Maker Spots for Kids and Families

The Bay Area is one of the hubs of the maker movement, and it’s never too early to expose your children to creativity and craftsmanship. Take advantage of summer downtime and ward off boredom by visiting one of the many Bay Area museums and other locales that encourage kids to make, create, tinker and more. Here are some of our favorites:
East Bay
The Crucible – The Crucible has been an epicenter of the Bay Area maker movement since it opened its doors 20 years ago, teaching industrial arts from glassblowing to welding. The center offers classes, workshops and camps. Children as young as 8 can learn woodcarving, sculpting and electronics, and those 12 and up can try blacksmithing, welding, glass flameworking and more. Glassblowing is offered for ages 14 and up. 1260 Seventh St., Oakland. 510-444-0919.
Hands-On! invent. create. discover. – Created by a former teacher, this STEAM lab and maker space offers 75-minute drop-in sessions with engineering, painting, potion-making and more for ages 18 months through 6 years. (A caregiver must be present.) $14. Two-hour, drop-off after-school sessions are available for ages 5 to 11 with circuitry, robotics, slime making and more. $25. 1411 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Berkeley. 510-985-9222.
The Junior Center of Art and Science – On the shores of Lake Merritt, the center includes a maker space, art studio, play space and animal discovery room. It offers classes for ages 2-13 on topics from carpentry to coding, but you can also drop in from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. $6 suggested donation. Lakeside Park, 558 Bellevue Ave., Oakland. 510-839-5777.
MOCHA – Drop in to the Museum of Children’s Arts new space in Oakland’s City Center for Open Studio 2.0 four mornings a week, or check out one of the museum’s special weekend events. The studio has tons of supplies for hands-on art making, with themes and projects that change monthly. Open Studios: Wednesday-Saturday 10 a.m.-1 p.m. $5 per person, 1221 Broadway LL-49, Oakland. 510-465-8770.
Bay Area Discovery Museum – The museum’s Fab Lab, for ages 5 and up, is considered the world’s first of its kind for young children, with tools such as 3-D printers and laser and vinyl cutters. Visitors can explore the engineering design process with wheels, pulleys, nuts and bolts; participate in a hands-on program led by museum educators, for ages 4 and up; or create buildings, bridges and more with wooden planks. There is a lot more to do at the museum, including hands-on art studios, STEM exhibits and great outdoor spaces. Tuesday-Friday 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (Fab Lab hours may vary.) $13.95-14.95. 557 McReynolds Road, Sausalito. 415-339-3900.
Play-Well – Teaching engineering through LEGO building, Play-Well offers classes, camps and drop-in hours with both structured and free-form activities with hundreds of thousands of LEGOs to explore engineering, physics architecture and art. Tuesday-Friday 12-6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m.-6 p.m. $10 per hour per child, $8 for preschoolers. 216 Greenfield Ave., San Anselmo. 415-460-5210.
San Francisco
The Butterfly Joint – Children as young as 2 can try their hand at woodworking at Saturday parent and toddler classes at this San Francisco studio. There are also weekend classes for kids ages 4 and up, as well as after-school classes for school-age children and camps. Among the projects are laser-etched bookmarks, cutting boards, desk organizers, wooden spoons, desk organizers and more. $40-65. 4411 Cabrillo St. [email protected]
Children’s Creativity Museum – Create clay characters and have them star in a stop-motion movie, record your own music video, program robots or take the Mystery Box Challenge, in which kids are given a prompt to invent something using only the materials given. These are just some of the interactive activities at this Yerba Buena museum that aims to nurture creativity and collaboration. Wednesday-Sunday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. $12.95, under 2 FREE. 221 Fourth St. 415-820-3320.
Exploratorium – The Exploratorium’s Tinkering Studio encourages visitors to explore and create using a wide variety of materials, tools and technologies. From open-ended explorations to in-depth workshops on topics from circuits to stop-motion animation, the space is a great place for kids to interact with tinkerers, artists and makers – and to become one. It’s just one part of this 50-year-old hands-on museum dedicated to science, art and human perception. For some Exploratorium experiments to try at home, visit page XX. Tuesday-Sunday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. $19.95-29.95, 3 and under FREE. Pier 15 (Embarcadero at Green Street). 415-528-4444.
Mission Science Workshop – Stop by Mission Science Workshop to tinker, build and explore at free community drop-in sessions held from September to May at the Mission location from 3-5 p.m. Wednesdays and on the second Saturday of the month from 10 a.m.-3p.m. Drop-ins are held at the Excelsior site from 3-5 p.m. Mondays and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on third Saturdays.  The workshop, which offers bilingual programming that aims to serve underserved youth from low-income communities, also offers field trips and summer programs. Mission location: 3750 18th St., San Francisco. 415-621-1240. Excelsior location: 4458 Mission St., San Francisco. 415-594-9165.
Rec Room Creative – The drop-in center offers collaborative, imaginative and construction-type play for ages 6 and under. Tuesday-Friday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday 12-4 p.m. $10 infant (under 10 months) and parent, $15 child and parent, $25 family pass. 1419 Chapin Ave., #101, Burlingame.
CuriOdyssey – Your child can try her or his hand at creations from Claymation to construction to circuitry at weekend workshops at this science and wildlife center. Register in advance. Saturdays 2-4 p.m. $75 ($60 members). 1651 Coyote Point Drive, San Mateo. 650-342-7755.
Silicon Valley
Craftiful Make & Take Studio – Drop in to choose from a variety of projects including leather and metal stamping, wood painting, paper and fabric crafts, embroidery and more. Cost includes materials and studio time and varies by project. Workshops are also available. Wednesday 2-5 p.m., Thursday and Friday 2-8:30 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-8:30 p.m., Sunday 12-5 p.m. 1743 Park Ave., San Jose. 669-230-3807.
Children’s Discovery Museum – The museum’s Art Loft offers monthly changing projects that stress process over product and may involve drawing, painting, printmaking, collage, sculpture and more. Children have a chance to meet and create with visiting artists. For those under age 4, the Art Studio in the museum’s Wonder Cabinet has a communal paint wall and monthly activities that change on the first Tuesday of each month. The museum also offers tons of interactive indoor and outdoor exhibits exploring science, nature, culture and more. Tuesday-Friday 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday 12-5 p.m. $14-15. 180 Woz Way, San Jose. 408-298-5437.
NUMU New Museum Los Gatos – The museum’s MakerSpace Open Studio offers a variety of hands-on workshops on Saturday afternoons for ages 4 and up. $8 materials fee, plus admission of $10, under 18 FREE. Museum hours: Wednesday 1 p.m.-5 p.m., Thursday-Sunday 11 a.m.-5 p.m. 106 E. Main St., Los Gatos. 408-354-2646.
Janine DeFao is an associate editor at Bay Area Parent and the editor of Summer Survival Guide.


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