Help Make Your Kid a 'Maker'
by Jeremy Cleland
The "maker" movement is growing with a plethora of new magazines, fairs, and, yes, apps, all designed to help mold us into DIY masters. But it’s not just about making your own robot, art or furniture. For kids, being a maker comes with added benefits, like the fact that it helps make them better learners and problem-solvers.
“There is ample evidence that project-based learning environments, where kids participate in art projects and making [things], leads to better standardized test scores,” says Mark Hatch, CEO of TechShop, where members create the projects and products using equipment like 3D printers. “This should not surprise us, as it more fully engages the brain and child in a broader set of activities leading to enhanced cognitive abilities.”
No matter where or how the “making” takes place, kids learn valuable skills and build their self-confidence.
“Working together on a project forces children to learn team building, communications and participatory skills required to perform in today’s society. And it is done is a natural way,” says Hatch. “These environments are fun to hang out in, and at the end of a project they get the satisfaction of pointing to a physical thing and getting to say, ‘Look what I made.’”
Here are the websites and apps that will help get your kid engaged in the maker-movement:
Cost: Free website and apps
With tested projects and videos and clear instructions, Instructables can show your kids how to make their own vintage arcade game, train whistle, costumes, giant Rubik’s cube and more.
What you’ll love:
The site has contests, such as “Halloween Props,” so you and your kids can submit your completed projects to try to win prizes.
Cost: Free website, magazine ($7.99-$9.99), Maker Shed kits vary in cost
Want to make a drone, Geiger counter or set of wooden animals? MAKE’s website features projects with step-by-step directions and supply lists.
What you’ll love:
Check out the Maker Shed, which offers pre-packaged project kits to get you started more quickly.
Cost: Free website, project crates range in cost
What’s helpful about this site is that for each project it lists the age-range, length of time to complete, and shows steps in simple photos. The site also sells project crates for around $19.95 with well-designed projects like the Science of Color that will remind you of your favorite elementary school teacher.
What you’ll love:
If you have preschoolers in the house, you’ll find awesome projects for them, as well, such as superhero wooden peg dolls or felt superhero masks.
Of course, you can also use these websites to inspire your alternate projects to make with your kids while creating tangible memories, reminds Hatch: “How many of us still have the wood, ceramic, art or metal projects our generation made in school. Why is that?” he says. “And did you keep the spelling test results? Or your completed math pages from 7th grade? Of course not. There is something fundamentally more satisfying and fulfilling when making something physical.”
Jeremy Cleland has been a spokesperson for several Silicon Valley startups, like Tesla Motors, and spearheaded global stories about technology featured in media like Vice, Time magazine, Forbes and Wired.com. He’s also the dad to a 5-year-old who is already more tech-savvy than him.
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