Essential Question 2 – Linking “Tinkering”, “Hard Play”, and the “Growth” Mindset

There is a connection between “tinkering”, “hard play”, and the “growth” mindset because they all encourage active problem solving. According to the text, “Tinkering is a mindset – a playful way to approach and solve problems through direct experience, experimentation, and discovery” (Martinez & Stager, 2013). As I was reading the section of the book about tinkering, I couldn’t help but think about Tinker Toys and the amazing things that my brothers and I created as children. I was so inspired by my memories, that I ordered a couple sets from Amazon for my classroom next year. I know my students, regardless of their grade level, will love building and creating with them.

I believe that tinkering can lead to “hard play” or “hard fun”, which is important because “all students need challenge and “hard fun” that inspires them to dig deeper and construct big ideas” (Martinez & Stager, 2015). Play should not always be easy for children, it needs to dare them to push their boundaries and try something different and new. Children should not be afraid to fail, instead they should be encouraged to struggle and learn from their failures.

This concept is difficult for me personally, because it requires me to look at myself differently. I have to be willing to struggle, get frustrated, and fail. It is scary to me because I am a perfectionist. If I am going to be honest, I have to admit that I don’t take on a lot of things that could cause me frustration and failure, unless you count trying to teach twenty-six kindergarteners on a regular basis. I spent the entire school year, building lessons and tearing them apart in my goal to have an engaging and exciting classroom for my students.

I believe that children should be challenged and learn how to overcome obstacles, learn from them, and persevere. I also know that if I am going to teach or help my students achieve a “hard play” mindset, I am going to have to have a “growth” mindset for myself. The “growth” mindset focuses on support instead of approval because “at the heart of what makes the “growth mindset” so winsome is that it creates a passion for learning rather than a hunger for approval” (Popova, 2014). I find this to be very inspiring because I would much rather my students want to learn than seek approval from others. I want them to understand that they are independent learners with a world of possibilities.


Martinez, S. L., & Stager, G. S. (2015, April 3). Making Matters! How the Maker Movement Is Transforming Education. Retrieved May 25, 2015, from We Are Teachers:

Martinez, S., & Stager, G. (2013). Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom. Torrance, CA: Constructing Modern Knowledge Press.

Popova, M. (2014, January 29). Fixed vs. Growth: The Two Basic Mindsets That Shape Our Lives. Retrieved 25 2015, May, from Brain Pickings:


3 thoughts on “Essential Question 2 – Linking “Tinkering”, “Hard Play”, and the “Growth” Mindset

  1. I like how you linked all three concepts to “active problem solving”. Next year I want to build in tinkering time and I trying to figure out how and where to make it work. I like your idea of Tinker Toys sets for the classroom. I have Legos but I Tinker Toys would be an excellent addition. On Amazon the set is over $300. That seems insane. Never mind, I went back and looked and I found smaller cheaper sets. While looking at those “Laser Pegs” came up “the ultimate construction toy for kids”. I think I might have to order a couple of the smaller cheaper kits and try them out. They have several sets under $20.


    1. Thank you for telling me about “Laser Pegs”. I will definitely check them out. My students are builders and problem solvers. I love to tell them that I have a problem and I need their help because it immediately gets them engaged. They love to help. They are doers. I have been reading the blogs of others and I have noticed that it is a lot harder to pull in the fixed mindset students when they are in upper grades. I hope that by starting to lay a foundation of risk taking in kindergarten (and primary grades) it will carry forward to their upper grades as well.


  2. rockislandtechie June 1, 2015 — 2:05 AM

    Thanks for sharing about needing to work on your own growth mindset, that’s exactly what having a growth mindset requires, that self-reflection and recognition of where you are at right now. I think it is much harder to sustain than we think; it truly requires being able to let go of things that you have learned and assumed to make room for other ideas and strategies to be used. It definitely doesn’t have too be a complete overhaul of your teaching style but you can model it for students in small ways as you gain experience and confidence. I find that I have so much to learn from students and they are an important part of my self-reflection; I enjoyed learning more about a growth mindset and thinking about how to be more intentional in supporting students to develop that love of learning for themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

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