Isn’t it incredible to think how much technology has evolved over the past 20 years? Or even the past 5 years. So much has changed in the world of machinery and gadgets. Cameras, iPads, phones, computers, VCRs, household appliances, TVs, the list goes on.

It doesn’t seem all that long ago that we used a roll of film in a camera. Only 24 photos per roll, and having to wait for the film to be processed always seemed to take forever. Now, we photograph everything, picking the best and deleting the rest. Even the idea of using a camera is becoming less and less common. We just whip out our smart phones and take a photo instead!

Science, curiosity and investigation in your classroom

It’s interesting to consider that many of the children we teach in our early childhood classrooms may not be familiar with technology and appliances that they don’t use often. That’s why I love the idea of a tinkering workshop in the classroom. Not only does promote an interest in science, inspire curiosity and encourage investigation, but it also gives children an opportunity to see how technology has evolved over the years. Children have the chance to use real tools, higher-order thinking is encouraged, plus, there’s something very satisfying about pulling things apart! Once an item has been deconstructed, the children have some interesting loose parts  to use. Or, they can try to put the appliance back together again. The possibilities are endless, and a tinkering workshop is great way to breathe new life into a piece of junk that may have been destined for the rubbish.

What to put in your tinkering workshop?


Begin by stocking the area with real tools – screw drivers, spanners, pliers, allen keys, hammers etc. It doesn’t matter if the tools don’t match the item that the children will be pulling apart. Part of the process is discovering which tools are best for the job! Don’t forget safety items like goggles, ear protectors and hard hats too. Displaying some safety signs will also make your tinkering workshop more authentic. You could also add some drawing supplies in case the children want to record what they’re doing. Incorporate literacy by adding books to the area, such as See Inside How Things Work .

Lastly, have some empty containers nearby for the children to use when removing screws, wires, and other components. That way, you’re helping them to keep the space organised, and also encouraging maths skills such as sorting and categorising too.

Here are just a few ideas for old items that can be taken apart and investigate:

  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Toaster
  • Old plug-in phone
  • Alarm clock
  • Hair dryer
  • Computer keyboard
  • Typewriter
  • VCR
  • Radio
  • Old camera

Let’s start deconstructing!


Spark the children’s curiosity by ‘wondering out aloud’ with the children. If you’ve put an old alarm clock in the workshop, you can  ask questions like “I wonder what it is? How does it work? What’s inside? What might this part do?”. It won’t be long before the children begin opening, closing, pulling, twisting and experimenting with the tools take the item apart. The best part about tinkering and deconstructing is that it’s open-ended and child-directed, so the children can take their investigations in an direction they choose.


A word about safety…

Safety is an important consideration when introducing a tinkering workshop in your classroom. Involve the children in discussions about wearing safety equipment (eg, goggles), and only deconstructing equipment that is in the tinkering workshop. You could even put a special tag on the item – similar to what might be used when you put an item to get fixed in a repair shop.


Until next time…have fun tinkering!




This article was written by Wenone Hope (Blue Mountains, Australia).


Wenone was born and raised in the farming region of Wagga Wagga, Australia. She now finds herself teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) in the Czech Republic.  A teacher for 12 years, she has a background in Early Childhood Education and has also done postgraduate studies in Special Education and Early Intervention. Wenone is an Early Childhood Consultant at Lipa Learning, and has also been a Preschool Educational Leader in the Blue Mountains and a Primary School Educational Director in Canberra, Australia.   She’s an advocate for inclusive education, where diversity in the classroom (and life!) is celebrated.  When she’s not in the classroom, she’s out in nature, playing roller-derby, traveling, or enjoying a good book.