Kids are more tech-savvy today than ever before, but all that screen time (an average of five to seven hours a day) may mean less time spent interacting with physical objects, creating, designing, and developing important coordination skills. Since shop and home economics classes have largely disappeared from schools, many kids are growing up without the sort of basic trade skills previous generations had at least a passing familiarity with.
They may not be taught in school, but these sorts of skills, like sewing, crafting, building, woodworking, and gardening, are seeing a big resurgence. Tight budgets, environmental concerns, and a desire to live more simply have prompted many Americans to embrace the philosophy; eschewing store-bought items for homemade, cooking at home more, and growing their own food. Other parents are encouraging these skills as a precautionary measure. In her New York Times blog Motherlode, Lisa Belkin wrote about parents who have a less optimistic view of the future and are taking a different approach to preparing their kids for the unknown. These parents ask “what if we’re raising our kids to succeed in a George Jetson kind of world, but they wind up living more like Fred Flintstone?” They’re making sure that, in addition to academics, their kids learn skills that could be useful in case of total economic collapse—when jobs like bike mechanic, cobbler, or toolmaker might be important. So maybe raising your kids to live in a new Stone Age is a little extreme (not to mention depressing), but certainly kids could stand to learn how to create with their hands, not just Photoshop; learn to fix and build things, not just consume; and adopt some hobbies that don’t require an internet connection. From an educational standpoint, hands-on activities have been widely found to be effective and engaging, especially in the sciences. Yes, it can be messy, but it’s also gratifying and fun for kids to experiment and build with their own hands.
Now that you know the importance of kids’ DIY projects, check out these resources for tons of easy-to-follow tutorials kids can use to create toys, experiments, crafts, and games.
- The Crafty Crow is a children’s craft collective featuring arts and crafts, experiments, and things to make and build from around the web. This mini robot from Red Ted Art is a cool project they recently shared.
- Hands On As We Grow has lots of hands on crafts and activities for preschool-aged children.
- Bill Nye the Science Guy features a number of tutorials and videos for educational science experiments kids can do in their home with simple supplies.
- Toys From Trash has extensive photo and video tutorials for science and math experiments, and crafts, toys, and games to make.
- Instructables has tutorials on nearly everything you can think of, from recipes and sewing patterns, to woodworking and robotics. While it’s geared more toward adults, there are certainly kid-friendly projects to be found. Check out “21 Projects Guaranteed to Keep Your Kids Occupied This Weekend” to find how-tos for marshmallow shooters, tiny robots, crafts, origami, animation, and more.
- Enchanted Learning is a great source for craft inspiration for younger children, utilizing materials like cardboard, paint, string, and glue. Crafts are broken down by holidays and themes, as well as by material, making it easy to find appropriate projects.
- The Exploratorium, a science museum in San Francisco, California, offers instructions on its website for “Science Snacks”; simple DIY versions of many of the exhibits you’ll find at the museum.
- Education.com has a ton of science activities, games, and experiments for all grades, from preschool through high school—as well as ideas for science fair projects.
What is your favorite kids’ DIY project? Let us know in the comments section.
This post originally published in March 2012 and has been revised and republished.