Fall Tinker Tray

What’s your holy grail kids’ activity? Mine is a creativity-inspiring activity that encourages independent play and learning.  That my kiddo loves ~every~ time.  My holy grail activity is called tinkering.  Simply lay out some small parts and let their imaginations run wild.  Our latest installation is a fall tinker tray full of pumpkins, leaves, and the colors of fall.  This post contains affiliate links.

Celebrate fall with this Tinker Tray. Kids will build creative brain power and STEM skills while having fun tinkering with pumpkins, leaves and more.

Celebrate fall with this Tinker Tray. Kids will build creative brain power and STEM skills while having fun tinkering with pumpkins, leaves and more.

Why Create a Fall Tinker Tray?

There’s something truly magical about tinkering.  When I laid out the tray, I told my daughter “There are no rules. Do what you want.”  She replied “Really?  No rules? At all?” And she dove in with gusto. There were lots of deeply focused moments, tongue sticking out and all.  Trial and error, spots of joy and frustration, and ultimately one very proud preschooler showing off her creation.




I’m going to be honest, too. There’s another reason to do a tinkering tray… Getting some me-time! Grab a PSL and hang out while the kids have fun and create on their own.


What to Include in Your Fall Tinker Tray

Here’s what I like to include in tinker trays and what we had specifically for the fall version.


Tinker Tray: You need something to hold all the awesome little parts.  I love adjustable drawer organizers {affiliate} like this one because you can change it to match the parts you’re using.

Design Tools: They’re just like they sound… Pen & paper, scissors, ruler, or measuring tape.

Celebrate fall with this Tinker Tray. Kids will build creative brain power and STEM skills while having fun tinkering with pumpkins, leaves and more.

Things to Connect with the Fall Tinker Tray

Here’s the fun part as there is no limit to what you can include.  Dig through the cabinets, hit the craft stores or find some unique ideas online to build the theme of the tray around.  I started with the pumpkins and pine cones and built from there.  Here’s what we used:

  • Acorn picks {affiliate} – I love real acorns in this too, but the picks are fun because they have wire attached to them.
  • Mini pumpkins and gourds {affiliate} – I used artificial ones because they are lighter, but real ones work too.
  • Pine cones
  • Fall leaves {affiliate} – Again, real ones are great, but we live in California and the leaves aren’t changing yet.
  • Straws
  • Sticks


Connectors for the Fall Tinker Tray

Next you need something to connect stuff with.  Anything sticky or twisty or clippy works.

  • Bamboo skewers {affiliate} – Skewers are awesome because of their skewing capabilities, but if you’re putting this out for really little kids, I’d skip them. Little kids will probably skew themselves, not the pumpkins.
  • Ribbon
  • Pumpkin pie spice play dough
  • Clothespins {affiliate} – I got our adorable decorated clothespins in the Target dollar bin, but regular ones work great too.
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Tape

We love adding play dough to our tinker trays because it makes a great connector.  Flexible and sturdy, it can help connect even the trickiest things like pine cones.  Plus, add a little spice to the play dough to bring other senses into the creative process.  Click on over for this divine-smelling Pumpkin Pie Play Dough recipe.


Enhancements for the Fall Tinker Tray

This is the chance for some bling, because if your kiddos are like my daughter, the bling really seals the deal on an engaging tinkering session.  These pumpkin LED lights {affiliate} are totally optional, but I dare you to tell me they aren’t awesome :)



Left Brain Craft Brain Loves to Tinker

We were proud to be featured this month by Red Tricycle in a list of The World’s Best Tinkerers.  You can check out some other cool people who are inspired by tinkering.  

This fun science experiment is a sneak peek into the STEAM Explorers Fall issue! And through 9/26/23, it's 50% off when you join STEAM Explorers!

Join us as we explore all things FALL with STEAM Explorers. Kids will love learning physics with football, doing a leaf color-changing experiment, snacking on apple chips, exploring the beauty of sunflowers, and more! You'll love the helpful standards-based learning, printables, and tools that make STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, & math) exploration easy!

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