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Friday, August 21, 2015

Tinkering Tots! 7 Ways That Play Helps Kids Grow into Thinkers and Inventors

Photo by Pascal (Flickr)

When you consider the great thinkers and inventors of all time, who comes to mind? I think of philosophers like Plato and Ayn Rand and inventors like Marie Curie and Thomas Edison, but plenty of kid inventors also come to mind. Maybe one day, my own girls and your kids, too, will join the list of greats. There's no better time than childhood to hone their thinking and innovating skills, thanks to these fun play ideas.

Building Blocks

Blocks are a basic toy most kids enjoy. I know my girls like building houses, garages, and towers with large blocks and Legos. I've also noticed that in addition to having fun, my girls learn persistence, physics, how to break large tasks into manageable pieces, and patience when they play with blocks. Those lessons are all traits that thinkers and inventors have in common.


On the playground, my curious kids are always looking for new and fun ways to use the equipment. The jungle gym helps them escape from zombies, and the slides transform into enemy castles they can conquer. Even playing with other kids helps my girls become more flexible in their thinking, and those creative, imaginative, and problem-solving skills shape their ability to think and invent.


If you think art is useful to express creativity, you're right! I've watched my girls spend hours drawing pictures and choosing colors that move the image in their mind onto paper. By persevering until the project is complete, mixing colors to make new shades, and trying different media, art also becomes a wonderful way for kids to practice creativity and express themselves.


I get so excited when my girls and their friends decide to put on a play. They write the script, set up the props, and dress their parts. Watching them work through the process reminds me of how role-playing builds thinkers and inventors. After all, it takes creativity, flexibility, problem-solving, and imagination to put on a play, invent new technology, or cure cancer!


Do you think of teamwork when you think of inventors? Orville and Wilbur Wright worked together to build the first in-flight airplane, and every great thinker needs a teacher. Our kids also need to learn teamwork and collaboration, which they can do when they play sports. Sports also teach kids to make decisions, be confident, and persevere as they train to become thinkers and inventors.

Modeling Clay

It's hard to imagine that one tiny ball of modeling clay can teach our kids so many valuable lessons, but I've watched it in action. In addition to helping my girls express themselves, clay play helps them hone their mechanical skills and learn to cooperate as a team. Even the acts of concentrating while following a pattern, restarting a project that didn't work right the first time, or waiting for clay to dry prepares our kids for their future.

Obstacle Course- and Fort-Building

Have you ever watched your kids try to build an obstacle course or fort? I know my girls spend more time building it than actually playing in it because they have to come up with just the right design and then figure out how to get all of the parts to fit together. Those engineering, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills all help our kids succeed in life.

Maybe our kids will grow up to become the great thinkers and inventors of their generation. Or maybe they'll become influential teachers, architects, politicians, or parents. No matter what the future holds, out kids need to play. It teaches them important skills that prepare them for their future. How will you encourage your tinkering tots today?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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