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What the Doctor Ordered: Time to Unplug

By , June 27, 2024June 28th, 2024No Comments

School’s out and summer is the perfect time to unplug and try something new.

When you see kids at KID Museum, you can tell right away that something is different. Yes, their heads are bent over in that familiar way, but not over their phones – they’re bent over their invented prototypes, hard at work. Instead of scrolling, they are using scroll saws. Instead of engaging with social media, they are engaging with real people in real time.

As if we needed more evidence of the harmful effects of social media, the Surgeon General is now calling for warning labels on platforms like Instagram and TikTok, alerting parents that they may damage adolescents’ mental health.

We know from years of teaching kids at KID Museum that when they are learning by making, they are connected, purposeful, and deeply engaged in the moment. With increased concern in many arenas about the mental health and social-emotional wellbeing of youth, maker learning provides real benefits:

  • Agency: KID Museum puts youth in the driver’s seat – they tackle tools that interest them, make choices about their designs, and solve problems their own way. With each choice they make, they build agency, understanding that their work has impact. A recent Journal of Pediatrics article suggests that lack of agency and independence contributes significantly to the decline of children’s mental health.¹ When kids have agency, they “build mental characteristics that provide a foundation for dealing effectively with the stresses of life.”
  • Communication: At KID, educators support youth in identifying what they need to make progress and confidently share their ideas. Vocalizing challenges is an important skill that enables students to advocate for themselves and become allies for others.
  • Empathy: When kids design and invent at KID, they take a human-centered approach. Students work with peers, share diverse experiences, compare strategies, and resolve conflicts – laying a strong foundation for healthy social interactions.
  • Perseverance: Maker learning instills perseverance by providing hands-on experiences where students encounter challenges and setbacks. Through iterative processes and experimentation, students learn to embrace failure as a natural part of the learning journey, developing the resilience necessary for life’s ups and downs.
  • Relationship-building: Making at KID is collaborative. Kids work with peers and adults, forging bonds through shared creativity and problem-solving. By working together on projects and exchanging knowledge, participants develop strong relationships built on mutual respect and trust.
  • Joy: By fostering a creative and playful environment, maker learning encourages joyful experimentation. At KID, even students who struggle in traditional classrooms find joy and connection in learning.

This summer, we hope kids everywhere will have a chance to unwind, put down their phones, and experience something new: make, create, explore, connect. It’s just what the doctor ordered.

This month’s Futurist was co-authored by Cara Lesser, KID Museum’s Founder & CEO, and Liza Manfred, KID Museum’s Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives, who partnered to highlight the benefits of maker learning as we head into the summer.

1. Gray, Peter & Lancy, David & Bjorklund, David. (2023). Decline in Independent Activity as a Cause of Decline in Children’s Mental Wellbeing: Summary of the Evidence. The Journal of Pediatrics. 260. 10.1016/j.jpeds.2023.02.004.


Congratulations to 2024’s Invent the Future award winners who received recognition at our Expo on June 2.



Check out this peer-reviewed article that KID Museum staff members recently had published in Frontiers in Education.