How To Nurture A Maker Mindset

And why your kids need it ASAP.

We are all makers

It’s easy to imagine that you need a showy tinker space with advanced, high-end equipment and other enticing toys in order to be a real maker. But the truth is that the tools we have access to are far less important than the mindset we develop when we innovate by making. In fact, I would argue that a workshop with physical tools is completely divorced from the mental tools we nurture which can later actively engage in these spaces.

This is where the maker mindset comes in. Best described by the work of Dale Dougherty, this mindset, as it relates to the Maker Movement, is about turning learning into experimental play. This mindset not only emphasizes that learning should be more like playing, but also asks young learners to be more self-directed, project-based and hands-on. What better way to develop life skills like independence, resilience and creativity than through what kids already do most? Play!

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Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

But let me clarify one thing: we are all makers. No matter how we live our lives or what our goals may be, we have all engaged in the process of making in some way or another. Just think about it: maybe you cook, garden, or even patch up a hole in your jeans. Although this perspective may not be as mainstream, when the idea of tinkering is striped down to its essence, it is just another skill that has allowed former generations to be resourceful with what they have — you could squeeze out just a little more out of life when you had good tinkering skills like renovating your own home, fixing your own car, and even make your own clothes.

Now people tend to associate tinkering and making with new technologies and digital tools, and don’t get me wrong, that is still a part of the maker world. But what is more important about the maker movement making its comeback in these modern times is a generation’s desire to engage passionately with objects that move them away from the consumerist society we live in, and closer to a world of creating.

Now, I’ve talked a lot about how this so-called maker mindset is important and we all have the ability to develop it no matter our background or interest, but what are these mental tools I keep referring to? Let’s cover the top 3 essentials:

The importance of play

Too often our education systems disregard the important role that playing and experimenting has when it comes to truly nurturing a creative and inquisitive mind. Very young children are notorious for endlessly asking “why”, but as they grow older, this curiously seems to wane. Often, this is because students are schooled to disregard their innate sense of curiosity and expression and replace it with results that are absolutely objective measures of intelligence and progress. And at the same time, teachers and education face external pressure to stay on course for the academic curriculum at the cost of being responsive to student’s interests and needs. Although we still have a long way to go before schools truly engage students in a playful way, not all learning is done at school! Kids still have plenty of opportunities to participate in what I like to call “intellectual play” from home. And just to reinforce this idea, developmental psychologist Peter Grey argues in his book Free to Learn that “free play is the primary means by which children learn to control their lives, solve problems, get along with peers, and become emotionally resilient”.

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Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Taking action

Perhaps one of the most important elements of a maker mindset is the idea of taking action on your ideas and putting them to the test, even if they don’t work out perfectly the first time. Rather than getting caught up in a dangerous thought cycle of “wouldn’t it be awesome if…” or “if only I had [insert fancy equipment here] for my idea…”. However, someone with a maker mindset knows the importance of minimum viable products. Start with the bare minimum, and go from there because it is the only way to figure out whether or not the idea will even works.

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Mistakes or opportunities?

No one can avoid making mistakes, no matter how talented they are. Rather than crumbling in the face of failure, someone with a maker mindset does not let this bog them down. Instead, they embrace their failures as opportunities to learn and improve next time. They understand the importance of not becoming a victim of fear and perfectionism because those feelings will only suppress creativity. With a maker mindset, mistakes are not failures, but rather they are learning experiences that are often just as, if not more, valuable than success. They show us how to move forward and improve, something a true creator and learner values above all.

So…why does this matter?

At this point, you may be thinking to yourself “well, this is cool and all, but why is this maker mindset important?”, and the short and is that these mental tools can help your child navigate an unknown future. The truth is that scientists, engineers, mathematicians, artists, business leaders, and many more professions all need skills like creativity, persistence, critical thinking, and problem-solving in order to succeed at creating new and meaningful solutions in their field.

Encouraging your child to problem solve and think creatively now will set them up for a future where many careers and fields don’t even exist yet. Because all the courses and projects that Hello Maker provides are self-directed, busy parents won’t need to constantly entertain their child or come up with fun project ideas — we’ve done it all for you.

There you have it! Our top 3 elements that characterize a maker mindset, and why fostering it in your child from an early age is so valuable — it gives young learners a chance to develop the confidence and sense of personal agency to overcome challenges. We hoped this helped you better understand what it means to be a maker, and how this mindset can be a recipe to succeed in many areas of life.

Feel free to let us know in the comments your personal experiences with the maker mindset, we’d love to hear your thoughts 🙂

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