Flower Tinker Trays: 3 Creative Problem Solving Activities
- Ages: Toddler, Preschool, PreK
- Difficulty: Easy
- Learning: Process Art, Problem Solving
Tinker tray time!
Yes, I am obsessed with tinker trays. They are super easy to put together, super fun for kids and great for learning.
While we do trays that are just open for whatever my children come up with, sometimes I like to change it up with a fun theme. In honor of spring (or any other time of year you want to feel spring-ish), we’re making flower tinker trays.
Here are 3 ideas to make flower tinker trays with your child.
What's In This Post?
Flower Tinker Tray
Tinker trays are a great way to boost creativity and problem-solving skills. You give your children a tray of materials and let them explore!
The goal is for your child to create something with the materials given. Whatever they make is great. The challenge comes from being creative with the limitations of what is in front of them.
I often like to give a directed challenge to kick off the play, and in this activity, we are making flowers.
Basic Supplies for All Tinker Trays
Tinker trays are also a favorite activity of mine because you do not need very many specific supplies. And yes, these trays are a great way to use up odds and ends of whatever supplies you have handy.
There are a few items I try to always have for tinker trays. These include but are not limited to:
- Glue/Glue Sticks
- Construction Paper
These items are usually necessary to create some sort of project and so I just set them out every time. (If you are looking for what to have at home to do science, check out this list: Supplies for At-Home Science Learning.)
Now let’s dive into different ways to bring this tray to life.
Nature Flower Tinker Tray
The idea behind this try is to use materials from nature. Well, mainly materials from nature. Depending on the time of year and your climate, it might make sense to add in a few regular craft items too.
Here are some suggestions to put in your tray.
- Flower Petals
- Twigs of varying sizes
- Rocks of varying sizes
- Dirt or Sand
- Seed Pods
- Wood Chips
Obviously this isn’t an exhaustive list, but it is a good start.
This tray can be even more fun if you take your children out hunting for supplies too. Grab a bucket and take a nature walk, picking up fun items that you find. Once you get home you can put them in your tray and create new art at home!
(Get tips on how to contain mess when doing sensory play here: Mess-Free Sensory Play.)
Hardware Flower Tinker Tray
This is a fun one. Take hardware items from your toolkit or workspace and add them to your tray.
(Note: Of course make sure your child doesn’t try to swallow or stick any of the materials into their nose or something. Yes, this is true of all these trays. But these small materials can be especially tempting.)
Here are some fun ideas to put in your hardware tinker tray.
- Paper Clips
- Pieces of Wire
- Wood Scraps
- Old Keys
- Rubber Bands
Turning these tools and office supplies into flowers or a garden creates a really interesting visual image. It’s a fun challenge to turn these un-flower-like items into something we see in nature.
(Want to know why the scientific method is so valuable for kids? Read this: Life Lessons from the Scientific Method.)
Recycled Materials Tinker Tray
You don’t need to buy anything to make a fun tinker tray. Just used recycled materials you have around your house.
Okay, this one can work well if you put in a little pre-planning and save items a few weeks ahead of time. It’s worth it to set aside a few items leading up to this tray. But, if you are like me, you can probably dig up a pretty fun tray on the spot too.
Here are a few ideas to get your recycled materials tinker tray started.
- Old Magazines
- Toilet Paper Rolls
- Paper Towel Rolls
- Pouch Caps
- Milk Jug Lids/Orange Juice Lids
- Rinsed Out Cans
- Old Envelopes
- Twist Ties
- Scraps of Foil or Parchment Paper
This is a great way to take what would normally be thrown out and turn it into art. It also creates an easy way to talk about the importance of recycling and keeping our planet clean.
(Learn why sensory play is a must for kids here: Big Benefits of Sensory Play.)
You have got to try these fun activities!
Tinker Tray Learning
So these are cool and all, but what makes a tinker tray a valuable learning activity? Isn’t it just another craft project?
No, it isn’t your usual craft project. It works in a slightly different way to encourage creative thinking and problem-solving.
The goal of a tinker tray isn’t to introduce a specific craft. You simply put out the supplies and your child decides what to create!
Yes, you can give a prompt at times. These trays have prompts included with them. We also do trays without a prompt, just letting the kids create whatever comes to mind.
If you give a prompt try to stick to a theme or main idea. There are no specifics or step-by-step instructions for how to put the project together. This is free creativity for your children. And it’s amazing to see what they come up with.
There is a challenge that goes along with the creativity. Your child is limited to the tinker tray items (and basics mentioned earlier.) This is the challenge of being creative within your limits.
Yes, working within limits is important for creativity and builds problem-solving skills! In life, we often have to make do and find solutions with what we have in front of us. We don’t have endless dream supplies. So this sort of tray is good practice in working with what you have.
There is an element of process art in this project too. In process art, the focus is on the creation, the process. We don’t care as much about the end results. Your child’s final product won’t be perfect. And it isn’t supposed to look like anything specific.
The goal is to enjoy the process and let your child really experience the art making.
You can learn more about the importance of process art here: Process Art for Kids.
Flower Tinker Tray Fun
Once you start doing tinker trays you will find more and more fun ideas for them. So which one are you going to try first?
Let’s find your next fun activity!!
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