Book Review :: Tinkering – Kids Learn by Making Stuff

In an effort to utilize my librarian background, I am embarking on a series of book reviews, to be published every Friday. These reviews will cover science education books for and about children, as well as reality-based children’s books for a Montessori lifestyle.

Tinkering by Curt Gabrielson“It is sad to think that perhaps it is not the norm but rather something rare and special to see joyful kids learning.” -Curt Gabrielson

I am fresh off of the completion of my Coursera course on tinkering and feeling rather fired about this topic. Recently, a friend gave me Curt Gabrielson’s book, Tinkering: Kids Learn by Making Stuff. It’s part of the Make Magazine series of books and I happily dived in to see what he had to say.

As with many of the books on tinkering that I have come across, there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence that making, tinkering and building provides educational value. I don’t doubt it and I think observation is an important scientific tool. But, if you are looking for research studies that equate tinkering with learning, check out a different book. This book is FULL of projects. Stuff you can build and then lay out the supplies for the kids to build too. Pages after pages of projects that Gabrielson and others have done with the Community Science Workshop network (out in California).

Picture from Tinkering by Curt GabrielsonYou won’t find any step by step instructions here, but there are a lot of pictures and some great advice about what you, as a facilitator, will need to help kids begin tinkering. They even offer some really great ideas on how to store and organize all of those things that crop up for a productive afternoon of tinkering. Although the pictures are grainy and only in black and white, the ideas are enough to get you started. With chapters on sound, magnetism, mechanics, electric circuits, chemistry, biology, and engineering (with a special emphasis on motors), the children in your life will be bugging you to try out some of these projects.

Parents – hand the book to your kids and let them choose a project each month or do some focused project-based tinkering. This is problem-solving at it’s core and they aren’t getting a lot of that in school.  Although, the environmental-minimalist in me is cringing at the thought of what to do with those finished projects, I know they are important. So we do them anyway. And, take many of them apart when we are finished.

boys tinkering in the workshop