Creating a Maker Space

There’s a Maker movement afoot. It’s becoming almost mainstream these days, with Maker Spaces popping up in schools and libraries all over the country. We’re lucky to have several spaces in the area (the Fab Lab at MSI and the Maker Lab at the Chicago Public Library, as well as our Hacker Scouts group). Finn and I have always encouraged our own little makers, although encourage may not be the right word. Really we just try not to get in their way. Of course, we provide space and as many supplies as we can for them to create. To that end, we have an evolving Maker Space in our home – the basement. While I certainly don’t limit projects to that space, it is the most conducive for mess, ongoing work, and just as importantly, storage.

You’ve seen the basement before. Not surprisingly, it’s changed since then. Here is the current configuration.

Maker Space Basement

 Now I know, most people would have you think you can’t create a contemporary Maker Space without a ton of tech equipment, including a 3-D printer. And I’m sure we could make great use of a 3-D printer, as well as a host of other tech supplies. But those aren’t practical now, in either expense or for the age of our children. I prefer to be able to leave the makers largely unsupervised, to get out of their way as they create. They let me know when they need assistance and I tend not to stifle when I’m not there to tell them how adults would make it work. Or, let’s be honest, to freak out about the impending mess. 

Our Maker Space, till now, has been mostly art centered, as that’s what Emm prefers, with a variety of toy based building materials that Roan uses, although both children use each space and its materials. We have a sewing station, with plenty of fabric and thread. Not too many patterns, as they prefer to make their own. There are also felting supplies and plenty of yarn.

Maker Space Basement Sewing Nook

We have a large craft table, created from two expedits. The top is MDF covered in chalkboard oilcloth. Glue guns, paint, tape, markers, etc are all readily available, along with a large quantity of paper, cardboard, random boxes, etc. And ping-pong paddles.

Maker Space Basement Crafting Table

We have a big open space for building, with larger building supplies like cardboard and PVC tubes, ogo pods, marble run kits, blocks (we like CitiBlocks), etc as well as smaller building toys such as k’nex, legos, and the like.
Maker Space Basement

And we have the obligatory TV space, with a sofa and a Wii.  If the basement is ever clean, you can be sure the kids were enjoying extra media time. Mostly it looks like this (they were building Egypt, in case you’re wondering). And yes, he insists on wearing those headphones (decorated by the tall one for some costume event) all the time in the basement. Hates the furnace noise.

Maker Space Basement

What we don’t have down there are tools and electronics. Till this year I didn’t feel that it was safe to allow the sort of loosely supervised making that goes on down there unfettered access to those materials. There’s been plenty of electronics tinkering, robot building, arduino programming, and even wood craft happening. But it has all been supervised. Well, except for the Lego robotics. Those are currently in the school room because that’s where the child prefers to play with them.

Now Finn and I are pondering how we create a safe, creative space that includes tools and electronics. Probably something that can be removed when we have guests, as not all play date buddies are tool/electronics friendly.  I’ve been looking around for inspiration. Most of the spaces I can find are large, public Maker Spaces. Many are for older children or adults. The children’s spaces are almost all exclusively art focused, I’m sure for the same reason ours has been for so long. I’ve started a Pinterest board (of course). I’d love to make it collaborative if anyone’s interested.

I think these two tables will make a good work space for electronics, with the craft table reserved for building with wood and tools. Although I may need to relocate some of the bins.

Maker Space Basement Tinkering Tables

 And the maternity ward.

Maker Space Basement

Maybe a pegboard above the tables to hold supplies? Like the table below, but with less tech. And less tools to start.

Maker Space Basement

Perhaps a bit more like this (found here), at least to start. Screw drivers and pliers  and safety glasses and such out and accessible, with all the parts we have everywhere in a tinker bin.  The soldering iron, however, will remain a supervision only tool for several more years I think. As will any power tools. And maybe saws?

Maker Space Basement

Do any of you let your kids have access to these items? How do you set up your space? I want my children to be safe, but I also want to encourage experimentation and risk taking. I think. While not getting sued by my neighbors should their children happen to come play.





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9 Responses to Creating a Maker Space

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  • Tara Schaafsma says:

    I have the tinkering room in the furnace room, where I can easily block it off from guests who might not be responsible or might ruin things. I built a high table, and set stools next to it, with storage underneath and pegboard on the walls. I placed lights right above the table, and low, so they could see well. Half of the tinkering table is taken up by steampunk lights I create, which the kids can add input, and the other half is old computers, vcrs, and any electronic things they can take apart and experiment with. Sometimes covers off, but they still run, so they can plug them in and see what parts move. I have all of my non-professional tools down there, so they can use most of it, and figure out on their own how to use them. I don’t have a saw down there, or any power tools at this point. The art area is in the next room, and easily accessible to anyone. That has more of the glue guns, paper, markers, etc.

  • I love your space! Our basement is currently unfinished and I’m desperate for more space for the kids to play (take sensory breaks, be creative, ect) thanks for sharing your home!

  • It looks great! As they say in the tinkering space at the Chicago Children’s Museum, “No one ever lost a finger to a hand saw.” Still, you might want to assess the risk tolerance of other parents before you send their kids down to place with hammers, nails and saws.

    • Kathryn says:

      Indeed. I’m less worried about my children, they understand how to use and respect the tools (mostly) but others may not. Thanks for stopping by!

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