Today we got out our Tinker Trays and had a bit of a play with them. What on earth is at tinker tray, I hear you ask? Well I first stumbled across them a few years ago, whilst scrolling Facebook (see, all the mindless scrolling IS good sometimes). When I saw what they were all about, my occupational therapist brain just LIT UP – wow, perfect fine motor activity! Also, my Mama brain lit up too – YES, an easy (free!) activity that engages the kids? Yes please!
This is the original post that I read about them, from Mericherry.com. The more you read about tinker trays, I think the more you’ll want to give them a go. You’ll see that there’s so many benefits for kids from playing around with them, such as:
- open ended play
- colour recognition
- fine motor skills, particularly pincer grip
- scanning (developing the visual field)
- sustained attention (being able to maintain attention over a prolonged period)
- figure ground (being able to discern an object or shape from it’s background)
My eldest child (now 4.5 years) has been into these for a few years now. He’s always been a child who’s had an eye for minute details, so this activity suited him down to a tee. We would use these while his little brother was having a nap, while I attempted to have a cup of tea in (relative) peace.
We have created our tinker trays from objects found around the house, and on nature walks (you know how they pick up random stones all the time?! Take them home for your tinker tray!). I’m all about making things easy for myself, so although I’d love a nice wooden tray that looks good in photos, we suffice with egg trays, haha! It’s still a good way to store little bits n pieces, and the kids don’t know any different. You can see that one egg tray happens to have wee holes in the divides, which is actually REALLY good for poking little pieces of pipe cleaner or trumpet shells into.
The little silver tray I put beside the trays. I just picked that up at a second hand shop and it creates a nice space to make patterns on or just drop the bits and pieces onto, exploring what kinds of noises they make. You could get into all sorts of play with your child here, such as pattern repetition for example. For now, I prefer to let my kids have free play with this and see where it takes us.
Of course I like to have a play too, which helps me to slow down a bit and connect with my kids. Here’s a mandala pattern I created earlier on today:
You might like to have an agreement with your kids about the use of tinker trays, to avoid a giant mess all over the floor. Our agreement has been:
“Tinker trays only come out when the baby is in bed, and all of the pieces must remain on the table, otherwise they’ll be put away”
This rule has been relaxed a little (we now play with them on the floor as well), but they still must treat them with respect i.e. no throwing the pieces.
Mericherry has another post which talks about extending play using tinker trays, e.g. with play dough etc, so I think we’ll be taking our play further too.
Happy tinkering! Rach.