Anyone have experience with building a simple machine? Are there kits you would recommend? She is quite talented with her hands (has made awesome paper approximations of what she's going for, can cut, tape, write) but she's still not quite four. If she was nine and interested like this I'd take her to the library and home depot and say have at it. Now I have/get to really guide it all and learn how to do such building.
I can see rigging up a pulley system with old ribbon spools... But that's as far as I get on my own. Just hoping to brainstorm a bit! Thanks!
Why don't you look up some rube goldberg devices. These can be made of household scraps and good fun. My DS was big into them when he was 4. Plus it's something your DD could do largely on her own.
Try pipe cleaners, spools,old pots, boxes, PVC piping (easy to get at Home Depot) would allow for water as well....you can ask them to cut pipes different lengths and just get a few joints....she could easily put them together and they could be used for pouring water in.
At that age, we 1/2 buried a large ceramic red pot on its side (so looked like a 1/2 cresent/dome shape above the ground) kind ofHobbit/fairy like. DDs then covered it in moss, leaves, sticks, pipe cleaners (flags), fake flowers, rocks.... it was a very very cute addition to our garden. At the end of the season, I simply removed the non-biodgradable stuff. The only thing I helped with was burying the pot and getting out all the stuff and being clear on what they could and could not use to decorate it.
You could even bury a smaller pot/dish to make a small pond and easily add a small pulley on a flower pike or a small lazy susan (often found in the garden sections to turn plants to get rotating sunlight) with decorations that could be spun around.
fish tank aquarium rocks are very pretty and come in all sorts of sizes/shapes/colors, you could add some of those too for very little $...(Target/Walmart,Petsmart)
Have you seen Tracy Kane's series of books about fairies? She has a great website here: http://www.fairyhouses.com/
My daughter went through quite a stage with them. One thing about the books that's really wonderful is the way that she allows the child's connection with both nature and fantasy to remain unquestioned and yet also realistic--you won't be telling your DD that anything in the books is "just imaginary" or "not really real." Everything is very much left open to what the child chooses to believe.
Your location might lend itself well to a PVC water park:
At that age my kids also enjoyed the free building projects at places like Home Depot & Lowes just for the ideas and experience.
I've got a couple of builders at my house, too.
She might really enjoy a marble run. My kids loved them at 4.
This kit is really easy to build with:
They also loved this Big Loader toy:
When you put a battery in it and set it on the track, it drives around and picks up balls and moves them around.
They also built with Legos and wooden train sets (Thomas the Train) for hours and hours.
Lego does make a few sets for girls:
Museum Tour has some nice building sets including wood marble runs and this water dynamics set:
I've also found some building kits at Michael's hobby stores, if you have one near you.