by Stefani on 30-July-2008

My middle son is a tinkerer. 

He likes to take things apart and put them together in new ways. 

He hoards random bits of junk, like toilet paper tubes and bread ties. You know, because he “might need ’em sometime.”

He dreams of cogs and levers, and hopes with all his heart that Santa will fill his stocking with masking tape. One of his most favorite birthday presents ever was a bunch of small pulleys and spool of heavy duty rope. 

Should anything break he is there to say, “if you’re not gonna use that, can I have it?”

This is the boy who gazed with such deep longing upon an old, no longer in use DISH satellite, way up high on a telephone poll at my grandparents house, that my grandfather could bear it no longer. He climbed a ladder, unscrewed it and brought the thing down. 

We hauled that baby nearly 250 miles home, and it now resides beside his bed. He’s still not sure just what he’s going to do with it, but it’s one of his most prized possessions anyway. 

So, you can imagine his delight, this creator of mine, when it was suggested that he spend an hour a week with his grandfather, an electrical engineer, making “stuff that really works.”

His Saturdays with Grandfather are sometimes referred to as “Inventor Club” and sometimes “Engineer Club” depending on which monicker holds the most magic for him at the moment. 

On their first meeting they built a “Battery Checker.” On the next, they outfitted it with wires and magnets and learned about the relationship between magnetism and electricity. 

Creating Contraptions

He’s plumb over the moon. Lit up like Christmas, head to toe, and that’s precisely what matters. 


I don’t know if he’ll retain his lessons. I can’t say with any certainty that plunging a curious 6 year old into an early engineering course will land him a scholarship to MIT someday, but I do know that he’s gaining some very important knowledge. 

He knows that the people who love him value his passions. He is learning that we will go out of our way to help him find his. He’s growing to understand that with a little work, and some guidance, he really can bring his imaginings to life. 

Those are lessons that will serve him well. 

Plus, I just think it’s truly priceless, a grandfather passing his passion and knowledge, his craft, down to an eager apprentice. The memories they are making together will undoubtedly be held dear in each of their hearts. 

Grandfather mentioned that he might start up his own blog and share their adventures. I told him that I felt sure that lots of you folks would be excited about simple projects for mechanically inclined kiddos. Am I right? 

Also, I’m on the hunt for inspiring stories for my little inventor. At the moment, we are reading The Invention of Hugo Cabret which is wonderful on so many levels, the most important being that it has my man on the edge of his seat, and also asking lots of questions! 

Next on our list is Homer Price, and after that, The Marvelous Inventions of Alfred Fernald and also the Mad Scientists Club. Please leave us a comment if you know of any other great stories about contraptions, inventions, scientists, machines and the like. At the rate this boy devouring “mechanical stories” we’re going to need a LONG list!

molly July 30, 2008 at 10:21 pm

just tonight while i was making a birthday gift for aidan’s friend, aidan got out his box of treasures and made a gift for his friend as well. a few magnets, rubber bands, popsicle sticks, pieces of a cell phone, lots of imagination and patience. perhaps we too need to move on to things that work – in fact, i could use a battery charger! i’m all for grandpa’s blog.

we just listened to homer price on cd while coming home from the ocean. highly enjoyable.

The Mommy July 30, 2008 at 10:55 pm

What a beautiful post. I should be in bed…but I’m reading your words aloud to my husband. We’re both in love with your son and his grandfather, and would love to read the blog that details all of their mechanical adventures together. Perhaps it will inspire my girls to try their hand at some creations of their own.

Jessica July 30, 2008 at 10:55 pm

I would be very interested in a Grandpa blog, especially if it illustrated materials and how-to instructions so we could do the projects too.

My dad and grandpa are inventors with many patents and both have fabulous workshops, but we live too far away for my curious son to have regular one on one time with either of them.

Mia July 31, 2008 at 12:20 am

My grandpa was a mechanic for Santa Fe & his whole garage was full of things that would be useful later, before he passed away when I was 8 he used to love spending an afternoon showing me how things worked, and how to make them useful in other ways as well.

Meanwhile, as I got older, my parents built their home & while they had contractors for most of it, I spent a lot of time with both my other grandpa & my step-grandpa installing ceiling fans, faucets & door knobs.

What a wonderful post, it brought back MANY fond memories of time well spent learning, but more importantly visiting, with all of my grandpas.

Thimbleina July 31, 2008 at 1:23 am

I think I might have one of those boys, mine is only 2 and he already loves taking things apart and tinkering. He most of the time has his truck upside down tinkering with the wheels and getting his hammer and screwdriver out to fiddle with things. I might need grandfather’s blog as we don’t have anyone that mine could sit with when he is older to be shown the kind of things yours is lucky enough to learn. Wow!

caroline July 31, 2008 at 4:15 am

I think a Grandfather blog would be fantastic!

I have one of those tinkerers. He’s 12 now, and it’s his job in the house to set up all stereo/game/television/computer equipment. Comes in mighty handy, but all the old aluminum foil and toilet paper rolls under his bed still make me nuts!

Lizzie July 31, 2008 at 4:19 am

I took time to check some blogs I like to read this morning before I headed off to work. Yours was the first and will be the only one today. I love that you encourage your son. I have a grandson that is always dreaming of that one ‘invention’ that will change mankind. We listen with smiles and love in our hearts. You never know that someday these two boys may really make a difference for all of us.
Thank you for bringing a smile to my face. I will pass my smile onto others.

Michele C July 31, 2008 at 4:33 am

My kids’ early reading list included the books from the Childhood of Famous American series. We really enjoyed those, and the series includes a number of inventors and explorers.

Mandy July 31, 2008 at 5:34 am

This is awesome! I was a tinkerer too and once my dad showed me how to make this little contraption where you could touch one side and it would make the other side light up. I turned it into a trivia game for my science project where you had to match the characters of Beverly Hills 90210 to their real life names! So funny. I wish I would have kept it. Tell you dad that I for one would absolutely love a blog expecially if it could help this poor mom so her three daughters the “man” side of life. They would love it! And we must have how-tos!

Mandy July 31, 2008 at 5:35 am

How many typos were in that comment? Geesh.

Casey July 31, 2008 at 5:41 am

It’s not fiction, but one of Rocketboy’s favorite books ever is “The Way Things Work” by David Macaulay. We’ve been reading together out of that book for years now and there’s always something interesting to him — binary, catapults, how an elevator works, etc.

melissa s. July 31, 2008 at 6:50 am

how wonderful to have your little guy’s love of science mixed in with that grandpa love. i look forward to their blog!

Heather July 31, 2008 at 7:20 am

I am sending your post to my father. He is also a tinkerer and needs a nudge to share it with his grandchildren. He always talks about how he wants my son to come visit to help out “with a few projects”. Thanks for the books recommendations as well.

Jody July 31, 2008 at 7:20 am

I love Steven Caney’s “Invention Book.” It was a hit with my 4th graders when I was teaching. The book has projects that you can do at home plus 35 stories of inventions. Another one of my favorites is “Snap, Button, Zip Inventions to Keep Your Clothes On.” You mentioned it but I LOVE “Homer Price” and a previous post mentioned another book I’d suggest “The Way Things Work.”

I love that Grandpa is sharing his knowledge with his grandson. I’m sure they’ll both learn a lot in the process. I’d definately read their blog!

Cassandra July 31, 2008 at 7:23 am

My eldest is a tinkerer as well. We would love the grandpa blog to help us encourage her interests.

Regina July 31, 2008 at 7:37 am

No suggestions -but this is PRICELESS!!! What a great treasure being passed from generation to generation – time and knowledge and curiosity and adventure. Just marvelous!!!

My little one had on his grandfather’s welding facemask the other day – had one of those “capture this moment” feelings – it was just so great to see them together out in the garage.

Selena July 31, 2008 at 7:45 am

How lucky your son is to have such an amazing grandfather.

Christina July 31, 2008 at 7:46 am

Okay, so your son and my son (who’s still a tad bit too small) need to get together for a tinkering playdate! Its amazing how, even at such ages, you begin to see the things they are interested in!

OMSH July 31, 2008 at 7:51 am

I would VERY MUCH be excited to read a blog with ideas like this. There are lots of cute, crafty ideas for young, young kids or for girls, but this type of stuff? Nothing that I’ve found.

And there’d be something really special for it to be written by a grandfather with things he wanted to do for his grandsons.

LOVE the idea.

Sarah July 31, 2008 at 7:55 am

What a great opportunity he has to learn these things from his grandfather! A very good friend of mine was like that as a boy and to this day finds things in allies that just “might come in handy” someday. His house is beautiful with things he has recycled and made use of and he because of his creativity and resourcefulness he is now a wonderful leader of an Exhibits team at the Field Museum in Chicago where he uses his creativity every day!

christi July 31, 2008 at 7:59 am

its great to see such young and inquiring minds still exist in todays society!

As for a book recommendation i would recommend the book “larklight” by Phillip Reeve- i personally haven’t read it, but i have heard many reports that it is fun, full of adventure, and weird inventions/contraptions.

good luck with the book hunt!

tracey July 31, 2008 at 8:24 am

Back before school became a big ole institution, apprenticeship was the way people learned…isn’t homeschooling awesome! Your little men are blessed to be nurtured in such creativity, relationship and freedom!

My daughter loves Hugo Cabret! I think they are actually making a movie of it as well.

Other recs:
Ben & Me
The Iron Giant
The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet

tracey July 31, 2008 at 8:30 am

You might be interested to browse

It’s a company I started with my brother. We read like maniacs and develop and publish literature guides.

Sorry for the salesy post…please delete if you need to, just thought it might be a good philosophical fit for your schooling!


erin renee July 31, 2008 at 9:04 am
brit July 31, 2008 at 9:34 am

this post reminds me of last summer when I showed up here for the first time and the storm was clearing space for everyone to breathe and you created an inventors bench area….you are so intune with your men….bravo

Laura July 31, 2008 at 10:06 am

This is so cool! What an inspiring post.

Some non-fiction on inventors and inventing:

Howtoons: The Possibilities Are Endless by Saul Griffith – a wonderful, perfect graphic novel with a little story of a brother and sister who make very cool inventions, with instructions built right in.

Amazing Leonardo da Vinci Inventions You Can Build Yourself by Maxine Anderson – lots of cool projects and illustrations.

So You Want to Be an Inventor by Judith St. George – similar to So You Want to Be President (which was ah-mazing, if you haven’t read it) – quick read on the lives of some famous inventors.

And a picture book:
The Dumpster Diver by Janet Wong – a cool story about a guy who saves things from the trash and builds great new things out of them.

I just did a quick search in the library catalog for “invent*” to pick up inventors, inventions, inventing, etc. and it brought up a LOT of things, so there’s a lot out there. Have fun!

Amy July 31, 2008 at 10:51 am

I find it sort of amazing when their (kids, I mean) passions and interests become evident. Sometimes I find it difficult to determine which curiosities need nurturing and which are passing fancies. What a wonderful thing for your son (and for his Grandfather).

Jennifer July 31, 2008 at 10:55 am

We have a tinkerer too and would love a website like that! My husband can;t wait to get one of these (probably in the smaller, less expensive, beginner size)

Paloma July 31, 2008 at 11:45 am

If most parents were as interested as you are in their childrens passion, this world would be a much more peaceful and well kept planet. Keep up the good work!! I’ll do my share.

Carolyn July 31, 2008 at 12:22 pm

Aw, that is awesome for your son. That is so priceless. I hope Grandfather does start a blog. More granddads should blog!

Jules July 31, 2008 at 4:28 pm

Would love to read g’pa’s blog.
My little guy is only 2 but already I know he too will be tinkerer. It’s in his blood. His Papa was that same kid with a whole bunch of ‘stuff’ under his bed, in his closet, crammed in his pockets. Just ‘because he “might need ’em sometime.” ‘. His Grandfather & both Great grandfathers were the same. Love it.

Corynne Escalante July 31, 2008 at 5:04 pm

that is so neat. both that your son is so interested in that stuff and that your grandfather is spending time with him to do that. i love it when family takes the time to be with each other… can’t think of any stories right now, but i feel like there is one somewhere in my brain somewhere… good luck. my little guy is asking me lots and lots of questions about bad guys and killing people… did you deal with any of that with your boys? how do you help them be men in a good way?

Susan July 31, 2008 at 5:10 pm

That is sooooo my 5yr old son and I think my 3 yr old son is following his footsteps. I have to hide my tape, rubberbands and glue if I need to use any for a gift but other than that I let him have as much as he wants so he can tinker, explore and create things. Yesterday my son took an empty vitamin bottle and put rubberbands over the opening and then balls of tape inside and he made an instrument out of it. Like a guitar and marracass at the same time. LOL I love it. He never went to preschool either and so he learned all that from home. 🙂

Hannah July 31, 2008 at 5:21 pm

We would highly recommend:
Diary of an early American boy, Noah Blake.
It is simply wonderful, full of diagrams and how things were made and done and built in times past. Brilliant!

YayaOrchid July 31, 2008 at 5:38 pm

Wow! You are obviously doing a great job as a parent of a gifted child. NOt too many 6year olds have an interest in ‘creating’ things. I do believe you have a genius in your hands. Good thing he has a loving Grandpa who can help him also to reach his potential.

Jonah Lisa July 31, 2008 at 6:43 pm

Wow. Great post and wonderful idea. I REALLY hope your dad starts this blog. It’s a great idea. The whole homeschooling/unschooling world would EAT IT UP! Not to mention my own family.

My own son is only 2 1/2 but my dad is also an electrical engineer (I know the world keeps getting small, doesn’t it) and he is already busting at the seems to start doing Dangerous Book for Boys stuff with this kid.

Pleas encourage your dad to start an Engineer’s Club Blog!

Harmony August 1, 2008 at 5:36 am

I have a son or two like that! One of mine is always taking scraps, toilet paper rolls and anything he can find and making “crafts”. My oldest is very into science and electronics and is a whiz on the computer. Their grandpa is like that too. Unfortunely he lives on the other side of the country and hasn’t seen the boys in three years. He is coming to visit next month, but wish he was near to show them cool stuff and invent with them and teach them. Your son is so lucky to have this time to bond with his grandpa!

emily August 2, 2008 at 5:26 am

how fantastically lucky you boy is to have a grandfather who can nurture his interest and passion. love it.

Liz August 2, 2008 at 6:51 pm

Check out Dear Mr. Henshaw. You’ll probably have to read it aloud… It is about a boy, who strikes up a letter writing relationship with a famous author. He also works to try to invent an alarm system for his lunch box that is regularly raided at school.

Kez August 6, 2008 at 3:01 am

I just found your blog – and I thought you were talking about MY just-about-to-turn-6-year-old son!! They must be twins!

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: