DIY Kids Invention Box

Today I’m sharing FULL instructions on how to build your very own DIY Invention Box 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.

I’ve been selling these kits in my shop, and learned pretty quickly that while I love designing content, shipping product is not my superpower. So, for those of you who have some time to muscle materials together, I’ll let you in on how I pull together the TinkerLab® Invention Boxes. And for those of you who visit my studio during open hours, you can purchase your very own kit from moi. See the event list for hours.

Something to keep in mind: with the holidays coming up, 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.

Maker your own TinkerLab Invention Box

Essential Supplies

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 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 purchase the card set here and print them right away.

Make your own Invention Box for Kids


DIY Invention Box for Kids from TinkerLab




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