How To Incorporate Tinker & Maker Materials Into Your Art Space

Art spaces for kids are places of exploration, investigation, discovery, and creation. It’s important not to limit your materials to only art supplies (especially for kids over age 3), but to offer them a variety of materials to enhance their learning experience.

Tinkering = To mess around with, to improve, to repair

Maker = Someone who constructs, builds, produces, invents, designs

A great way to offer kids the opportunity to tinker and make things is to have tinker trays on display (like the one in the photo above) and to have building materials and kid-sized real tools. If your art space is not a good place to introduce certain tools (such as a hammer), maybe you can have them available outside once in a while. Think about what tools you’re comfortable with in your art space and start with that. As your kids get older and learn how to use the tools and materials in a respectful way, you can slowly add more advanced options.

Ever since Karuna (my 9-year-old) was a toddler, our art space has included some basic maker tools like a low temp hot glue gun and scissors along with lots of materials for construction. Because my girls have always been so engrossed in arts and crafts, I had forgotten to introduce more advanced tinkering and maker materials into our art space over the yeas. As I’ve been helping other families bring more of these materials into their art spaces, I realized that it’s time I do the same for my girls.

Set Up A Prompt

Last week I set up an Invitation To Create and the girls found it on the table the following morning. They’re currently obsessed with these small toys called “Num-Noms” and I thought I might inspire them to create something for their Num-Noms by setting out some recycled materials, duct tape, and scissors with the Num-Noms lined up in front. As I slept that morning, they found the materials on the table and got to work building a house and a pool for their toy (and I got to seep in!).

The next day they continued to work with the materials and Karuna had the idea to make a candy truck with the box that was once a pool. She wasn’t sure how to add functioning wheels, so she asked me for help and we sat down and tinkered together. As the the three of us messed around with the materials to see what might work, Ora came up with the idea to add a chopstick to separate the wheels from the box. She was so proud that her idea ended up working!

We all played a part in figuring out how to make a functioning truck out of a cardboard box, cardboard cylinders, chopsticks, and duct tape. It was a collaborative maker experience that evolved from a simple prompt.

Make Room For New Supplies

Since then, I’ve collected some new tinkering and maker materials to add to the art space and am excited to see how the girls will engage with the new materials.


Because our art space was already full of supplies I didn’t want to try to cram in these new materials and have it feel overwhelming. Instead, I made room by removing a few things that haven’t been used for a while and stored them away until it’s time to rotate them back in.

When we offer kids real tools to work with, we are showing them that their art space is not just for play, but for truly making and building anything they can imagine. We are showing them that we value their work, that we trust them, and that we believe in them as makers and artists. The design and weight of real tools also help kids develop stronger fine motor skills and self-confidence.  If you’re thinking about adding real tools to your art space, try to get ones that fit their size, so your kids can use them comfortably (see my resource guide below).

Resources To Get You Started

If you’re interested in adding tinker and maker materials to your art space, I’ve gathered some of my favorite resources for you in a PDF. It includes clickable links to tinker trays, books, and child-sized tools, as well as a list of ideas for materials.

This was recently created for my Design Camp participants, but I’ve decided to offer it to you as a gift so you can get more tinkering and making going on in your art space!


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