Computational Tinkering

Luigi Anzivino


As children tinker with materials in the world, they are constantly putting things together and taking them apart. They are learning through play—trying out new ideas, exploring alternate paths, making adjustments, imagining new possibilities, expressing themselves creatively. In the process, they learn about the creative process and develop as creative thinkers.

As digital technologies enter the lives of children, there is risk that they will crowd out tinkering, with children spending more time watching screens than tinkering with materials. Yet, in our work, we have seen how digital technologies can also be used to open up new opportunities for tinkering.

Working in collaboration with the Tinkering Studio at the Exploratorium, Fondazione Reggio Children and the LEGO Foundation, we are developing a new generation of tools, activities, and spaces to support playful investigation and experimentation, integrating digital and physical materials. 

The new activities will enable children to engage in new types of inquiry into light, sound, motion, and storytelling. In the initial set of activities, called "light play," children can program colored lights and moving objects to make dynamic patterns of shadows.