Saturday, December 31, 2016

Robot Tinkering Kit

My boys and I had fun pulling together Loose Parts Robot Tinkering Kits for a swap at The Seasonal Classroom earlier in 2016. Each person made 3-5 Loose Parts kits (with some regulations) and another kit of the host. We each shipped them to a central spot where they were divvied out (listening to our preferences) and received different sets back.

To make our kit, we recycled some pieces from a friend (eyeballs!), went to our local ReStore shop for odds and ends, and then rounded out our kit with some wooden pieces and discarded CDs. We decided to paint the popsicle sticks, wooden block, and CDs a turquoise color to help pull the colors together a bit. At ReStore, one of our local recycle type stores, we looked for bags of hardware and other items that had many items for an inexpensive amount. We also looked for different textures and shapes. We also used the pay by the pound section that had all kinds of nuts, bolts, and other options.
As we finished our kits, we put in some corks (from my great friend!), computer keys, wooden discs, bottle caps, a laminated robot printout, and a storage box. 

Honestly, we actually separated some colorful wires from my husband as another add in and added more "stuff" from my great friend. She saw what we were doing and donated more things. She's on a mission to keep things out of the landfill!

While it was fun to pull it together, we also had fun playing with the kits! Here were some creations, adding a few other items such as a tree cookie, and a pie plate. 


I think the kits ended up to be a great mix of items and gave us opportunities for plenty of play! We also added in play dough, giving even more options! I liked the play dough gave us something to "stick" our items in as we made sculptures. It became temporary glue while we created. 

We also liked all the textures the various items created--this was fun to explore! 

Tips for creating your own Loose Parts Kit:
  1. Think outside of the "box". What items might go together well? Are there different combinations
  2. Consider your sources of items. Where can you find inexpensive items? Do you have a local recycle shop? Friends that are decluttering? What do you have on hand that you can recycle as well? Are there basics you might include?
  3. Decide on a theme. Choosing the robot tinkering theme really helped us think of items specific for this rather than just loose parts in general. Obviously we love loose parts and enjoyed a more specific challenge. 
  4. Consider safety. We made this for ages 5-10. There are smaller parts (fine for this age), but didn't want too many sharp points. There are a few, but they have a unique structure around them. 
  5. Add on specialty items. What might round out the kit? While some thought it necessary, the robot mat became a great spot to start--I saw lots of creativity there! The wires (not pictured) were a whimsical touch that cost us nothing but a little time. The addition of the play dough, tree cookie, and other items really were nice touches. These are things we use for other projects that we could borrow while we were creating our robot tinkering sculptures. 
  6. Containerize it. Having a container to put it all in is great! We can grab and go. The items are protected. Everything stays together! 
  7. Add a book! If gifting something like this, consider adding a book on robots and/or loose parts/tinkering to go with the kit. Here is a popular list of Loose Parts Inspired Books that I compiled. Listed below are some robot titles to pair with it as well. 
  8. Play with the kit! I think part of the fun in sharing kits like this is the time we get to spend together making memories and trying new things. Most children want our time. Taking some time out to create and explore alongside a child is priceless! 

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