Inspired by the #maker movement, #clmooc, and others, I put together a local kids’ maker day this weekend.

making puppets and jewelry
making puppets and jewelry

This was a part of our local Heritage Days event, for which I’ve been helping coordinate a kids’ activity day for a few years.

The day was a great success. We had over twice the attendance we’ve had in past years (and this is in an extremely rural area), and the kids had a great time, as did Brad and I.

In part, I’d attribute the success to an open approach of letting kids decide what approach they wanted to take for each maker project (or even to decide to do other projects), being flexible about the schedule, allowing kids to work on things of their choice, and emphasizing self-directed learning and fun over everything else.

Lessons learned:

  • Making is great! It’s educational and fun, and something a lot of kids don’t get to do enough of. (In the past, we’d done more presentations. None of those this year, and no one missed them.)
  • Our general approach of loose, open, flexible, and let the kids guide things was perfect!
  • Mixed ages work great. We asked for kids older than 4 (but had a couple younger) and set no upper age limit. We had kids from 2-19, and it worked great.
  • We were happy to partner with an existing event. This was good for our event and the partner event and worked well for parents too.
  • Market, market, market. You have to get the word out to attract people. Having done this for a few consecutive years helped too.

Planned activity list:

  • Welcome and Introductions
  • Make your name tag
  • Make photos * Bring your own camera or use one of ours! (See notes on the photo challenge from last year here; this was the only activity from a previous year that we repeated. We were glad we did because one kid said “I begged to come just so I could do this!”)
  • Make a mask
  • Yoga for kids
  • Cardboard turtle races
  • Make a snack (smoothies)
  • Make a puppet
  • Make jewelry
  • Wrap-Up

Supply list:

(Note: I don’t think I spent $25 on this outside of stuff I already had.)

  • paper plates
  • paper bags
  • cardboard
  • paper
  • egg cartons
  • cardboard tubes
  • tongue depressors/popsicle sticks
  • toothpicks
  • lots of crayons, markers, colored pencils, pencils
  • scissors
  • glue
  • glitter
  • stretchy cord
  • beads
  • buttons
  • old socks
  • scraps of old fabric
  • blenders
  • smoothie makings (frozen and fresh fruit, yogurt, milk, juice, water, wheat germ, flax)
  • spoons
  • cups
  • library books for inspiration


  • Models – At the beginning, we showed kids all the supplies we had and told them what we’d be doing. We also put out a bunch of books with ideas of what kinds of things (masks, puppets, jewelry) they might make. We didn’t supply any step-by-step instructions. From there, kids took it and ran. They came up with things we’d never have thought of.
  • Photo challenge – Kids just loved this. This year we also let them write their own challenges and share them, which was fun.
  • Nothing we planned – One kid made a diorama of an Indian village. This was nothing we’d planned, mentioned, or even contemplated someone making.

    diorama of an Indian village (and stegosaurus mask)
    Diorama of an Indian village (and triceratops mask)
  • Peer mentoring – With kids of all ages, peer mentoring was natural,and we gave no instructions or guidance on this. There was one college-aged youth who came ostensibly to oversee her younger siblings. She started the day reading in the corner. By the end of the day, she was teaching all of us how to make sock puppets and jewelry.
  • Design – This is a sketch of a marionette puppet plan. Design thinking was happening even though we didn’t prompt it.


All photos in this post copyrighted “All rights reserved.”

Kids' Maker Day
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