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Getting Started

Getting Started

As the facilitator, we recommend that teachers, educators and adults:

  • Provide a free space/forum for kids and students to share their experiences.
  • Allow for children and students to document with pictures/video and recorded conversations that they may have.
  • Understand that Rigamajig illustrates and is certainly not limited to concepts in creativity, literacy, math, science, cooperative learning, language development, free play, fun, and exploration.
  • Provide scaffolding of how to use Rigamajig in the classroom or any environment where kids gather to play and learn. Students and teachers will establish language and rules for using Rigamajig. Lines of communication are essential.
  • Allow space for reflection, e.g., show what works, what didn’t work, and how it was solved. What was fun and what was challenging?
  • Provide new questions and challenges for more in-depth questions and deeper exploration.


Rigamajig puts the power in the hands of kids and students. We know that through hands-on experiences children develop the physical, emotional, and intellectual skills necessary to engage their world with confidence.


Exercising the imagination is not only exciting but has been linked to empathy and compassion. Since Rigamajig has no right or wrong answers, students and children imagine what to make, and figure out how to make it. Invention 101!


Rigamajig motivates playful, cooperative learning. Kids make friends and share resources: “Trade you this pulley for that canvas!”; “Wanna help me make a fort?”; ”Is that a giraffe?”; and “Hey, will you hold this while I connect it?” are common greetings between children. And then, when playtime is over, they either take their Rigamajig contraption apart, or leave it for other children to re-imagine.


STEAM goals are built into the design and use of Rigamajig. By adding ART to STEM learning, each of the disciplines benefit from a creative approach and the advantages of an art process. Multiple iterations, thinking three-dimensionally, visualizing ideas, and critical making are a few of the methods art brings.


Designing, analyzing and constructing products is at the heart of the Rigamajig. As they build, students are analyzing form and function to satisfy human and environmental needs. They construct and use simple machines, think about compression and tension, balance, properties of wood, and understand how parts relate to each other to create small systems to perform functions.


As they are designing and playing with these technological inventions, students and children practice problem solving. They create and play with simple machines, e.g., pulleys, ramps and screws, and invent new forms and functions.


Through their play, children experience the process of research, understanding, design, model building and testing and modifying that is part of every inventor’s process. Have students draw their creations and explain how they “work.”


Art goes beyond creativity, and the art process involves the study of the materials, prototyping, testing and changing. Art practices thinking outside the box and approaching problems playfully and with an open mind.


The modularity of the planks helps bring math language into children’s play. The parts work intuitively as units for easy building. Two small planks are equidistant to one large plank. This allows for geometric understandings. Clean up time is always a counting and sorting opportunity.

Social Emotional

For young children, social studies is about learning to live, work and play within a community. Rigamajig teaches working in small groups, developing social skills for negotiating, learning and listening to peers, and finding a voice. Have children share stories about their creations.

Role of the Teacher and Adult

The materials in the Rigamajig Basic Builder Kit have inherent interest for young minds. Children and students are intrigued by the variety of components and often lead their own discovery at no prompting from teachers, educators and adults.

This section highlights best practices of how to best support and encourage kids to continue their investigations despite frustrations, challenges, and excitement that emerge from the design and building process. First, take time to consider the dynamic of the classroom or playspace. Next, read the examples of the several different roles adults can adopt as they work with children in the classrooms, afterschool programs, camps, museums, and STEAM learning centers around the world.


Challenges and “play prompts” are not always necessary for children and students to begin the process of exploration. However, teachers and adults may find that prompts are most useful to children and effective for learning once children are familiar with Rigamajig. Prompts can provide a fresh point of view for the kids to contemplate and perceive their work.

One of the most interesting observations when working with kids is that their ability to make an idea can be very different from their ability to conceive an idea. When an adult interacts with a child, there is the option to interact with the child’s idea or with the child’s making. As a best practice, ask questions as a way to help the child(ren) explore their concept and encourage them to create independently.


It’s important that the teachers or adults present are encouraged to observe and listen to the kids as they play. Attentively seeing and hearing the children’s visions, adults might repeat back parts of what the child described, creating an environment promoting reflective learning. “What dynamic is created when the adult interacts in this way?” “Do the children expand upon their idea(s) with deliberate thought and action?”

Organization of Materials

Use the storage cart to allow children to see the materials easily at a glance. Keep like parts together, for example: planks sorted by size, brackets together, nuts with wingbolts, then rope, and other materials.

Consider organizing the pieces while playing; sorting and stacking make a great cooperative activity. It is also helpful for containers to be labeled with words and symbols to help visually locate work materials and help return them during clean up. This organization gives kids and students a sense of ownership and independence while building with Rigamajig.

Division of Space for Children

As with any learning opportunity, teachers and adults need to prepare and create the environment to encourage the children to play and build with Rigamajig. Since building is often a social activity, requiring experimentation and negotiation, it’s important to ensure kids can interact with each other and the materials without disturbing other quieter activities within the space. Some thoughts to consider include:

  • Will the children work in one group, several smaller groups, or individually?
  • How will the workspace(s) be defined?
  • What methods can be applied to the session to encourage children to take the materials that interest them and move away from the “central” storage?
  • How will the pathway to the “central” storage area remain clear during a work session?

Depending on the area designated for Rigamajig play, it may be helpful to include a background or gallery of images depicting buildings, structures, and machines to be inspiration for the kids and students as they work.

In addition, using photographs of the children at work, capturing their process and progress, and including them in or near their work environment, encourages reflective thinking on past work. Documenting the kids’ construction helps encourage them to build with intent. Having the students make a “portfolio” or “glossary” of what they have created captures the possibilities, promotes pre- and post-build conversation about what they have achieved, and inspires what they build in the future.

Stages of Interaction

Children and students have varying learning styles and paces at which they learn as they explore the world around them. As kids begin to build with Rigamajig, progressing from novice to expert users of the kit, teachers and adults may begin to see patterns of learning and development in individual children. Learning and growth varies child to child, as learning is not linear; rather, it is like branches of a tree suggesting the many possibilities of learning at each turn.

During a build session, adults will witness children manipulating the components of Rigamajig to meet the needs of their learning level. Some kids and students spend the session satisfied with two objects. While others will use nuts and wingbolts to make random connecting pieces, deciding what “it” is after they have completed their creation. Meanwhile, other children will have an idea from the beginning and proceed to create that specific concept. It is important to realize that all these stages are valuable and none better than another. Each initial interaction and interest is the essential starting point of what educators want to validate—an investigation.

Imagination + Investment

Play, fantasy, and imagination are all part of children’s everyday cognitive thinking and investigations. It is when these are all manifested in a single activity that kids and students invest and fully engage in problem solving and amazing feats of creativity. In this way, children are much like some of our greatest thinkers. Teaching and learning is most exciting in the moment when students can utilize their full capacities.

Rigamajig can be enhanced with other props and materials that are appropriate for the age of the children and students in the group. Add more rope, sheer fabrics, canvas, pots and pans, dolls, doorknobs, and found objects to increase the Rigamajig experience. Providing appropriate space and organization for these materials will impact the way children develop relationships with the materials.

Rigamajig Project Plans

We've developed these 20+ research-based Project Plans to help teachers and educators inspire STEM/STEAM learning and maximize Rigamajig in their classroom, children’s or science museum, community organization, library, maker space, or anywhere kids gather to play and learn!
View Project Plans

Rigamajig Workshops

Our freestanding Workshop units enhance play value by allowing kids to see all the Rigamajig parts and pieces displayed, helping them to imagine what they can create and build! Workshops are a great way to establish an interactive exhibit and play area within your museum, school, community organization, library, or maker space.
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Two children playing with Rigamajig Basic Builder Workshop.

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