Gift Guide

Tinkerlab: A Hands-On Guide for Little Inventors


55 playful experiments that encourage tinkering, curiosity, and creative thinking from the creator of—hands-on activities that explore art, science, and more.  For children two and up.

Kids are natural tinkerers. They experiment, explore, test, and play, and they learn a great deal about problem-solving through questions and hands-on experiments. They don't see lines between disciplines; rather, they notice interesting materials and ideas that are worth ...

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55 playful experiments that encourage tinkering, curiosity, and creative thinking from the creator of—hands-on activities that explore art, science, and more.  For children two and up.

Kids are natural tinkerers. They experiment, explore, test, and play, and they learn a great deal about problem-solving through questions and hands-on experiments. They don't see lines between disciplines; rather, they notice interesting materials and ideas that are worth exploring. This book is about creative experiments, in all fields, that help kids explore the world.

Children gravitate toward sensory experiences (playing with slime), figuring out how things work (taking toys apart), and testing the limits of materials (mixing a tray of paint together until it makes a solid mass of brown). They're not limited by their imaginations, and a wooden spoon can become a magic wand as quickly as a bag of pom-poms can become a hot bowl of soup. This book is about helping parents and teachers of babies, toddlers, and preschoolers understand and tap into this natural energy with engaging, kid-tested, easy-to-implement projects that value process over product. The creative experiments shared in this book foster curiosity, promote creative and critical thinking, and encourage tinkering—mindsets that are important to children growing up in a world that values independent thinking.

In addition to offering a host of activities that parents and teachers can put to use right away, this book also includes a buffet of recipes (magic potions, different kinds of play dough, silly putty, and homemade butter) and a detailed list of materials to include in the art pantry.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“I highly recommend Tinkerlab to any parent with young children! I read the book in one sitting (it was that well written) but know I will be referring back to it for years as I encourage my own daughters’ tinkering, experimenting, and creative development.”—Jean V’ant Hul, author of The Artful Parent
“I love Tinkerlab! This book is a glorious invitation for wonder and delight. The teacher in me respects the approach to creativity, process, and self-directed exploration. The mom in me is charmed by the easy-access of materials and projects. Fun! Fun! Fun!”—Lynn Brunelle, author of Pop Bottle Science

“Being playful and creative is such a vital necessity in today’s world!  As an arts educator and parent of a curious four-year-old, I greatly value and embrace the ‘tinkering mindset’ at the core of Doorley’s Tinkerlab.  What an exceptional resource for all ages as we work to include more creative experiences and explorations in our lives.”—Michael Murawski, PhD, Director of Education & Public Programs at the Portland Art Museum and Founder and Editor at

Library Journal
Scribblers and innovators will rejoice for Doorley's activity book—a full-color project guide for future artists, architects, and anyone who likes to create and tinker. Doorley (an arts educator, consultant, and host of the TinkerLab blog) believes that "at its core, tinkering begins with…problem solving or with a curiosity about how something works," and that when children "are encouraged to solve problems on their own, they learn a great deal through the questions and hands-on experiments that lead to a solution." Divided into four sections—Design, Build, Concoct, and Discover—the book begins with ideas for preparing space and purchasing and organizing materials, and includes parenting tips for fostering creativity and curiosity. VERDICT Young children will relish the projects provided here. From paper houses to marble runs to marker explosions, Doorley's designs have more of an engineering essence than those found in the standard arts and crafts book, and they will also take more preparation, but early educators, in particular, will delight in the volume's possibilities. For all budding inventors.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781611800654
  • Publisher: Shambhala Publications, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/10/2014
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 54,393
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

RACHELLE DOORLEY is an arts educator, community builder, and founder of the popular creativity blog Tinkerlab. She studied costume design at the University of California, Los Angeles, and worked on Hollywood films before finding her true calling as an arts educator. After teaching art in Los Angeles schools, Rachelle earned a master’s in arts education from Harvard, and then oversaw docent and education programs at the San Jose Museum of Art. Rachelle lives with her husband and her two curious daughters in the beautiful San Francisco Bay Area, where she leads workshops on visual thinking and hands-on creativity. Rachelle believes in finding fun and meaningful ways to make every day creative, and can often be found experimenting in her sketchbook, taking her kids on adventures, and asking lots of open-ended questions. Rachelle enjoys chai tea, hand-drawn letters, train travel, hikes in the woods, artist studios, and ocean air.

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Table of Contents

1. Creating Your Tinkerlab                                                        
Tips for Clearing Children’s Clutter by Jillian Maxim                       
What Nursery Schools Can Teach Us about Creative Invitations: An Interview with Nancy Howe                                                                           
2. Tools for Tinkering                                                                              
3. Ten Tinkerlab Habits of Mind                                                                          
4. Design                                                                                                    
Oh No, That’s Not Creative! by Jessica Hoffmann Davis                      
Experience #1: Circle Games                                           
Experience #2: Peel and Stick                                                                  
Experience #3: Glue, Glue, Glue                                                                        
Experience #4: Mark Outside the Box                                                       
Experience #5: Watercolor Exploration                                                         
Experience #6: Yes, You Can Paint on That!                                                 
Experience #7: Monoprints                                                                            
Experience #8: Bubble Prints                                                                            
Experience #9: Drawing Games                                                                
Experience #10: Draw What You See                                                                 
Experience #11: Art Dice                                                                        
Experience #12: Paint Experiments                                                    
Experience #13: Paste Paper                                                                              
10 Lessons the Arts Teach by Elliot Eisner                                         
Experience #14: Marbleized Paper with Paint and Oil                                              
Experience #15: Plexiglas Painting                                                               
Experience #16: Foam Plate Relief Prints                                                        
Experience #17: Collage Painting                                                                     
Finding Your Five-Year-Old Self in the Art Museum by Margie Maynard   
5. Build
The Value of Loose Parts: An Interview with Susan Harris MacKay           
Project #1: Gumdrop Structures                                                                       
Project #2: Hanging Structures                                                                            
Project #3: Straw Rockets                                                         
Project #4: Marble Runs: Ramps and Gravity                                               
Project #5: Paper Houses                                                                                
Project #6: Scrap Building
Project #7: Ropes and Pulleys                                                                           
Project #8: CD Spinner                                                  
Project #9: Does It Float?
Project #10: Pounding Nails                                                                            
Project #11: Take Things Apart                                                                        
Project #12: Drawing Machine                                                             
Project #13: DIY Robot                                                                            
DIY Kids: Building Tomorrow’s Innovators through Hands-on Making by Grace Hawthorne                                                                                                       
6. Concoct
Yes, and . . . How to Improvise with Children: An Interview with Dan Klein        
Experiment #1: Potion Station                      
Experiment #2: Goop                                                                            
Experiment #3: Marker Explosions                                                   
Experiment #4: Make Your Own (Semiedible) Paint                                                 
Experiment #5: Slime                                                                              
Experiment #6: Ice and Salt Exploration                                                            
Experiment #7: Ice Cream in a Jar: An Edible Investigation                                     
Experiment #8: Frozen Carbon Dioxide                                                               
Experiment #9: Yeast and Sugar Expansion                                   
Experiment #10: Naked Egg Experiment                                                           
Experiment #11: G-Ma’s Butter: An Edible Investigation                                        
Experiment #12: Lemon Invisible Ink                                                                   
Experiment #13: Glittery Egg Geodes      
Experiment #14: Natural Dyes                                                                      
Experiment #15: Kitchen Challenge: An Edible Investigation                                  
Concoctions in a Michelin-Starred Kitchen: An Interview with Bruno Chemel 
7. Discover
How to Set Up a Discovery Area that Honors the Child: An Interview with Parul Chandra                                                                                                           
Exploration #1: Playdough Building 
Exploration #2: Cloud Dough                                                              
Exploration #3: Pounding Flowers                                                 
Exploration #4: Scavenger Hunts                                                                  
Exploration #5: DIY Light Box                                                                  
Exploration #6: Photograms                                                                      
Exploration #7: Ephemeral Installation                                          
Exploration #8: Shadow Investigations                                                 
Exploration #9: DIY Lava Lamp                                                             
Exploration #10: Mystery Bag                                                                  
The Benefits of Basic Materials by Jennifer Winters                                     
The Busy Parent’s Planner                                                                                  
About the Contributors                                                                                       About the Author                                                                                               


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