Are you familiar with makerspaces?
I learned about the concept years ago when I taught in a Montessori classroom and actually had the pleasure of seeing Dale Dougherty, considered by many to be the founder of the maker movement, speak at the 2018 American Montessori Society conference.
After we saw Dale speak, my co-teacher and mentor set up a maker space in the classroom and I saw the children delight in their creations.
Despite all of that, I admit it was my husband, who I don’t believe had ever heard the term “makerspace,” who set up a makerspace for our kids in the basement.
All of that is to say that I know creating a makerspace for kids can seem intimidating! I promise though, it’s both easier and more rewarding than it sounds. I’m going to share our personal experience with setting up a maker space for kids, as well as list some resources we’ve found to be helpful.
What is a Makerspace?
If you’re curious about the history of makerspaces, I definitely recommend checking out this resource. For my purposes though, that is for creating makerspaces for little kids, a makerspace is essentially a creative, collaborative area with plenty of supplies and few restrictions. It’s a place for kids to explore, experiment and create. It’s not about creating something perfect or beautiful, it’s all about the process, which of course makes it perfect for Montessori.
Our Experience with a Kids Makerspace
Resourcefulness is without a doubt one of my husband’s defining characteristics.
We went camping one time before the kids were born and, after hiking a mile or two in to the campsite, realized we’d forgotten the tent poles. I was ready to pack up and go home. My husband didn’t hesitate to string up the tent using some extra rope someone had and it worked just fine.
He would always rather use something we have on-hand than buy something new and that includes children’s toys.
So when he started saving seemingly random items from the recycling like old salad containers, cans and empty dish soap bottles, I didn’t question it.
I was however surprised when I saw the first creation he made alongside my kids. It was a toy boat they had assembled and painted and looking at it, I would never have guessed that they’d made it.
The kids had the best time sailing the boat in the lake and had just as much fun fixing it when it broke.
After completing one other project, a toy dinosaur, alongside my husband, my son’s creativity exploded and he has since spent countless hours in the basement creating various things ranging from a helicopter to a toy robot to a cup with a straw, fashioned from an old tape dispenser.
Do my son’s creations look like real toys like the ones my husband helped him make?
No! You would never know what most of them were unless he explained them to you.
Does that matter? Not at all.
He has gotten so much joy from his makerspace and, equally important, he has begun to look at “garbage” in a new way. He’s constantly considering recyclables, nature objects and found items to determine what he could make from them.
We help him with the hot glue gun and the occasional knot, but he has really taken ownership of the space.
So while I’ve included some resources and materials below, my number one piece of advice when it comes to creating a makerspace for children is to start out creating alongside them, and then back away. But then doesn’t that apply to any Montessori activity?
Resources and Makerspace Ideas
I want to emphasize that you truly need to buy little or nothing to set up a makerspace for your kids. In my opinion a lot of the point is encouraging kids to be resourceful, to teach them to first look to what they have, rather than to what they can buy.
That said, the below items are great if you need a little inspiration for makerspace ideas:
- A book for inspiration: My son stumbled upon this book at the library and it really reinvigorated his interest in our makerspace. We did not follow instructions for any specific projects. He just looked through the book to get ideas for what’s possible. There are tons of other similar books that look good if you search “makerspace books for kids”!
- Googly eyes
- Pipe cleaners
- Popsicle sticks
- Washi tape or a sticker roll to use to attach things
- Markers and paint or paint sticks
- Assorted nature items like pinecones, pebbles, acorns, etc.
- A hot glue gun (to use with adult assistance)
- Most importantly, assorted discarded items like toilet paper rolls, empty dish soap containers, cardboard boxes, etc.
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