Culture Making Part VII: How To Encourage Our Children To Be Makers

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How do we help our children make something of the world?

Last week we discussed the most important way: be a maker yourself!

Here are some other practical ways to increase productive cultural power for our children to encourage their creativity, productivity, and responsibility.

Get Out Of The Way

One way is to get out of the way when our children are making meaning. It’s clear when they are painting that they are being creative, but what about when the 5-year-old dumps water on his dinner then refuses to eat it?

Our son did just that the other day and it turns out that his rice was too hot to eat and he wanted to cool it down. He’d recently watch a few videos on how water puts out fires by reducing the heat of the flame.

He was making meaning. As he had predicted, the water cooled the rice down, but he also learned that it made the food inedible.

Lori Pickert gives some hints on how to build what she calls a “maker culture” for our families in her book Project-Based Homeschooling.

I’ve mentioned before Pickert’s idea of producing what we consume.

“[When children] don’t just passively consume [but] actively produce . . . they take ownership over ideas and work with them, build with them. They take what interests them, what they enjoy, what they love, and they make something new.” – Lori Pickert

This idea takes us a huge step away from the idea that there are good and bad activities or good and bad media, and challenges us to ask what process is going on beyond the surface.

Instead of thinking books are good and movies are bad, notice whether or not a child play-acts his own stories after watching a movie, or shares a scene after reading a book.

Even if we don’t particularly care for Frozen we can appreciate the important work our children are doing when they play-act, draw, make dresses, and otherwise make something of the Frozen world.

A Frozen obsession won’t last forever, but the skills gained in making something of their world will if we choose to appreciate it rather than condemn it.

The Power of Attention

This brings us neatly to another tip of Pickert’s:

Give attention to what you want to grow.

“Think hard about what you value most, because that’s what deserves your attention. Your child will respond by doing more of whatever earns your focus. You feed a behavior with your attention, and by feeding it, you create more of it – so be thoughtful about what you invest with that power.” – Lori Pickert

What we shine the light of our attention on will increase, whether it’s the negative, or the positive.

It’s important to encourage with actions and not words. Make time, space, materials, and support for making and sharing.

Make Making Safer

To help get over the hurdle of starting, think of how you can lower the stakes so that creating and sharing aren’t attached to big risks.

Provide art materials that you won’t get upset about if they are dropped and broken.

Stay calm when you want to scream “What were you thinking?!” in the aftermath of a failed act of making meaning (like water on dinner).

Don’t immediately judge when your child (or spouse!) shares his work with you, rather show genuine interest and ask open-ended questions to learn more about the meaning behind the work.

For details and more concrete ideas, visit or read the book (it is not at all just for homeschoolers!).

In Short:

A child’s play is often the important work of using their cultural power to make something of the world. We can increase our children’s productive cultural power by getting out of the way when we see it happen, shining the light of our attention on it, and making it safer to venture into creative work.

Did this post inspire other ideas for encouraging and appreciating your child’s work?


This is Part VII of the Culture Making series. Read Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI and Part VIII here.

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