Having a toddler follow you around and wanting take part and help in all of your activities can be a challenge. Every time I am fixing something; changing a light bulb or installing a new smoke detector my little guy wants to help. A few months ago I assembled a toolbox for him; it has wooden and plastic tools in it like a screw driver, hammer and a pair of pliers. His toolbox has only made him wanting to participate in the tasks even more, anytime I have a repair task he runs to his room saying “wait Daddy, I will get my tools”. As a father I always try to maintain a high level of patience, if my little guy shows an interest in something I try my best to encourage his interests.
One afternoon it was just daddy and boy time, I thought that I would attempt to build a piece of Ikea furniture during this time as a surprise for my wife. Building Ikea furniture can be a mindboggling and frustrating activity without having a toddler trying to help you. I proceeded as usual by organizing the similar looking parts into piles and organizing all of the fasteners into individual piles. My toddler insisted on reorganizing all of my piles and trying, what seemed to be a way to disrupt my plans. As I began building the frame my frustration grew because of missing parts and tools, I noticed him pushing on two pieces trying to separate them. My patience level had finally deteriorated until I behaved in a way that I am ashamed of. As I reflect on that moment in time, I find myself embarrassed in the way that I responded to a curious mind that was only looking to be satisfied. My reflection has brought me to a point where I wonder about the importance of tinkering.
What the heck is tinkering? The Macmillan Dictionary defines tinkering; to make small changes to something in order to improve or repair it. I can’t help but wonder if I let my boy tinker with stuff what skills will he develop. I stumbled across the blog post Tinkering by More Good Days – Parenting Blog; in this blog post it states that people who were allowed to tinker as children often become engineers, scientists, chefs, woodworkers, architects, computer designers, graphic artists, fashion designers, and builders. I can’t help but agree with this theory, some of the best life skills that I learned were in my school shop class.
Now that I have had this revelation, how should I respond? All of my household chores and repairs have a provision for my little guy to participate. This could be as simple as him touching his screwdriver on the head of a screw, hammering a nail or passing me materials. My tasks take a little longer but at the end there are two satisfied people, sometimes my wife is also satisfied depending on the quality of workmanship we accomplish. The best part is that I am inspiring and feeding a creative mind and we get to bond.
I plan to take the tinkering process deeper when my little guy is older. I recently discovered Tinkering School, a place where children are allowed to tinker and make things. My little guy will be visiting Tinkering School when he is five years old.
Another way to inspire creativity and tinkering is to assemble a tinkering box. This could as simple as the toolbox that I mentioned or having a box full of various things like fasteners, rope and wooden blocks. A few weeks ago my little guy and I went to a hardware store; the purpose of this trip was to gather items that we could use for tinkering. I went to the fastener section and choose various bolts and hooks that I thought would inspire curiosity. Our next stop was the isle that stocked the rope and straps; I let him choose some rope, chain and straps. Our final stop was in the lumber yard; my plan was to choose various sizes of wood that we could cut into different sizes of blocks. The walk through the lumber yard proved to be an interesting time; we witnessed a forklift loading a truck, had a chat with the yard man and discussed the purpose of fence posts. When we arrived home I dug out my skill saw; this exploded into a process of him helping me measure and mark the blocks and a discussion of safety. I can’t help but wonder how exciting it must have been for him to hear the saw, watch the wood be cut and see the saw dust flying everywhere. I realized that the process of gathering parts for our tinkering box was just as exciting of a learning process as playing with the actual tinkering box materials. In a blog post by Lemon Lime Adventures, Dayna discusses how a box of materials can inspire imagination and creativity.
Our children are capable of creating and doing amazing things; we just need to let them be creative. It is our job as fathers to inspire creativity and imaginations.
The blog post by Lemon Lime Adventures discussing a Tinkering Box can be found here
The blog post by More Good Days – Parenting Blog about Tinkering can be found here
More information about Tinkering School can be found here