I missed the boat on sensory bins. By the time I saw them on Pinterest, my kids were in grade school. The same goes with Reggio Emilia-style loose parts. It was a total bummer when I stumbled onto this learning style because my kids were no longer preschool age.
During this same time, I was also learning as much as I could about the maker movement and various types of maker spaces — both in school classrooms as well as in libraries. The concept — a combination of the old-school high school ‘shop’ class, hi-tech learning toys, and low-tech ‘hand’ skills — intrigued me. I read everything and anything I could. I squirreled away articles and pinned images to my personal boards like crazy.
Our life before homeschooling included heavy involvement in the PTA and, when I became PTA President at a STEM-based charter school, I actually took all my knowledge and built a maker space in one of the empty classrooms. We had magnetic marble runs, LEGO tables, Tegu blocks, a sewing machine, circuitry kits, robot parts, art supplies and so much more. The maker space opened the minds of a lot of students, parents, and teachers to the possibilities of the maker movement and, I hope, changed the trajectory of at least one child’s career. If you want to learn more about it, you can read more here and print a pdf shopping list here. It was an amazing place that I knew my family would miss as we started our homeschooling journey.
One day, I was listening to my husband complain about what he perceived to be unused blocks in the upstairs closet and the beading project that was still on the kitchen table for the 3rd day in a row when it hit me: my kids play with toys, particularly little toys, when they are out and on display and visible — gasp — just like loose parts, just like sensory bins. When things are out, their interest is piqued. When things are boxed up, they collect dust.
It dawned on me that I could put it all together. Sensory bins didn’t *have* to stop in pre-school. Loose parts could work for *any* age. A maker space could fit in one’s home.
Enter the Tinker Table: a collection of rotating items designed to encourage creativity, a maker mindset, and curiosity. I use the console table in our front hall and change the display out every two weeks or so based on a specific theme. Things are out. Curiosity is piqued. Success.
So far, it’s working for us. I hope the idea sparks creativity in your family as well.