I didn’t expect New Experience #36 to be such a big hit. I planned this week’s experience to be something we could do at home. It was the first full week of school, and I didn’t want to plan anything that involved travel or a large quantity of time. I found an old printer for free, so this little experience would be fairly quick and easy.
The kids seemed somewhat interested in the idea of taking apart the printer but not overly excited. I asked them what they expected to see inside the printer and got one word answers.
I wasn’t expecting them to jump for joy at the thought of taking apart a printer, but I was hoping they’d be a little more excited.
So, I was thrilled that once they got started, they were totally engrossed in the activity. I loosened all the screws a little, but the kids were in charge of unscrewing them all the way and taking everything apart. Leah couldn’t believe how many springs were inside. Luke was fascinated by the tiny circuit board with “lego pieces” attached.
I thought they’d take the housing off the printer and be satisfied with that, but the kids took every single piece apart. I was just as amazed as they were with exactly how many little gears, screws, and hard plastic pieces there are in a printer. They quickly became adept at using a tiny Allen wrench and pliers. Without prompting from me, Luke was moving the pieces and trying to figure out how the printer actually worked. We discussed it a bit, and it was a totally child-centered conversation. I didn’t give him the right answers because, frankly, I don’t know the right answers. I could only ask the kids how they thought it worked.
The kids spent over an hour tinkering with the printer. As soon as they were done, they asked what else they could take apart. I told them we need to start scouring garage sales and roadside “free” piles for interesting things to take apart.
The idea for this new experience was pieced together from a couple of sources. The fabulous book, 50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do) suggested kids could try taking apart an appliance, and one of my favorite mom blogs, Tinkerlab, has quite a few ideas for tinkering with household items. Both of these sources explain why tinkering is so wonderful for children’s development. It teaches children about how things work, helps foster creativity, and gives them unstructured time to explore how things work.
They didn’t explain just how much fun taking things apart can be. But, I’m glad my kids and I discovered that on our own.
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