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Make Your Own Tinker Box & Build Robots {STEM Project for Kids}

My kids love to learn how things work!

You will frequently find them taking things apart or weilding a screwdriver to help Dad with projects around the house.

And yes, we have had our own share of mishaps as a result of their explorations — but we’ve learned that those broken items are just a part of life when you’re raising curious kids.

In order to give them the opportunity to ‘tinker’ and explore, we’ve offered the kids a variety of ways to get hands-on as they build, explore and create new inventions.

One of their favorites is to have their own Tinker Box — an activity that offers them the opportunity to use tools, learn how things work and engineer to their hearts content!

Here are the details so you can pull together you’re own Tinker Box at home along with affiliate links for some of the items that will be helpful as you do!



We were really disappointed that we missed seeing Big Hero 6 when it came to the theaters.  We love seeing Disney on the big screen but man was life busy this Fall! 

So when the movie came out on DVD this week, we scooted over to Walmart to grab a copy for family movie night this week!  The movie shares how Hiro, a tween genius, pairs up with four college students and a loveable robot make themselves into a team of superheros by using their science & engineering knowledge!

Big Hero 6 is one of those films that’s perfect for the whole family — great kid-friendly adventure, an advanced storyline that focuses on science and engineering & LOTS of laughs for everyone.

My daughter still hasn’t stopped laughing about Fred’s underwear joke 😉

The movie also made it on our 12 Movies that Will Inspire Kids to Tinker list too!


One of the great take-away lessons from the movie is the idea that ‘it’s important to look at things from a different angle‘.

This is a great skill for kids to have as they grow up! 

It teaches kids that there’s more than one way to solve a problem, more than one way to use an item and also instills the idea of perseverance — being able to stick with a project, invention or idea even when it doesn’t work the way you think it should on your first try.

And this is the main premise behind having a Tinker Box in your home — allowing kids to explore how items can be used in a variety of ways and giving them a creative way to ‘think outside of the box’.


 Make Your Own Tinker Box & Robot Craft for Kids

Create a Tinker Box/Engineering Kit

I love having a tinker box around the house!

It gives the kids the opportunity to test out their engineering ideas and can really create some great play & crafting opportunities!

There are 2 parts to creating your own Tinker Box — the first is finding things to take apart and the second is organizing them all in a great “I can’t wait to build something” box!

The best part of this project is that the kids can help with the set-up and it actually might be their favorite part!

For our Tinker Box, we chose to take apart an old VCR, a VHS tape, a tv remote and an outgrown toy (a guitar from one of their old video game sets).


 tinkering tools for kids

You’ll need a few things to get started:

  • a Screwdriver Set with various sizes few screwdrivers of various sizes
  • a small hammer (to pry things apart)
  • a pair of scissors or wire cutters (ask Dad to check his workbench 🙂
  • eye protection (either safety goggles or a pair of glasses)

Here’s the Flower Hammer & Screwdriver Set that we have at our house — it’s really cool because all the tools fit together into the base of the hammer and they are a great size for kids to use too.

Obviously there should be parental supervision with this project 😉 

But not so much so that you do all the work — it’s a great life skill to teach kids how to use tools and this is a perfect opportunity for them to practice.


The first thing that needs to be done with each item you’ll be deconstructing is to be sure to remove all batteries and either cut off the cords or explain to the kids that all cords need to be unplugged and NEVER plugged in again.

Safety first!


Make Your Own Tinker Box & Robot Craft for Kids

Next, help the kids to remove any outside shell on the items.  Show them how to use a screwdriver and be sure to keep all the screws and small pieces for your tinker box.

As you take apart the various items, point out what’s inside the ‘guts’ of each one.  Talk to kids about the difference between a circuit board, have them follow where the wires lead, point out the motor if there is one, etc.

We took off and set aside a variety of metal and plastic pieces that we would be able to use on future projects.


Making a Tinker Box

Someone always comments or emails me to ask the best age for kids to begin using tools.  We feel that kids as young as preschool can learn how to use a screwdriver, small hammer and a wrench. 

It’s a great idea to have a kid-sized set of tools around the house — something that fits their hands so they can get a good grip on the tool while they work.


In Big Hero 6, you meet some very creative tinkerers — the characters each have their own traits and we decided to feature some of these as we created out Tinker Box.


Make Your Own Tinker Box & Robot Craft for Kids

One of my daughter’s favorite characters is Honey Lemon since they share many of the same traits — she’s a chemist with great fashion sense and loves color!  So I knew we would need to include some colorful items as we created our kit.


Make Your Own Tinker Kit & Robot Craft for Kids

Wasabi is a physics major and also a bit of a neat freak.  As we began to collect items for our Tinker Box, we knew that having them organized would be a must! 

We used a Clear Plastic Storage Container with adjustable storage areas. 

I love clear organizers!  The kids are able to see what items are in the box without opening it and having everything dump all over the floor (clean up BEFORE the activity is never much fun 😉

As you can see, we included a huge variety of items in our Tinker Box:

  • metal parts (screws, springs, gears, etc) from the items we took apart,
  • electrical wires & plastic pieces (again, from things we deconstructed)
  • balloons (because Baymax, the main robot in Big Hero 6 was an inflatable bot)
  • old wood chopsticks (having some wood-based items is always a good idea in a tinker box plus my kids were inspired by the Asian-American theme of the city in the movie, San Fransokyo)
  • small magnets (these reminded us of the microbots that Hiro used in his science project)
  • colored zip ties (these come in very hand for connecting items without using glue)
  • other odd items from around the house (paper clips, old plastic light covers, electrical caps, etc.)

 I would advise that the tools NOT stay with the Tinker Kit.  It’s always been a safety measure of ours that the kids come and ask us to use their tools — then we’ll know when supervision is needed.


Make Your Own Tinker Kit & Robot Craft for Kids


Craft Robot Puppets

The best thing about a tinker box is its open-ended invitation to create! 


craft supplies for robots

In addition to your Tinker Box, you’ll also need a metal coffee can, some Air Dry Clay, string or twine and a great imagination!

Why the air-dry clay?

We use it instead of glue!

It’s a great way to hold things together — you can put it on and take it off while you work and it cleans up nicely.


Make Your Own Tinker Kit & Robot Craft for Kids

This is a super open-ended craft — encourage kids to use whatever items they’d like to as they make their robots.

You can see that my daughter started with a light bulb on the top of her robot but then changed over to make ‘hair’ using the electrical wires.  That’s where the air-dry clay is really nice — when the kids change their invention mid-steam 🙂


DIY Robot Puppets

You’ll notice that we decided to turn out robots into puppets 🙂

It just seemed like the thing to do — which is where the chopsticks came in handy; they allowed us to create a handle for our strings to control the robot.


 Tips for robot puppets

To make your robots into puppets, simply cross two chopsticks and secure them with plastic ties (bread bag ties will work too).  Then attach a piece of string or twine to each end of the chopsticks and poke it through the plastic top on the coffee can. 

Tie a knot to secure them inside the lid and place the lid back on your robot.


Big Hero 6 Robots


I used a balloon for my robot’s head and drew on eyes like Baymax.

Cute, aren’t they?!!


Do you have a Tinker Kit at home?  What do you kids like to create?


Fun engineering activities for kids

Engineering Activities:

Build the Eiffel Tower with Newspapers

12 Great DIY Building Materials


More Disney Ideas for You:

23 Must See Movies Before Your Next Trip to Disney World

15 Disney Freebies You Can Enjoy at Home



This #BigHero6Release shop has been compensated by #CollectiveBias, Inc. and its advertiser. As always, all opinions are mine alone.  We only share items that we love and use at home!