Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Valentine Workshop: or, simple maker spaces for kids

A valentine-maker at work.
I subscribe to the perspective that we youth services folks have been living out the maker space movement since before it was cool existed as such. We've crafted with our kids since we first branched out from just offering story time programs, and now that crafting fits into the larger, more publicized Maker Movement. So keep this in mind: while it may seem as though I'm just offering you details of my low-tech, cut-and-paste-and-paint-and-stick Valentine Workshop, I'm really showing you how easy it is to turn your own youth program room into a maker space for an hour.

Every year, I love to offer an informal program at which my library kiddos can make valentines. My valentine programs attract kids who like crafts; kids who want to give their friends and classmates something homemade, but lack supplies at home; and kids who just happen to be wandering around the library after school, looking for something to do. My preparation process is simple and straightforward:
Pretty paper!
  1. hit the craft store a few days before the program (I picked up a ton of stick-on foam hearts, stars, and flowers, as well as some great patterned scrapbook paper, all very discounted);
  2. grab red and pink paper from our equipment room (a.k.a. my office) as well as anything else that might fit on a valentine (googly eyes!);
  3. set up tables and chairs in the program room with markers, paint daubers, scissors, and glue at each station;
  4. open the program room doors and let the creativity flow.

I find a messy process often
begets lovely results.
I had about 25 people come through this year's one-hour Valentine Workshop. Yes, that's smaller than my more "programmed" programs tend to be, but the smaller group size meant I was able to circulate the room and talk to every child about Valentine's Day, their creations, and what they've been reading. As I wandered about the room talking to the children, I also got a sneak peek into their processes. One girl was methodically making matching valentines for each of her classmates; another child was strategically placing stick-on foam stars amidst her poems for her friends; and a boy made valentines that doubled as bookmarks. The younger kids experimented with how much glue it takes to get a googly eye to stick (not as much as they think it takes), and then they left with at least one valentine for a family member or friend. The products of our hour were varied, and invariably the makers were proud of what they'd made.

They always assume I'm married.
When it comes down to it, maker spaces for kids are, in my experience, equal parts about the freedom to build and having a forum to share with others. That's the exact sort of environment I seek to create in my low-tech maker spaces: plenty of supplies for unrestrained creativity, space and time to make things, and companions who are interested in what they're doing. My kids really enjoy the opportunity to relax, get their hands dirty, and make things without rigid instructions. I even got my very own valentines at the end of it.

How are you incorporating maker spaces into your youth programming? Have you given the maker movement much thought?


  1. I have long thought that maker spaces have been the hallmark of many library youth spaces and places for decades. From simple crafts to science and engineering-based making, we been there. Just never branded it. It's alot like gaming. Lots of people see it as wii and computer-based and video gaming and treated it as a hip development in libraries - youth libraries have been creating gaming opportunities for kids (chess, checkers, legos, pokeman clubs, candyland, family game nights)since forever.

  2. Thanks for writing this- well said! Beyond what we do throughout the year, we're incorporating Maker Mondays into our summer program which will allow for a regular schedule of a variety of making opportunities.
    After I saw this post yesterday, I scheduled an impromptu Valentine workshop at our library for today. The preschoolers loved the valentine workshop this morning so we'll see how the older kids like it later... Thanks for the idea.

    1. I'm psyched that you added an impromptu workshop! I hope the older bunch enjoyed it as much as your preschoolers.


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