In my fantasy home I have a huge studio with high ceilings and tall windows. Natural light streams in over a long workbench on one side lined with tools and materials, a couple of easels stand at one end. I’d have vintage plan chests with paper and card supplies, and a techified corner with a laser cutter and 3D printer. (Even though I’m not exactly a practicing architect at the moment, clearly I still want to live in a studio!)
You know, something like this…
Spaces like this probably don’t feature in most people’s idea of a dream home but then again, my husband regularly reminds me that I’m not the benchmark of normality.
Back in real life, I am still really pleased to have one wee room in our new flat to create a little “makerspace” of my own to share with the girls. You can imagine how it looks most of the time, but I’ve just had a tidy-up so I took the opportunity to take a few photos before it descends into chaos again.
Maker Culture for kids
I’ve always loved designing and making things. I even used to work for a company called Make. I don’t know when the “maker movement” became a thing, but the term was coined over a decade ago and it is a movement which is really gaining momentum and influence in both industry and education. Governments are taking notice and encouraging the establishment of makerspaces everywhere. So much has been written about it that I’m not going to bother paraphrasing but if you’re interested you could have a look at any of the links below. Suffice to say – I think it’s worth getting the kids excited by the vast possibilities.
Whilst our projects are firmly on the small-scale, arts and crafts side of things right now, as our girls get older I’d love to experiment more with the tech side of things, which will be a learning process for me too. There are so many interesting kits out now (Makey Makey, Little Bits, Kano, Circuitscribe, etc.!) that really allow kids to Learn By Doing, which has got to be more engaging than worksheets.
So one of my priorities for the girls is allowing them time and space to make things. Hands-on learning is a great antidote to screen-based activity and can really inspire the development of open-ended, longer-term projects which can foster creativity, imagination, perseverance, craftsmanship and skill. But you do have to be pretty deliberate if you want to “make room to make” in today’s busy world. It’s hard to spontaneously slot these sessions into a spare ten minutes, and when it takes more time to set up and clean up than the actual activity itself, you may be forgiven for throwing in the towel.
Here are some ideas for setting up a small dedicated space for young children to allow making to happen:
Provide some (height-appropriate, well-lit) table space that doesn’t necessarily need to be tidied daily.
Make age-appropriate materials and tools readily accessible, and try to keep them organised!
You might have noticed we own the ubiquitous “Ikea Art Trolley” (see previous photo). I couldn’t resist when I saw it going on Gumtree and actually, it’s wonderful. It gets used everyday, indoors and out, and makes tidying up a lot easier. As for the stash of making material – I keep some of it accessible on the pegboard or in a low cupboard, but quite a lot still has to be out-of-reach until the kids can ration their usage a little better!
Provide some inspiration: flip through art books, watch a craft tutorial online, make something together
Display their work and talk about it
After getting rather overly excited about the wire netting in the girls’ bedroom, I bought another large piece for our makerspace as a pinboard of work, ideas, experiments and inspiration.
Or…look for kids’ makerspaces in your community
Alternatively – if you can’t spare the space or bear the mess at home…many museums, galleries, libraries and other arts institutions are now incorporating workshop space for children into their facilities. See if you can find one!
Our girls used to love the free art workshops at the Scottish National Gallery which ran for 4 weeks every summer.
Here in Singapore, Playeum has a great makerspace for kids, with large tables and shelves stacked with raw materials to experiment with. And flooded with natural light to boot.
And… just down the road from our new flat is the National Design Centre, also home to Singapore’s One Maker Group’s Prototyping Lab, which is equipped with laser cutters and 3D printers! It’s not aimed at children, but I do intend to get myself making something in there at some point. I’ve been hankering after a 3D printer for a while.
I know Edinburgh and Singapore have also started hosting annual Maker Faires in recent years, which are a good introduction to the local making community and often have fun workshops for kids.
It’ll take a while to get there, but at some point I hope to post a video of some sort of crazy electronic robotic cardboard toy we have invented. (And quite possibly, my parents are reading this and wishing I had slightly loftier ambitions! ?)