At our house I have learned that there are two great cures for restless hands and tempers — getting outside, and making something. Most often, those two work best when done together.
To make sure I’m always ready when creativity strikes, I have created a mini makerspace environment at home. We have dedicated areas for making, and I keep our maker toolkit stocked with supplies that are designed to nurture creativity and curiosity. I prefer blank canvas tools design for making something out of nothing, not ready made solutions. Cereal boxes, paper towel tubes, glue, different kinds of tape, and pipe cleaners are great examples of supplies I keep on hand.
Here are a few tips for stocking your own mini makerspace at home.
1. Reuse and recycle. Done with those paper towels? Toss the tube into a bag or box and save it for a project later. Cereal boxes, coffee cans, shoe boxes, and shipping boxes are all great blank-canvas resources. They become the building blocks for later projects. Whenever you have something that you think should go to Goodwill, consider how you might disassemble it and reuse its parts.
2. Choose universal supplies that don’t have a specific purpose. Pipe cleaners can be transformed into a million wonderful things, from woodland creates, to parts of a rainbow, to connectors in a grand machine. Other supplies I keep on hand: popsicle sticks, lots of different kinds of tape (Washi tape, duct tape, transparent tape, painters tape), different colors and textures of paper, foam cutouts, stickers, paints, paintbrushes of various sorts, washable markers, crayons, etc.
For adult makerspaces, consider fabrics, wood making supplies, and hardware. I keep “grown up” supplies on hand like adhesive vinyl, Mod Podge, and other universal supplies.
3. Choose a few specialized tools to encourage curiosity in different areas. Creative breakthrough often happens when you take two unlike things and try to find ways to pair them. What happens when you mix flour and baby oil? You get awesome, super soft cloud dough. What happens when you add glitter?
I like to occasionally introduce something new into my daughter’s toolkit. We’ve been working with food coloring a lot lately in different ways, and it has been fun experimenting with how the colors mix or dye or fade with different mediums. Next up: we’re seeing what we can create with littleBits and her zoo animal Lego set.
Stock your own adult makerspace in the same way. Choose one new tool and see how it integrates with your existing toolset. I’m working with littleBits right now, but Raspberry Pi is next on my list. I can only focus on one new tool at the moment, but I’m excited to see what else these tools can do, and what they might be able to do together.
4. Plan to get messy. Some makers are strategic and extremely orderly and detailed. Others are not. I’m of the latter sort, and so is my daughter. I’m okay with getting messy, but I prepare for it by setting out a protective oilcloth wherever we are working and making sure we are both dressed appropriately. And whenever we can, we do our making outside. This takes the stress of mess out of the project and makes everything a lot more fun.
5. Agree on community rules. Every makerspace is comprised of a community of makers that are stewards of a given set of resources. Our home works the same way. We share our resources. There is very little that is hands-off for Mackenzie unless it’s dangerous in some way or not quite age appropriate. She has free access to the bins of fabric, but the rolls of washi tape are a little out of reach until she learns how to use them a little more effectively.
We work to be respectful of each other’s work and workspace, to care for the resources that we have (being careful, cleaning up and putting away, and resetting for the next maker session). This means cleaning up the front porch after we’ve been painting because it’s a shared space, sweeping up sawdust on the back porch, cleaning off the kitchen table when we are finished, putting our supplies back where they belong, et cetera.