Valentine Tinker Tray: a STEM Activity for Kids
- Ages: Toddler, Preschool, PreK
- Difficulty: Easy
- Learning: Engineering, Problem Solving, Process Art
Call them crafter trays, creative trays, creator trays, ways to keep your kids busy, or anything else. Tinker trays are super fun and great for kids.
Tinker trays give kids a creative STEM challenge, what can they make? This is an open-ended invitation to play that challenges kids to work with the supplies given. And they are a great way to use up odds and ends of supplies you have around.
These trays can be anything, but they can also be super cute with a theme. This time we are going with a love theme. Think love monsters, love robots, hearts, red, pink, and more.
Here is how to make a Valentine Tinker Tray.
What's In This Post?
Valentine Tinker Tray
Tinker trays are a ton of fun. And they are so easy to put together. Seriously, get rid of any idea that you need just the right items to make this work. The point is for kids to be creative with what they are given.
So whatever you have available it perfect. And your kids will love it.
Supplies for Valentine Tinker Tray
Here are some suggestions for supplies for your tinker tray. Let’s start with the basics for any tinker tray, regardless of the theme.
- Craft sticks
- Puff Balls
- Googly Eyes
- Pipe Cleaners
- Paper/Construction Paper
- Play Dough
- Bottle Caps/Pouch Caps
- Washers and Screws
Since we are focusing on Valentine’s Day with this particular tinker tray, here is a list of suggestions that focus on more love and heart themes.
- Red, Pink, or White Play Dough
- Heart Stickers
- Cupid Stickers
- Heart Beads
- Paper Doilies
- Red Paper Cups
- Washi Tape
- Heart Cookie Cutters
The options are really only limited by your imagination. (And what you have handy.) Don’t overthink the filling of your tray.
How To Set Up Your Valentine’s Tinker Tray
While the supply ideas for a tinker tray are endless, you don’t actually have to put out all of them. I like to choose a few themed out items and then keep a few standards available. The standards are things like construction paper, scissors, tape/glue, crayons, etc. Things you would use in an average craft project.
Then toss in the themed items. So in this case things like red pipe cleaners, Valentine stickers, heart stamps, red playdough, and heart cookie cutters.
It’s fun to set up your items in a cute little tray for your kids. I know this because I have a tray with different sections that is great for a tinker tray. (I got it at the dollar store.) But you don’t need that. Just place your items on the table. If you are looking to keep them separate Tupperware containers work great.
Once you have your items set out, let your kids play!
Hands Off Activity
Tinker trays are a great activity to be hands-off as a parent. The goal is for your kids to create and explore with the items available to them.
When we do creative trays like this I am nearby in case they need help (opening something, peeling a sticker, etc.) but I try not to interfere too much. I just admire their creations.
Despite the goal of letting your kids use their imaginations, sometimes they need a little boost. And to change things up sometimes I just give a theme with the tray. Here are some suggestions to try out, with a Valentine theme of course.
- Can you make a love monster?
- Can you make a Valentine’s Day robot?
- Craft the ultimate Valentine.
- Make a pretend Valentine cookie or cake.
- Can you make a statue that represents love?
- How tall of a creation can you make?
- How tiny of a creation can you make?
- Can you make a Valentine car or plane?
- What would a love alien look like?
These are just a few suggestions. As I said, the goal is to let your kids create whatever comes to mind. But it can be helpful to have a few ideas to kick off the creative process.
More Fun Activities To Try Out!
What Learning Is Going On Here?
A big perk of this activity is that the goal is to be hands-off as a parent. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t some serious learning going on.
The most obvious learning is that this is an exercise in creative thinking. Some children excel at this. They can take a stick and turn it into a million things. Some children need a little bit of a push, and this sort of activity builds those creative muscles.
Having the freedom to create without worrying about a final product helps kids focus on the process of creation. There isn’t a wrong way to make something when you don’t have a specific final goal in mind.
(Learn more about how important process art is and get fun activities to try here: Process Art for Kids)
Creative Problem Solving
Problem-solving is an important life skill. And while having the freedom to create anything is wonderful, we don’t always have unlimited supplies.
Tinker trays are full of fun things to use, but your children will be challenged to work with what they are given. So if they want to make a car but don’t have any wheels, can they make them with the items available?
Sometimes in life we need to work within the parameters given, and this exercises that.
Any time your child does a hands-on project they get the chance to work on motor skills. Cutting and coloring, shaping play dough, gluing, shaping pipe cleaners. These are all important ways to boost fine and gross motor skills.
Tinker Tray Fun!
I hope this inspires you to put together a tinker tray for your little Valentine’s. We love this activity and find it is a great way to add an easy creative challenge to any holiday.
Let’s Find Your Next Fun Activity!
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