How do you encourage kids to be curious, to build things and take things apart, and to become the designers and engineers of the future? Be supportive! MAKE has a great short video about children as makers by engineering professor and maker mom AnneMarie Thomas. Her ~7 minute video is well-worth watching.
Thomas says even she struggles to rein in her protective instinct and let her kids explore and experiment. Is it OK to let a kid use a real needle and thread even if he or she gets poked a few times? Is it OK to let a kid dismantle an old microwave or TV set? Through her interviews with adult makers, Thomas found that most explored with tools and techniques that they now consider too dangerous for their own kids.
Check out DIY maker projects suitable for a variety of ages at MAKEzine.com