When was the last time you sat down with your girl and encouraged her to make something—something she wanted to truly create—from scratch? In a society seemingly run by screens, it can be easy to forget about hands-on projects, yet those can be some of the most important activities for your girl to do. The act of making things isn’t just fun, it can set her up for major success in life.
“Making capitalizes on play-based experiences (the best way for kids to learn), and is also a wonderful entry to the world of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) as kids are naturally curious and creative,” says Girl Scouts Developmental Psychologist Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald. Plus, making emphasizes the process—the actual doing—rather than the end product in a way that so little in our lives does. From dreaming up ideas and designing projects to testing ideas and problem solving on her own terms, these hands-on projects are one of the best ways to keep your girl learning.
The art of creation also gives girls agency in a world where most things—where they live, when they go to school, even what they’re having for dinner—are usually out of their control. “Kids live in a world largely built and managed by adults,” says Dr. Bastiani Archibald. “When they are given the freedom to make something entirely of their own imagination, designing how it looks and operates, they can feel true ownership and control in a way they don’t often have the opportunity to.”
Being able to follow through on an idea of your own is psychologically satisfying. “When a child—or anyone—dreams up a project, but then has to hand it over to someone else to execute, they’re giving away part of their power,” she continues. “Meanwhile, the process of transforming their idea into a tangible object or product allows that person to retain complete control over the look, feel, and function—and culminates with an amazing sense of pride.”
What counts as making, though? Really, lots of things! Your girl can make or build a:
- Bird feeder
- Soapbox derby car
- Campfire (with supervision!)
- Basic robot
- Short film or movie
- Cooking project
- A lemon battery
- Gingerbread house
- Cardboard hat or crown
- Comic book or flip book
- Marble race track
- Duct tape wallet
- Backyard stage set
- Miniature sailboat
- Paper airplane or glider
- Song or musical composition
- Balsa wood model
- Knotted friendship bracelet
- Wind sock
- Knitted scarf
- Blanket fort
- Wind chime
- Or anything else she sets her mind to!
You can play a big role in encouraging your girl to be a maker. Here’s how:
- Set aside an area in your home as a free-for-all making space. Creativity is rarely neat, and your girl needs to feel that it’s okay to explore and really get her hands dirty.
- Gather found objects your girl might be inspired to make things from. These can be paper towel tubes, excess tin foil, sticks, rocks, old scraps of fabric, string, rubber bands, random buttons, empty milk cartons or cardboard boxes, and even age-appropriate and safe pieces of outdated electronics and appliances. All of these items—along with some more traditional crafting supplies like glue, tape, paints, markers, and construction paper—will give her the materials she needs to get going. Open-ended creativity and building projects and toys can also be helpful.
- Set aside uninterrupted time for her to brainstorm projects and then actually make them.
- Ask her to talk you through what she made and why she made certain decisions. What does she like most about the project, and what (if anything) would she do differently next time?
- Take photos of her creations and create a Maker gallery on the refrigerator, in the hallway, or in her room.