Use What You Have: Supporting Children’s Services with a Makerspace

My library has a great makerspace that we call the Ideaspace, it includes both in-library and circulating technology to support patron creativity and technology use. While our in-library resources are great for patron programs and to support access, having a makerspace is great resource for patrons, makerspace technology can also be used to support children’s services other than just running a program!

Below are a few of the ways that I’ve been using makerspace technology to support the library.

Laser Cut Flannel Boards

I love crafting and I love cute flannel boards, but I sometimes I lack patience. Unfortunately, this lack of patience is often at my detriment when it comes to making flannel boards. The process of creating a pattern and then cutting out pieces can be pretty time consuming and I just don’t always feel like I have the time to get as detailed as I would like

Luckily, I learned earlier this year that our Glowforge can laser cut pieces out of flannel which really speeds up the process. I made a flannel board for Susie Ghahremani’s Stack the Cats and after I traced the shape from the books and used the Trace feature of the Glowforge to make my lines digital – it took less than 3 minutes to cut all the cats. That’s something that would have taken me at least an hour and looked a lot less crisp.

My Stack the Cats Flannel Board

In addition to tracing from books to make patterns, I also use basic shapes on Canva to make SVG patterns and then upload them to the Glowforge. This is how I made my Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and Three Little Pigs flannel boards.

My Three Little Pigs Flannel Board

This really has been a game changer when it comes to my ability to make the flannel boards I want for storytime. My library has a decent collection of flannel boards, but sometimes you just want something new and I’m glad I can make that happen quickly and in a way that looks really professional.

3d Printed Replacement Game PIeces

I’ll preface this point by letting you know that I haven’t actually been able to pull this off yet (for many reasons) but I’m in the process of making this feasible for my children’s game collection.

We have a lot of game pieces that disappear. Some of those pieces like Sorry! pawns and dice we have a million extra pieces for, but when we get new games, it can be harder to replace a piece if it goes missing. Case in point – I bought Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel and less than a month later one of the acorns went missing.

We don’t have the right color of filament for me to actually print the color of acorn that I need, but I hope soon I’ll be able to actually print a replacement piece (and for right now, our child patrons haven’t complained too much about a missing acorn). I did make a small prototype and learned how to use one of our 3D printers so I am prepared for the future.

My prototype replacement acorn show with one of the actual game pieces

There’s also a bunch of free 3D printing files for replacement game pieces that exist on the internet which is great when it comes to helping create replacement pieces in a pinch. While putting this use of makerspace technology into practice isn’t feasible for me yet, maybe it’s something you can try at your library.

Cricut I-Spy

My library circulates Cricut Makers, Joys, and Explores depending on the location and we also have a Cricut Maker for staff use. After attending an ALA Lib-LearnX session about passive programming in January I decided that I wanted to turn one of the window’s in our children’s room into an I-Spy when summer reading rolled around.

The best way to do this was utilizing our staff-use Cricut. I spent (too many honestly) hours cutting out shapes related to our summer reading them “Read Beyond the Beaten Path” in a rainbow’s worth of colors and then used contact paper to apply the shapes to our windows so patrons could enjoy the I-SPY on the inside and the outside. We changed the prompt of what kids could find on a weekly basis and over the course of the summer and we tracked a minimum of 200 patrons interacting with the window over the summer.

The large scale ISpy I created using the Cricut

Looking back at this project, there are a few things I would do differently. I would have used colored cardstock rather than construction paper as the Cricut had a tendency to rip the construction paper pieces at short turns or they would occasionally stick to the mat and get torn. I also would have chosen a different window and done the project on a smaller scale to save some of the time I spent cutting pieces.

I’m still really happy with how this project turned out (It was visually stunning) and I’ll definitely be using the Cricut to help faciliatate passive programming in the future.

Cricut Storytime Apron

I also used our Cricut, heat tranfer vinyl, and our circulating Cricut Heat Press to make a storytime apron. My apron clearly displays my name for the kids and caregivers, and has a few pockets that we interact with in storytime. My song pocket has a selection of laminated song titles in it and we always pick a surprise song at the beginning of storytime. My story pocket has one item in it from one of our stories and the kids take turns guessing what is inside at the end of storytime. I really enjoy using the storytime apron as it allows a clear segue into storytime as the kids have figured out that stortyime starts when I put on my apron and the two pockets provide some natural transition points at the beginning and end of storytime – plus it’s really cute!

One of my coworkers told me this week that one of our local preschool groups who comes to my Storytime for Three- to Five-Year-Olds are obsessed with my apron and said that they saw me outside of the library but I wasn’t wearing me apron!

Posing with my Storytime Apron.

These are just the ways that I use our makerspace to support programs and services for children at my library. I’d love to hear what you do with makerspace technology to support your work or any suggestions you might have in the comments. I’m also happy to share flannel board patterns – so just reach out!

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