Since my Inventor’s Box Play Date post has been so popular, a lot of people have asked me what exactly is in our inventor’s box and how they can get started setting one up themselves.
So here it is: the Inventor’s Box 101. Enjoy!
Everyone Loves the Inventor’s Box
The inventor’s box must be one of our biggest discoveries of the past few years. Never before have I come across a “toy” that is as self sufficient, ever changing and always popular as the inventor’s box. We are huge fans, all four of us.
Just in case this is the first time you’ve read about the inventor’s box, let me quickly explain:
An inventor’s box is a box filled with recyclables which the children can use to create just about anything. There’s nothing like self directed play with loose parts to sharpen your children’s problem solving skills, build resilience and encourage their creative thinking.
There are many different ways to put together an inventor’s box. It all depends on your children’s interests and what materials you have available to you.
Let me show you what’s in our inventor’s box. You can have a little poke around and be inspired to run around your own home, garage, local thrift and craft stores to stock up on supplies.
What’s in the Inventor’s Box?
Heaps! There are so many things that live in our inventor’s box that I thought I’d break it down in three parts for you. Recyclables will be the bulk of your inventor’s box’ content. You’ll need craft supplies for adding some nifty details. And you’ll need work materials to cut things up and then tape or glue them back together again.
Recyclables are literally anything that we would otherwise throw in our recycling bag. On the image above you’ll notice items like the trusted toilet paper roll, cardboard boxes, plastic screw caps, lids, plastic containers, left over cups from our birthday party, a piece of inner tube from my husband’s bike, chop sticks, some items from the toy we took apart the other day and a few other bits and pieces.
The content of our inventor’s box varies regularly, depending on what we’ve been up to. The content of your inventor’s box will depend on the type of groceries you buy, the hobbies you have and whatever other recyclables you happen to come across.
Since our inventor’s box moved into it’s designated place in the craft cupboard, my preschooler will often tell me to put a certain item in there. “Don’t throw that out, I’m going to use that!” It’s great for the environment and it’s great to get your children into hoarding craft supplies at an early age. (Just kidding. Sort of!)
My daughter (who is four years old) is at times more into making things pretty than she is into building things. So in our family it is very important to add some craft supplies like glitter, stickers and sharpies to the mix.
I am sure that you will find many other things to be a useful and fun addition to your inventor’s box. And when you do, let me know!
You’ll be needing things to work with. Children are going to want to cut up the cardboard, open up those plastic bottles, attach things together, make holes in random places and have unreasonable requests. “Mommy, I need your help to get this to be like this.” “Ok, let’s try and make that work.”
It’s good to have as many different materials available as you can. Children like having options, I like having options. It’s also a great opportunity for little people to learn how to safely work with scissors and low heat glue guns.
Be sure to always supervise your children though and make your own informed decisions regarding access to work materials depending on your child’s age and capabilities.
How to play with the Inventor’s Box?
There is no ‘one way’ to play with an inventor’s box. Ideally you’d simply open up the box and leave the children explore and experiment with it’s contents.
But sometimes children could use a little help to get started and sometimes it’s just plain fun to do something a little different.
You could give children certain challenges, like building a robot or space ship. You could also challenge children to build something practical they could put to use like a bird feeder. Or you could challenge children to make a boat that will float which you then can test on a nearby stream or in the bath tub.
You could let children come up with their own challenges, write them down and randomly hand out the cards.
Then there are spacial challenges like building the longest, highest, smallest, … who knows what. Children could work on this individually or in group.
I am just making this all up on the spot here. You could do anything you like and I’m sure you’ll find some more inspiration when you think about your children’s interests.
Have FUN with your Inventor’s Box!
There is so much fun to be had with this loose parts play activity. You can easily keep tinkering away throughout the years and children might never get bored of their inventor’s box as it’s content will always change. Plus you can down size the inventor’s box and put together a little portable tinker box like we did here.
If you’re looking for some more information on playing with loose parts, you could read my post on the theory of loose parts and how to get started with loose parts at home. And have a look here at our other loose parts creative play ideas.
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