Making for the littles

TMI robotWe often receive questions about making with young learners. Many of the tools and technology of the maker movement seem to be for middle and high school students. What is there for our youngest makers?


Recommended technology
  • LittleBits – A growing line of electronic bits that snap together for prototyping and learning about electronics. Here’s a nice case study
  • MaKey Makey – Check the website for lots of project ideas
  • Bee bots – cute little programable robots
  • Dash and Dot – more cute programmable robots. Use the Tickle app to program.
  • WeDo – LEGO’s robotics kit for K-2 (but easily goes up in age, especially when paired with Scratch)
  • Hummingbird Robotics Kit– this might be upper elementary, but there is no easier way to create robots with moving parts, sensors, and lights than this. Perfect with upcycled and craft materials.
  • Scratch or Turtle Art – Never too young for computer science!
  • Don’t forget computers, cameras, craft materials, electronics, batteries, tools, junk, etc.

Do you need to spend a lot? No, but when you do have a budget, here are Gary Stager’s recommendations for a $50,000 elementary school maker program. It includes computers, so if you already have them, it’s a bargain at $29,000!

Favorite project ideas for young makers
Combine craft materials, electronics, action, whimsy, and stand back!

Learn from others
Learn from experience! Here are some great blogs by educators about elementary-age maker classrooms, makerspaces, and programs:

Is it worth it getting a 3D printer for young students? Yes, but…

  • Yes – they can do it! Use Tinkercad and you will be amazed at the invention of young makers. They simply don’t know that 3D design is supposed to be hard.
  • But… it’s a lot of work (for you) – A 3D printer is fun, but you will be doing a lot of the work! Make sure you want to spend the money (and time) a 3D printer will require.

How do I make this work? Some models to consider

  • Classroom Centers – Gary Stager on how to create classroom centers, examples, tips, and benefits.
  • The Reggio Emilia Approach represents some of the richest thinking on the establishment of learning environments, the role of the teacher as a researcher charged with uncovering the thinking of learners, and authentic problem solving by children. A good overview of the Reggio Emilia Approach. Recommended books about the Reggio Emilia Approach available on

Making a makerspace?
You don’t need a special space, but if you have one, here’s how to make the most of it. And what makerspace would be complete without an Invent To Learn Think-Make-Improve robot poster!

More resources

  • The Invent to Learn Guide to Making in the K-3 Classroom: How, Why, and Wow! – this full color book packed with photos is a practical guide for primary school educators who want to inspire their students to embrace a tinkering mindset so they can invent fantastic contraptions. Veteran teacher Alice Baggett shares her expertise in how to create hands-on learning experiences for young inventors.
  • guide-to-fun-3d-book-web-200pxThe Invent To Learn Guide to Fun and MORE fun  Two books  include lots of ideas for using a variety of maker tools, crafts, and technology. Most projects are perfect for elementary ages, like art bots and MaKey MaKey musical instruments.
  • The Invent To Learn shopping list is here. Includes links to books and our workshop handouts.
  • The FabLearn Fellows (Columbia University) has two volumes of projects and articles by educators. There are many examples of elementary projects for makers in the 244 full color pages! Meaningful Making (Volumes 1 & 2)
  • K12 Makers in education google group. Over 1,000 maker-educators contribute to this group. There have been numerous conversations about making for young children, and if you don’t find the answer you are looking for, just ask!

Last but not least…
Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager offer workshops for elementary making (and makerspace planning, littleBits, Hummingbird, MaKey MaKey, Reggio+making, and more). Plus, if you haven’t read Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom, there are a lot of practical ideas about getting started with making in education.

1 Comment on “Making for the littles

  1. Thanks for including a link to K5CREATE!

    Mark Loundy

    Instructional Technology Specialist
    Google Certified Educator
    De Vargas Elementary School
    Cupertino (Calif.) Union School District