6 Maker Activities to Keep Kids Learning at Home

Using coffee paint for learning at homeA theme that has resonated with me throughout the COVID-19 crisis is to seek out the good that can come from this challenging time. One of the positive outcomes I’ve noticed has been an increased collaboration between educators across disciplines.

Among the challenges we’re facing is figuring out how to connect our learners with making opportunities. Our students are suddenly doing all of their learning at home and can’t access the makerspaces they love at school. But there are plenty of simple ways to keep your students engaged in making at home.

Below you’ll find six maker activities that use common household items. You can use these projects virtually with your students and have them share their results in a platform like Google Classroom, FlipGrid, or Padlet.

Home Learning Maker Activities

1. Greek Column

Create Greek columns with paper for learning at home.Challenge

Is it possible to support a textbook with just a piece of paper and a piece of tape? Find out by building a Greek column!

Materials

  • 1 sheet of 8.5 x 11-inch paper
  • Scotch or masking tape
  • A textbook (a large notebook or heavy object such as a box could be substituted)

Age Range

5 and up

Directions

  1. Roll up the sheet of paper.
  2. Attach the piece of tape. Think about the following:
    • Does it matter where you place the tape? 
    • Is it better at the bottom of the piece of paper, at the top, or in the middle? 
    • Should you make it parallel with the edges of the paper or perpendicular?
  3. Place the textbook or other heavy object on top of one end of the paper tube you have created.
  4. Here are some questions to think about:
    • Did your column hold your object? Why or why not?
    • What could you have done differently?
    • What happens if you use more than one column? Can you stack more columns on top of your object and place another object on top?
    • Describe for someone in your home why you think the piece of paper is able to hold your object up.

2. Mud Painting 

Use mudpaint for learning at home.Challenge

Create a painting using mud. Find out which varieties of mud produce different colors.

Materials 

  • Mud from different areas of your yard to develop different colors
  • Plastic deli containers or baggies to collect mud
  • Container filled with water
  • Paper
  • Paintbrushes (fingers, sponges, toothpicks, cotton balls, or cotton swabs can be substituted if there are no paintbrushes available)   

Age Range

4 and up

Create mud paint pictures for learning at home.Directions 

  1. Obtain samples of dirt or mud from around your yard and place each sample in a separate container.
  2. Add water and mix it with the dirt you’ve collected (use less water to make darker colors).
  3. Apply mud paint to paper. Check out Kids Steam Lab for tips and tricks. 
  4. Here are some things to think about and try:
    • How many different shades of brown were you able to make? 
    • Did dirt from different areas of your yard create different colors?
    • Did the mud paint work the same way as regular paint? How was it the same or different?
    • Describe the painting you created to someone else. Explain why you chose to do certain things. 

3. Coffee Painting

Use coffee paing for learning at home.Challenge

Create a piece of art using coffee grounds.

Materials

  • Paper
  • Used coffee grounds or instant coffee
  • Coffee filters (optional)
  • Containers for the coffee-water mixtures 
  • Container filled with water
  • Paintbrushes (fingers, sponges, toothpicks, cotton balls, or cotton swabs can be substituted if there are no paintbrushes available)

Age Range

8 and up 

Directions

  1. Place some coffee grounds or instant coffee in a container. You can use multiple containers if you want to make darker or lighter mixtures.
  2. Add water and mix it together with the coffee grounds (use less water to make darker colors).
  3. If you wish, place a coffee filter on the top of the containers and press down to separate the tinted water from the grounds. This helps avoid getting coffee grounds on your painting.
  4. Paint your designs on paper using brushes or other materials. Watch Coffee Painting for Beginners to help you get started. 
  5. Here are some things to think about and try:
    • How many different shades of brown were you able to make? 
    • Did the coffee paint work the same way as regular paint? How was it the same or different?
    • Describe the painting you created to someone else. Explain why you chose to do certain things.

4. 1980s Shoelace Designs

Challenge

Create “the weave” and other classic shoelace designs from the 1980s.

Materials

  • Shoes with laces
  • Two different shoelaces per shoe (preferably in different colors)

Age Range

8 and up

Directions 

    1. Shoelaces don’t have to be boring! Try tying your shoelaces these three different ways

Here are some things to think about and try: 

    • Can you think of any other creative ways to lace your shoes? 
    • What else could you do with shoelaces besides use them to tie shoes?
    • What else could you invent to hold your shoes on your feet? Draw prototypes of your designs.

5. Knot Tying Practice

Challenge

Materials

  • Rope (shoelaces, string, or yarn could be substituted)
  • Note: Some knots require more than one piece of rope
  • Necktie or pocket square for some knots

Age Range

8 and up

Directions 

    1. Many different professions use knots in their work, including lumberjacks, truck drivers, and probably the most well-known — sailors. Think of some other professions that might use knots. 
    2. Try your hand at tying a variety of knots

Here are some things to think about and try: 

    • Was this activity easy or difficult? How so? 
    • What could you use some of these knots for? 
    • Draw a picture of a way you could use one of these knots. 
    • Teach one or two of the knots to someone else in your home. 

6. Hole-in-One Maze 

Make a maze with things found around the house for learning at home. Challenge

Build the longest course possible for a hole-in-one maze game using household objects.

Materials

  • Any small round or oval-shaped object (marble, golf ball, pingpong ball, ball made out of tape, aluminum foil, playdough, paper, etc.)
  • Tape 
  • Materials to create and add challenges to the maze (straws, paper cups, towels, paper towel tubes, etc.) 

Age Range

5 and up

Directions

  1. Design a course (using a long wall or hallway or a wide floor space) that your ball will move through. It should end up in a cup or container at the end of the course.
  2. Use a small ball, such as a pingpong ball, or create a ball, and then figure out how you will move your ball through your course. Check out this video for inspiration. 
  3. Arrange materials to add challenges to the maze game. You can build barriers with cardboard, use paper towel tubes as tunnels, and so on. 
  4. Test your game.
  5. Extensions: Create multiple courses with “pars” like in golf. Keep score and play against another person in your home. Or try creating a vertical course like this hair dryer challenge. 
  6. Here are some questions to think about: 
    • Was your course too hard or too easy? 
    • What worked the first time? What didn’t work? 
    • How did you change your course after you played it a few times? 

Thank you to the colleagues across my district who collaborated on some of these activities: Heather Firth, Art Teacher at Hellstern Middle School, who contributed the mud painting idea, and Debbie Penaflor, Library Assistant at Lakeside Junior High School, who contributed the hole-in-one maze idea.

Author

Brian Johnson

Brian Johnson

Library/Media Specialist at Lakeside Junior High School
Brian Johnson is the Library/Media Specialist at Lakeside Junior High School in Springdale, Arkansas. He has served as a classroom teacher for 15 years and as a library/media specialist for the last 11 years. He has been National Board Certified since 2012. You can connect with Brian on social media @Brian_librarian and @GoldenEagleLMC.