We've been playing and experimenting at Grammy and Papa's house this week, with the help of a few cousins. We've had fun splashing, hiking, dancing, singing, swimming, making a bit of recycled music, blowing corks off of bottles with vinegar and baking soda, laughing, wrestling, building, stick collecting, and even a few moments of quiet contemplation.
What's more? Grammy and Papa are cleaning out cupboards and giving away a few items that no longer have practical use for them. Oh yippee! The kids couldn't be happier with their new gadgets.
Here's a little piece about some creative exploration with the gadgets you might have hanging around...
The Science of Creatively Experimenting Around the House
gadget: \ ˈga-jət\ n. a device or an appliance that has a useful specific practical purpose and function, but is often thought of as a novelty.
Gadgets, the devices we stock our homes and garages with to somehow make our lives easier or simply more fun, may be considered novelties, but they surely have a necessary place in the home and learning environment of a child. From simple exploration and tinkering to inventing and creating anew, gadgets and their intended (or unintended) uses offer an outlet for thinking and expression to emerge and bloom. In fact, in the life of a child, this kind of play can be referred to as its very own science: Gadgetology.
The Science of Gadget Exploration
Like any science, Gadgetology begins in the home with pure and simple exploration, the foundation for developing a creative thinker. Without the investigation into materials, possibilities, and imagination, it is difficult for that creativity to emerge and then fully develop. In order to encourage that exploratory nature in our children, we must begin with the environment in which our children spend most of their time, the home. Within the home, we find many opportunities for exploring, tinkering, taking things apart, putting them back together in new ways, understanding their functions, and perhaps even making up new functions. From gear functions to exploring what floats and sinks, common “gadgety” household items offer many opportunities for science and scientific experimenting to emerge naturally. How do the items move? Do they float or sink? Can light pass through it?
Let children explore with combs and brushes, recycled materials such as paper towel or toilet paper rolls, and pieces of wire to see what they might invent. Keep magnifying glasses and magnets around and easily accessible for children to peek under the table, Offer mirrors for child to peer at teeth, check out an elbow, or see the back of a knee. And then use mirrors further to see patterns or make your own Fun House. If you have a piano or other musical instruments around, open them up while playing so that children make investigate the inner workings of how the music is made. Walkie-talkies are one of the best childhood gadgets that allow children to keep you close while playing on the other side of the house while you do laundry and cook supper. Do you have an old computer, keyboard, or television, in your attic? Allow your child to explore its insides, take the pieces apart, put it back together, or use the parts for a new invention. Clocks of all types offer a wonderful opportunity for children to exploring the passage of time and incorporate it into their play. Especially fun for children are simple stopwatches that let them time see how long it takes for their ball to roll across the floor, or explore how many times they can jump in a minute.
The kitchen is the ultimate gadget friendly space; it offers a wide variety of tools for different purposes, which move in a multitude of ways. Allow children to explore with all types of kitchen gadgets such as funnels, colanders, measuring cups, sifters, or peelers. Let them explore color by using a tea strainer and all different types of loose tea. Easy enough for even young children to operate with guidance, an apple-corer-peeler-slicer is our favorite kitchen gadget. As the crank is turned, it offers lessons unparalleled. Children explore their apple being, just as its name implies, cored, peeled, and sliced, a fascinating process as it happens all simultaneously.
Even things you wouldn’t necessarily think of as gadgets, such as forks or bamboo skewers, can become a wonderful exploration tool for children as they use them to make a grand sculpture. And don’t be afraid to take your kitchen items into your art room or even in the tub. Potato mashers are wonderful tools to explore with out of the kitchen. Dip them in paint and see what kind of interesting patterns you can make. Explore a simple whisk, or a rotary hand blender, and make a bath full of bubbles become even bubblier.
Gadgets on the Go
Being on the go, in the car or in a bike trailer, can sometimes be monotonous for children. Provide a basket, box, or bag with exploratory, gadget-y items to take along on simple outings or long trips. Possible on-the-go gadgets include: a magnifying glass, binoculars, a simple fold out telescope, magnets and magnetic objects, a small jar of dough or modeling clay, a harmonica, and a kaleidoscope. If you can, also consider keeping a tray in your car or bike trailer to provide a usable workspace while you are on the go.
So here you go… Explore your world, your wonder, your home, and the gadgets you find there! Investigate the unknown regions of the mind, creativity, and all the treasures hidden in your closets, bookcases, and cupboards. Have a novel good time!
Ginger Carlson, author