Let your tinkering tyke go wild with simple stuff you find around your house. You don’t have to look further than your pantry to find building blocks for creative and educational fun. From powering up your very own vortex to making a foaming volcano, these tinker-type projects will have inquiring kiddos saying, How does that work? and Let’s do it again!


Experiment With Electrostatic Toothpicks
Create your own little mad scientist by conjuring up some static electricity. Toothpicks play the starring role, along with a coin, a clear plastic cup and a balloon. Kids will be delighted to see their hypothesis play out. Kiwi Crate activity designer Stephanie Sims takes you step-by-step through a totally tinker-worthy tutorial.

electrostatictoothpick_3basicitems_stehpaniesims_kiwicrate_tinkering_national_redtricyclePhoto: Stephanie Sims via kiwicrate

No longer just for hors d’oeuvres, these little slivers are amazingly useful when put into little hands.

Let The Kids Poke Around
Toddlers get a kick out of exploration, so use toothpicks to set up a “poking station.” Add paper circles, styrofoam (feel free to paint it first!) and whatever else you think your tinker tot will enjoy. Hop on over to Meri Cherry, where the artist and mama shows us how this project can be a real hit with the littles.

toothpickpokinginstyrofoam_3basicitems_mericherry_tinkering_national_redtricyclePhoto: Meri Cherry via mericherry

Construct Orange Peel Structures
It’s citrus season and we’re betting there’s a surplus of peels around the house, making it easy to put a winter spin on those classic marshmallow/toothpick masterpieces. Use fresh peels, flat toothpicks (even better for youngsters) and get building! Skeedaddle on over to Buggy and Buddy to check out some seriously cool creations.

orangepeelsculptures_3commonitems_chelsey_buggyandbuddy_tinkering_national_redtricyclePhoto: Chelsey Marashian via buggyandbuddy

Plastic Bottles

We love the idea of using empty plastic bottles as building materials. Not only is there probably a surplus in the recycling bin but plastic can build (almost) anything!

Whip up a Wind Catcher
Investigate a windy day by whipping up your very own wind catcher. Grab a roll of duct tape, a bottle of your choice, box cutters (supervision, please!) and follow the tutorial over at Crafts by Amanda.

windcatcher_3householditems_tinkering_national_redtricyclePhoto: Amanda Formaro via craftsbyamanda

Watch a Twirling Tornado
Wondering how tornadoes gather twirling power? Make a DIY funnel tunnel in a plastic bottle and get prepped to watch the vortex spin! Simple ingredients include water, a pencil and paper, a stopwatch and inquiring minds. Science guru Steve Spangler offers up a great post with videos and a how-to over at My Kids Adventures.

tornadotube_3commonhouseholditems_tinkering_national_redtricyclePhoto: Steve Spangler via mykidsadventures

Build a Recycled Sculpture
For those who want to tinker with art, up-cycle your plastic waste into an intriguing sculpture. Plastic bottles join egg cartons, paint and cardboard to make way for some seriously innovative fun. The masters of tinkering over at Tinker Lab present an awesome way to create something out of nothing.

upcycledart_3commonhouseholditems_Rachelle_tinkerlab_tinkering_national_redtricyclePhoto: Rachelle Doorley via tinkerlab 

Baking Soda

Not just for keeping your fridge smelling fresh, this all-purpose powder can be much more for handsy kids.

Blow Up a Balloon
Bubbling balloons make for big questions and probably a few wows from the littles. Be sure to have plenty of ingredients on hand: This is one experiment that will be repeated over and over. Grab vinegar, a plastic bottle (we know you have one!) and baking soda, then head over to I Can Teach My Child for the details.

fizzyballoons_3commonhouseholditems_tinkering_national_redtricyclePhoto: courtesy icanteachmychild

Create a Foaming Volcano
Shake off those 7th grade science fair flashbacks and set up a paint-and-erupt-foaming volcano for your little tinkerers. Not only will they get their art fix but they’ll get their daily dose of OMG out of the way, too. Mosey on over to Fun at Home with Kids  for good-to-know tips such as using liquid watercolors for the painting part and simple dish soap for that epic eruption.

eruptingvolcano_3householditems_tinkering_national_redtricyclePhoto: Asia Citro via funathomewithkids

Make Erupting Dinosaur Eggs
Visit the Jurassic period without leaving your own house with make-your-own dino eggs. Built out of baking soda, these little orbs will erupt when H2O is added. All you need — besides baking soda, of course — is hair conditioner, vinegar, instant coffee and mini dinos. Head over to Mommas Fun World to find out why it’s important to wait 24 hours before dissolving.

dinoeggs_3basicitems_mommasfunworld_tinkering_national_redtricyclePhoto: Catherine Collins via mommasfunworld


Editor’s Note: We at Red Tricycle encourage learning. That being said, please be sure your kiddo has access to age-appropriate materials and always supervise playtime. Happy Tinkering!

What household items do you use to tinker? Tell us about it in the comments!

— Gabby Cullen