Projects with Kids

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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.





Linking up to Remodelaholic.

Quick & Easy Blinds

super easy no sew blinds

This weekend I finally adjusted the curtains in Emm’s room. She’s had a large piece of paper taped over the window since we rearranged things, waiting for me to finally purchase grommets so I could adjust the fabric that had been curtains into simple blinds. This super easy project doesn’t require any sewing and can be completed in well under an hour, no wonder it took me two months to get around to it.

Super Easy, No Sew Blinds

You’ll need the following materials for this project.

To begin, measure your window and determine your fabric amount and placement.  I wanted this blind to begin above the window trim and just past the sides, which was 68″ wide, I kept the length the width of the fabric, I think it’s 45″. As the fabric left from her old curtains was 70″, I just went with that. I’d already made her original curtains years ago, so the iron on hem tape was applied. If your fabric is new you’ll need to follow the directions and apply the iron on hem tape to all unfinished sides. I also tacked blackout fabric to the curtain fabric, as her window faces west and my children go to bed early. And occasionally sleep past 6:30 am.

apply grommets to fabric

After measuring the fabric, I decided to place the grommets every 10 inches. I laid it out next to a measuring tape, cut the holes and hammered in the grommets. Strike that, Finn hammered the grommets. These were the most ridiculously difficult grommets ever. I’ve  done quite a few projects that have called for grommets over the years and never had a problem. Perhaps I need to get to the gym more (ahem, or ever). Tip: make sure you leave enough fabric at the top so that the grommet won’t rip through.

Once your grommets are in, get some help holding the fabric in place so you can mark the holes. Yes, yes, you could just use a ruler, but I find that sometimes I’m slightly off when I place the grommets (or things shift) and it’s better for everyone’s mental health to use the actual hole spacing as a guide.

mark holes

Then it’s simple to use a level to create a straight line for your marks. It’s especially simple if you have Finn do it while you take photos. No, I don’t know why his hand looks so strange.


Screw your cup hooks into the wall where you’ve marked. If you like,  use anchors and all that, but then this might take a little longer. And perhaps not fall out of the wall in a few months and then you’ll have ruined your curtain hanging reputation.

Final step, which does require a little sewing. I lied, these are mostly no-sew curtains. Choose a selection of ribbon. I happened to have a multi-pack of ribbon in 4′ sections, which was the perfect length. Fold the ribbon in half and sew the center to the top of the curtain, so that one half hangs over each side. I used four ribbons for this 70″ curtain, adjust to suit your width. I let (made) Emmeth sew the ribbon on, it’s important that she feels ownership of such projects. Plus, I wanted to sit and have a cup of tea.

close up

Hang the grommets on the hooks and stand back to admire your finished curtains. Here they are closed. Not as cute, but very functional.
finished down

And here they are open. Easy to tie up each morning and the blackout lining works very well.

easy no sew blinds

Happy Monday. Now go forth and make simple curtains. Then report back.


Quick and Easy Valentine’s Cards

roan valentine

It happens to me every year. I forget about getting all the Valentine’s cards for the kids school parties together. Somehow it’s more of a project than any other holiday. This year I was surprised by the home school co-op having a Valentine’s party too. With Emmeth in fifth grade I had thought I might get away with ignoring it entirely, but no such luck. Thank goodness for crafty people on the internet. Above are the ones we made, inspired by this project. His hand will hold a lollipop, which as you can see I still need to pick up (truthfully, I also still need to print them). Considering we have a Walgreens at the end of the street, that really shouldn’t be so hard.

Here are some of the runners-up.

valentines collage

Felted pencil wraps, origami cards, celebration bags and those cute little hand cards. And just for fun, here’s a fabulous project I should start working on now for next year. Little flip books from the Etsy blog by You are my fave.  Isn’t it sweet?

What are you doing for Valentine’s Day?

1. 2. 3. 4.

Kid Crafts: Make a Terrarium

how to make a terrarium with kids

Emmeth and I wandered into West Elm this weekend (looking at their curtains, I’m still undecided) and she was captivated by their terrariums. We had still had rocks, lichen and soil at home from her birthday party last year, so I let her pick out a container and some plants to make a larger terrarium together. She didn’t really need my assistance though, so I served as documentarian. I even made a little Vine film of the process, although it seems to be sideways. Have you jumped on the vine app? This was my first video and it was really fun.

In case you’ve been living under a rock during the current terrarium craze, Emm and I put together a little tutorial for you. Truthfully, we left out some steps, but I’ve found that for open terraria like we’ve made, the charcoal and sand aren’t vital. If you want a true tutorial though, complete with video, Nicole has a great post on making a terrarium.

First, gather your materials. We had river rocks, succulent medium and a selection of plants. Choose plants with a variety of textures and heights to add interest to your finished work.
succulents close

Place a layer of rocks on the bottom of the vessel. Cover them with a layer of sand or other appropriate medium. Ours is a very dry potting medium suitable for succulents. Carefully place your plants in the soil or sand. Succulents are fragile, so be careful not to lose any leaves.

arrange plants

Tuck additional soil and rocks around the plants to stabilize and create your landscape. Finish the terrarium with lichen, small figurines or pebbles. Lichen is traditionally used in wet terrariums (ours is dry) that are planted with ferns and such, but if left dry it will do fine here. Emmeth liked the textural contrast with the spikey succulents she choose.

finished terrarium

And there you go. A simple indoor gardening project that looks fabulous. She’s super proud of it and was even more pleased that we’ll be keeping it out where she can show it off to any and all guests.

On another note, one of you lovely people nominated me for a Homie, Apartment Therapy’s annual award for blogs. Several more of you seem to have voted for me. I am beyond flattered, thank you! And if you’re so inclined, head over and vote for Designing Around, either for best home design and inspiration blog (seriously?) or best home project and diy blog (or, you know, both).

And in line with that, check out the brand new DIY Projects and Recipes pages I’ve created. All the projects are easier to find and sort through now. I’m still working on making it prettier. Baby blogging steps.


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