Don’t throw that away so fast: Junk is a Learning Opportunity

We had a broken shake mixer recently. We rarely used it and I didn’t really want it cluttering up my house, so I wasn’t too sad when it broke. I was going to throw it away, when I decided to turn it into a learning opportunity for my children. I realized that my curious children would probably love to see what’s inside it and probably had no idea how it worked. So I decided to let them take it apart. Now I have to be honest here, I didn’t let them take it apart right away. I actually saved it in the basement for about a month until a more convenient time.

Of course, safety comes first with any experiment. So, the first thing I did was cut the power cord so they couldn’t plug it in and accidentally hurt themselves. I told them why I did this and that appliances can be dangerous if not used properly. I also informed them that they were not to take mom and dad’s things apart unless we directly tell them to do so. I really didn’t want them taking the blender or oven apart and possibly hurting themselves in the future.

Then, I set them up at the table with an all-in-one screwdriver. I showed them how to use a screwdriver and how to change the bit. I showed them the difference between a regular bit and a Phillips bit. Then I told them to experiment and walked away so they could try it on their own.

I hadn’t allowed my children to take an appliance apart before, so they were a bit surprised when I not only allowed them to take the shake mixer apart, but told them that they were supposed to take it apart. My 3-year-old had a huge smile on his face and grabbed the screwdriver to get started right away!

After a few minutes, I came back to check on them. They were struggling to open the mixer housing, so I helped them a little. Then they went back at it, pulling it all apart and playing with it. When they started to get bored, I came back again and explained the basics of how a motor works. I’m talking real simple basics like the cord plugs into the wall and the electricity comes in through this wire here that leads to the motor here so when you move this switch here, the motor converts the electricity into energy that causes this rod here to spin which is attached to the beater here that mixes the shake. My children are young, so I just wanted them to have an intro into basic mechanics and electronics at this age.

As my children grow, I’m sure we will have another broken household appliance and then we will go more in-depth into mechanics and electronics and learn more at that time. I may have to do a little learning myself before I explain things to them. That’s okay, I like to learn. It’s one of the great things about homeschooling. When they are old enough, I can have them look things up themselves and then explain it to me to show that they understand it. Either way, we all learn together.

How have you turned a broken or obsolete household item into a learning opportunity?

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