: children are invited to make, build, experiment with, and tinker with string.

While adults are welcome to facilitate and play along, the process and results are up to the child.

Creative Challenge for Kids | String  |

Welcome to everyone who is joining our Creative Challenge this month!

What is the Creative Challenge for Kids Project?

These bi-monthly challenges invite kids to create, make, and invent whatever they can imagine using a common material as inspiration. While Creative Challenge projects should be child-driven, adults are welcome to join the fun as helpful side-kicks.

The objective of these challenges is to encourage children to explore a material’s potential, build creative confidence, act like inventors, and envision new purposes for common objects…. skills that are at the heart of innovation.

Who is this for?

This challenge is open to anyone who wants to play! While we invite bloggers and anyone with access to a photo-sharing site to share a link to their entry, you don’t have to be a blogger to join us. If you want to run this challenge in your home or school, the entries shared at the bottom of this post might serve as inspiration to you.

Grab a Button

TinkerLab Creative ChallengeIf you’d like to add a Creative Challenge button to your post or sidebar, simply drag this image to your desktop and place it anywhere on your site. If you want to connect it back to our site, you could link it to this page: This 200 x 200 pixel button should show up as you see it here.

Share your Challenge Entry

Once you’ve read all the rules and details (these are for the last challenge — eggs — same general rules apply), you can enter a link to your project here. This challenge will run from June 1 – June 30, 2014. Of course, you can still run this experiment after this window closes, but we won’t be able to accept further entries after June 30. After you link up your post, we’d like to encourage you to be a supportive participant by popping around to a few of the other posts to leave some comments. Tag your image with #creativekidschallenge

Okay, I’m in! What do I need to do?

  1. Gather your materials
  2. Talk to your child about his or her plan
  3. The project should be child-led, although adults are quite welcome to join in
  4. Run the project
  5. Document it
  6. Share it between June 1 and June 30, 2014. We’ll post a Linky below.
  7. If you have a blog, grab a button and share it in your post!

Process Trumps Product

Keep in mind that these posts might not show super-glossy Pinterest-worthy projects because they celebrate the process of working through personal ideas more than the end result. These projects are sure to be packed with meaning and intent, in some instances more than perfection. I wish I could personally congratulate each participating child for devising their own plan and executing on it. Bravo!

Next Creative Challenge

We’ll see you in August for Creative Challenge #12. The material is TBD. Please leave a comment on this post with your suggestion for the next material. To see all the past materials, click here. 

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