WAY back in July, I had grand plans to start a series of activities with my daughters. They were going to be "Discovery Tables" where I would leave out materials to play, explore, or tinker with, along with prompts, special books, or other materials. Like many of my grand plans, however, our days just never seemed to have time for Discovery Tables. We finally got to one, however! This Build A Snowflake Tinker Tray made a perfect Discovery Table. I set out the materials, gave some brief suggestions and a short snowflake symmetry lesson, and let the girls get to work. They both LOVED it, so we kept the tray together and they returned to it several times over the next few days.
In addition to being a fun winter activity, they were also working on fine motor skills, early math (symmetry), and science.
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Build Your Tinker Tray
Make your tinker tray. I used an old muffin tin, and it was just the right size and had plenty of compartments. You could also use a divided plate or platter, or a set of small bowls. Raid your craft supplies looking for things that can be used to make snowflakes.
Our tray contained:
- 6" bamboo skewers
- blue paper straws
- flat marbles
- lollypop sticks
- cotton balls
- silver and blue craft rhinestones
- cotton swabs (whole and cut)
- blue and white pompoms
Your tray can be filled with whatever you have around! You don't need to make a special trip to the store for supplies, and you don't need to have quite so much.
Begin by having a brief lesson with your children about snowflakes. I was looking for the book Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin but we couldn't find it on our shelves! Instead I pulled out The Practical Naturalist by DK Publishing which had a few short paragraphs about how snowflakes are constructed. Another great choice to look through would be The Story Of Snow: The Science Of Winter's Wonder by Mark Cassino and John Nelson or Snowflake Bentley's actual pictures in Snowflakes In Photographs.
Provide a surface for your children to use as they build. We used a round mirror, along with construction paper in different colors. I made a demonstration snowflake and pointed out how I started with a six-point starburst in the middle. I showed them how to add the same element to all six sides of the snowflake. Once they girls saw an example, they were ready to go!
Lena immediately started building and just needed a little help adjusting the spacing of her original six branches.
For Maggie (4.5 years old) the concept of six-way radial symmetry was a bit too challenging. She decided to make her own snowflake with bilateral symmetry instead.
Lena built several snowflakes and then we kept them out until she could show them to Dad after work. Then we cleaned up the parts and left the tray ready for another day of building!
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