by Barb Noren, Lead Tinkering Facilitator, reDiscover Center
Young minds have a distinct advantage: their minds are flexible in a way that adult minds aren’t. They have great capacity for imagining wild combinations, they’re open to learning new things (it is their full-time job, after all), and they are capable of extremely inventive solutions. With this in mind, have your young tinkerers help with setting up a home tinkerspace, planning activities, and searching for materials. A space or activity influenced by a child is one that is far more likely to engage them, and they’ll learn how they can set up their own activities in the future.
Presumably, you know a bit about your child’s interests, but ask them all the same. They might surprise you with a topic you didn’t know was on their mind, and they will be challenged to explore other interests. “Is there anything you’re interested in making? What do you wish you could change or fix? What is something your friend needs that they don’t have?”
Unless your child is already neck deep in the maker community, they won’t be familiar with the full spectrum of topics and tools. Plenty of tools might not be in their immediate future for any number of reasons: some need more manual dexterity to be safe (not many 7-year-olds work with a metal lathe), some may be prohibitively expensive, and some will require more time than you have to begin with. (I’ll talk about project scope in a different article.) But it’s worth educating your child and yourself about what kinds of fields and fabrication methods are out there. Perhaps you’ll start small and stoke an interest that follows your child to their future career.
Take a look at our page Things You Can Make for ideas of fields and topics that people are using. What sparks your child’s interest? Some topics can expand into a lot of different fields; a fondness for mermaids might lead to designing a costume that involves sewing and a robotic tail, or cardboard construction to make a mermaid house and undersea environment.
If, after discussing topics with your kids, you want to share what you’ve come up with, or if you want some additional ideas about fields that you could explore within a particular topic, leave a message below or send me an email at email@example.com. If you’re wondering about it, someone else probably is too!
As always, if you have photos or stories of tinkering at home that you’d like to share, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.