Guaranteed Boredom Buster: Build an Exploratorium

by Patrick on April 20, 2010

Illustration of PatrickThe quality of genius is being able to use simple materials in ways they were never intended.

An Exploratorium is a place where your child can store all their open-ended materials. It’s a spot in your home they can go to create projects that the world has never seen before. All it takes is some Tupperware, a few jars, and containers from a thrift store. Then all you’ve got to do is fill them with odds and ends from around the house. (Check out some photos of a temporary Exploratorium Tandem Teaching created here)

An Exploratorium is great for the environment because it’s the ultimate practice of recycling, reducing, and reusing. Kids will take trash and turn it into works of art, complicated machines and science experiments.

An Exploratorium is the ultimate toy because it’s always changing and easy on the pocketbook. We’re only talking about picking up an occasional box of toothpicks at the grocery store, some paperclips at Staples, or old game pieces from a garage sale. Lots of these open ended materials can come from your trashcan, dumpster diving, or items collected on a nature walk.

You can build your Exploratorium by slowly adding things when the time comes. Having a few items for them at first,while they’re exploring the possibilities, is best. They need to get comfortable using them before new materials are added. Keep your eyes peeled for things that can be more than “just a box.” Pay attention to what you’re throwing out at home, and what’s in the trash can at work. A pound of shredded paper can be pretty awesome in the hands of the non-consumer based player.

A quick list of open-ended materials:

  • Pieces of broken cardboard
  • Paper towel and toilet rolls
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Scraps of cloth
  • Old plastic food containers
  • All kinds of tape
  • Scraps of wood and twigs
  • Toothpicks
  • Googily eyes
  • Straws
  • Clothespins
  • Glue guns
  • String
  • Butterfly clips
  • Chopsticks
  • Rocks
  • Yarn
  • Recycled cans
  • Paints
  • Bottle caps