Category Archives: tinker thinkers

Kitchen Explorers–Baked Mozzarella Bites


photo(3)Once a month we have a program called Kitchen Explorers, where kids make simple recipes and–best of all–taste them!  This month we made baked mozzarella bites.





photo(1)We purchased mozzarella snack cheese (individually packaged “string” cheese) and cut each stick into thirds.  We also melted some butter and put it into a cup and placed Italian seasoned breadcrumbs onto a plate.  The kids used a fork to dip each piece of cheese into the butter, then dredge it in the breadcrumbs.







photo photo(2)Then we placed the cheese sticks on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil.  (We used a Sharpie to line off sections with their name/initial to keep straight whose was whose.)  We placed them into a preheated 350 degree oven and baked them for five minutes.  When they were done baking, we removed them from the oven and placed them into a cup with the child’s name/initial.  The sticks were served with marinara sauce (from a jar) briefly heated in the microwave.









Tinker Thinkers–Catapults!


finishedThis week at Tinker Thinkers we made craft stick catapults.  I saw this idea on Ms. Kelly at the Library and HAD to try it!  We really had a lot of fun!  For projectiles, I gave the kids each a pom pom and a small sheet of aluminum foil to crumple up into a ball.  We hypothesized which would go further and why.






another catapult








trying them out








Tinker Thinkers meets on Tuesdays from 3:30-5:00 p.m. at the Leesburg Library and on Thursdays from 4:00-5:30 p.m. at the Oakland Library.  Sponsored by the Lee County Library; free and open to the public.  For more information call 759-2369.

Tinker Thinkers–Playdoh Pizzeria


pizza1Tinker Thinkers is an after school STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math) program aimed at ages 4 and up.  So far we have done lots of activities with science, engineering, arts, and even technology, but I wanted a fun way to incorporate math.  Then it occurred to me: playdoh pizzeria!  Pizza is a perfect opportunity to talk about fractions, and if we opened a play restaurant we could introduce money concepts.  Plus, playdoh rocks.






making pizzaI have two Tinker Thinkers groups, so I ended up making about four batches of this homemade playdoh.  I divided each batch into 4-6 (started with 4 and realized I could eke out 6) balls and put each one into a ziploc sandwich bag.  This was the base of the pizza.  The rest was store bought playdoh that I brought from home.  I also borrowed my daughter’s playdoh toys (cutters, etc).  Caution: the playdoh definitely gets all mixed together, so be prepared for that.  If you wanted to avoid using store bought playdoh, you could make more homemade and add food coloring, or just use non-playdoh toppings as seen here. (This link is also where I got the order sheet we used).




playdoh menusSpeaking of Play-Doh, check out this cool free printable!  I printed a few off, glued the front and back together and laminated them.  The kids really enjoyed looking at the menu and replicating the items.





menuTo encourage math skills, I posted a menu with suggested prices, plus an information sheet about fractions.  We mostly just talked about it, though.  I’d say something like, “If I wanted a cheese pizza and a drink, how much would I need to pay you?” or “I need a pizza to share with 3 of my friends–how many pieces do we need to cut?”






cash registerpaying for pizzaWe also had a cash register filled with this printable money.  It was really fun to see the kids go through the process of taking the order, making the pizza, and accepting payment.  We had a great time!

Tinker Thinkers–boat building


L6A few weeks ago at Tinker Thinkers did a boat building activity like the one over at In short, I am busy.  We used a variety of materials such as aluminum foil, styrofoam, straws, and paper to create boats, then we tested them out in my handy dandy Spiderman swimming pool.  Once the boats were floating, we tested their seaworthiness by adding cargo (Legos).  This activity was so simple, but I think it’s one of my favorite things we’ve ever done.  You could really see the creativity and problem solving taking place.  It was awesome, and really the whole point of Tinker Thinkers.  To see a slideshow of the boats in our fleet, go here.

Minecraft In Real Life


minecraft in real life internet imageThis week we had our second session of Minecraft in Real Life as part of our new Tinker Thinkers after school program.  This brilliant program came from Angie over at Fat Girl Reading.  If you are planning to do a program like this (and you totally should!) head over there first to get all the details.  (I love her idea to add in parody videos, but I somehow haven’t managed to pull it off yet.  Maybe next time!)  I did a program very similar to what is described below this summer and it was CRAZY successful.  We had several requests for another one like it, so I decided to add it as a Tinker Thinkers program.  Why?  Well, the game itself is technology, plus the paper craft demonstrates how you can make flat objects three dimensional and the crafting table activity requires sorting and replicating patterns.







paper craftFor the first part of the program, we did these one piece mini papercraft characters.  For the program I did this summer, we did Steve and a creeper.  This time we did a zombie and a pig.  I am SO glad that I chose the one piece characters.  It really limited the amount of cutting and gluing, plus it cut down on the frustration level for the younger attendees.







crafting tablesNext came the item search portion of the program.  The idea is for kids to complete a “real life” crafting table to receive a specific item of their choosing.  For the summer program I used candy like Angie did (see link above) but I also added a bookmark option because I thought that these bookmarks were so darn cool.  You know what?  The kids were just as excited (if not more so) about the bookmarks than they were about the candy.  So this time I just used the bookmarks.  They had the option of crafting Steve, a creeper, Enderman, or a pig.  The other four I offered as bonuses for various things (such as checking out a book!)  They had a great time crafting and collecting the whole set.






scavenger hunt scavenger hunt 2To get the items for the crafting table, they searched through the library.  At the summer program, I had a problem with some kids picking up more items than necessary, so this time I was sure to tell them only to get the items they needed for the particular bookmark they were making so that everyone was able to find the items they needed.  It worked out really well, and we even had some to clean up from the shelves after the program was over.









craftingAfter finding their items, they glued them onto a crafting table and gave it to me for the appropriate bookmark.  Most repeated the process to complete the set of four.  This was a really fun and easy way to incorporate Minecraft into our programming.  Thanks again, Angie!