Thanks to new technology (we're looking at you, Apple!) and packed extracurricular schedules, the art of tinkering has gone the way of the dinosaur. We're so focused on getting things done that we don't take things apart purely out of curiosity or try to build better versions of useful everyday items.
A new permanent exhibit at Chicago Children's Museum puts the spotlight back on playing around. Aptly named The Tinkering Lab, the airy, industrial room encourages kids to build from their imaginations and to understand how things are assembled.
The Lab targets tweens 9-13 with the opportunity to use real tools (including power tools at the supervised "Tool Bar") in order to take things apart and put them together. The goal is for kids to ask questions and play with their ideas, sometimes failing, but always learning from their mistakes.
Little ones are welcome to don safety goggles and wield a real hammer, although their attention may be best kept by the Early Learning Nook, an alcove designed for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. They'll get their own taste of tinkering thanks to interactive wall panels, touchable tools and objects that make fun noises.
Trained staff members are on hand to demonstrate what's going on inside items we use all the time, whether vacuum cleaners or children's toys.
So put down that iPad or jam-packed day planner-it's tinkering time.
Elizabeth Diffin is the associate editor at Chicago Parent. She lives in Wheaton.
See more of Elizabeth's stories here.