The kids have been out of school for a month now. You’ve probably been home from work just as long. The risk of being perpetually bored looms. Why not try some of these low-tech maker activities? I’ve focused on two types of supplies that makers usually have floating around the house or can easily be ordered without having to go into a store–yarn and fabric and paper and cardboard.

Yarn and Fabric

Unless you’ve already got a knitter, crocheter, or seamstress in the house you may not have some these materials, but they can easily be obtained from various stores in the metro area through curbside pick up. No going into the store required.

  • Make Your Own Knitting Loom – This is a great activity for kids and adults. Studies show that knitting can help reduce anxiety  and produce effects similar to meditation. Kiddos may find managing two needles a bit tricky though. That’s where the knitting loom comes in. This maker activity teaches you how to make a loom from things you have around the house, and then how knit with it. And once you get pretty good at making tubes, try knitting flat on your knitting loom.  The great thing about this tutorial is you’re learning rapid prototyping. If you’re not getting the desired look for your knitting it’s easy to fix. Try adding more pegs or using different sized objects as pegs.
  • Woven Coasters using Cardboard as a Loom – Using a small sheet of cardboard–say one the size of the flap of an Amazon box? You can create a loom and weave coasters. The great thing about this maker activity is it’s something the entire family can engage in. It’s a great activity for younger kids to work on fine motor skills. And after your teens and tweens have learning the basics, challenge them to try and develop different patterns and plan designs on paper before executing them. It’s also great for adults. Have a 2 hour long Zoom meeting to get through? Weaving can help keep you focused on the meeting while your hands are doing something productive.  This project is also really scalable. What if you used embroidery floss instead of yarn? Use a bigger sheet of cardboard or foam core? A longer sheet? Once you have the basics, the possibilities are endless.
  • Felt Bunny Earphone Holders – I have two sets of headphones that live on my desk now: the wired headphones that go in my phone and the wired headphones that work in my laptop but not my phone (thanks Apple!). There’s also  half a dozen other cables and bits and pieces of stuff on my desk that weren’t there before I started working from home full time. In the last week or so I’ve developed a burning desire to have a clean and organized desk. Admittedly, I could just get some velcro cord strips, but these little guys are way cuter. Your littlest makers may have some problems with this activity and need some assistance, but tweens and teens will love this project. Once they get the hang of it, encourage them to experiment with their own patterns. Need help with learning hand sewing? Instructables has a class for you.

Paper and Cardboard

Most of these require absolutely no fancy equipment, just basic office supplies and household recyclables. Extra blades for your xacto knife, or a good utility knife would be useful though.

  • Bookbinding – Learn to make books! There are so many possibilities for this low tech maker activity: sketchbooks, composition books, journals, and planners to name a few. Have the kids make their own storybooks or print coloring pages off the internet and bind them to create new coloring books!
    • Easy Bookbinding for Kids – This features three simple methods using rubber bands and fasteners that are great for the 5-10 year old range. These don’t require sewing and the best part is the cover can be reused because the rubber bands aren’t permanently affixed to the cover.
    • Saddle Stitch Binding – This is the simplest binding stitch. It’s great for tweens through adults. It doesn’t require any glue, but having an awl and a bone folder can be useful. (In the Omaha metro area you can find bone folders at Dick Blicks and Michaels.) This is a great stitch for journals and composition books.
    • Japanese Stab Stitch Binding – This binding method is a bit more complicated. Once you’ve mastered saddle stitch move on to this one. The great thing about this stitch is you don’t have to fold the paper to create the spine of your book. So it’s great for sketchbooks and planners since you can utilize a full size sheet of paper.
    • Create a sketchbook using Coptic stitch binding –  This video is a full tutorial for a project that takes a blank metal spiral bound sketchbook and creates a smaller sketchbook that lays flat and is beautifully bound. This is the most advance stitch I’m going to mention today and takes some practice. It’s good for teens and adults to try out after they’ve worked through the saddle stitch binding and the Japanese Stab Stitch binding.
  • Build a Cardboard Nok Hockey – Cardboard is a great material for building. It’s accessible, usually pretty cheap, and once you’re done with it, recyclable! Build a fun Nok Hockey game for everyone to play. After you’re done with that what other games can you build with cardboard? Build them and set up a family tournament. Be sure to build your trophy out of cardboard too!
  • DIY Cardboard Candy Dispenser – I included this primarily for the adults in the room who may or may not have a bag of peanut butter M&Ms they’re working their way through. If you’re going to stress eat you might as well make something fun to stress eat out of!
About Author
Brie Alsbury, Community Learning Specialist
Brie is a Community Learning Specialist with degrees in art from UNO and Iowa State University. When she's not working with computers, she writes and draws comics.