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Why Tinkering is an Important Skill

December 04, 2023

by Maddy Coss, Program Development Manager, Imagination Station

Did you know that you are a natural-born tinkerer?

Tinker is a verb meaning to repair, adjust, or work with something in an unskilled or experimental manner. This definition states that when we tinker there is no expected outcome and no right or wrong way to do it. When children are given a space to tinker freely, their imagination is able to run wild and they can test all of the possibilities. These kinds of opportunities can create new learning connections, inspire unique solutions to problems and potentially change the world.

Tinkering with various materials and tools can generate, or strengthen, connections in the minds of young learners. While making and tinkering, they can test ideas that they are curious about just to see what happens. In doing so, they may discover how to turn on a light bulb using circuitry, or what items balance best to create a tall tower, they may even learn how to move an object across a room in a new way. This new knowledge is learned through experiences that will translate to many other real-world situations.

When children tinker, they are practicing skills and thought processes that are used by designers and engineers. They are asking questions, identifying problems, developing plans and creating solutions. This design process, especially in the mind of a young child, leads to unique solutions. The out-of-the-box thinking of a young child may be just what we need to solve a persistent problem.

Children have creativity, perseverance and the capability to do hard things. Making and tinkering allows them to cultivate these skills while embracing their curiosity in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM). With the STEAM field growing rapidly, we need our future leaders to step up and solve many problems we may not have the answers for yet.

Tinkering will help prepare our young people for the challenges that lie ahead. Who knows? They may even change the world.