Is 9 months too young for a maker faire? Naw. We don’t think so. Three Getting Smart Staffers and two mini’s headed to downtown Seattle for the Seattle Mini Maker Faire at the EMP (Experience Music Project). We were excited to record for an upcoming Maker Podcast (soon to drop, subscribe on iTunes to the The Getting Smart Podcast if you haven’t already) and meet up with friends of Getting Smart, Lindsey Own and Marie Bjerede. What started off as just an excuse to get my 2.5 and 9 month old dudes out of the house, quickly turned into a powerful learning experience for both of them — and for me as a parent.
I have always felt really strongly that you powerful learning is closely tied to memorable experiences, which is why it felt worthwhile to pack up the kids, risk the public tantrums and head into downtown Seattle.
At an early age, kids are just sponges ready to soak in as much information as they can. They are naturally inquisitive, and as a parent, I feel it is my ultimate duty to nurture that curiosity before it burns it out. Before my sons even step foot in a classroom, I want them to love learning, I want them to be excited, rather than fearful, over complex problems, that means giving them plenty of opportunities to make and do. Our friends at MIND Research call it building comprehensive schemas, or, as described by MIND Research Co-Founder, CEO, and Chief Scientist Matthew Peterson “context-sensitive connections that help us understand, the experiences that build and apply these connections are called learning.” And this trip was all about schema development.
Here are 5 lessons I learned from taking a toddler and a baby to a maker faire.
1. Set realistic expectations – I was stoked about the hand-made lighting and it’s musical soundtrack — the two year old? Terrified. Neither of them were ready to create their own solar panels, but that didn’t make the experience any less exciting. There were new things to do, see and make, and for these two that was enough.
2. When they find a passion, go with it – For us it was the rocket launch. This little dude would have stayed there for another hour if we let him. Move on to booth after booth until you find one that sparks an interest, then let them soak it up!
3. Don’t tell them not to touch things – I kept finding myself saying, “don’t touch, just look.” Forget that! It is a maker faire, touch it!
4. Talk to them about it all – Whether it is in the car ride home or the next day, ask questions and get them talking about what they saw and what was most enjoyable. For the super little ones, take pictures that you can share with them when they are a little older. It will be fun for them to know what was most interesting to them (mental note here will be to tell Teddy all about his reaction to the mini droids, I have yet to see his eyes get that big).
5. Pack snacks – Enough said.
The long and short of it all is that shared experiences is prime for learning. Even when it seems like more work than it is worth, do it anyway. You never know what your kids will remember!
For more on how to make the most of Maker Month, check out:
- Technology Will Save Us is Powering MakerEd in UK
- Applying Psychology and Learning Sciences Research to Developing a Makerspace
- Building a Common School Vision For Your Makerspace
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