Five Reasons To DIY With Kids

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Overview

I’ve been sharing Do It Yourself articles here at Playvolution HQ since founding the site and realized it might be a good idea to pull together a post about the benefits of completing such projects with the help of children. This post is an attempt to do that.

Building Relationships

I have abundant fond childhood memories of working on projects with the adults in my life. Things like helping my Dad with a remodeling project around the house, baking cookies with my Grandma or hoeing the garden with my Grandpa when we visited their farm, or making homemade play dough with my Mom.

My dominate memory of these activities was how close it made me feel to them. Decades later, I recall similar feelings when my kids, or kids I worked with, helped with projects. Collaboration builds closeness.

Sense Of Accomplishment

When I was five, my parents discussed ripping off the house’s tiny and dilapidated back porch and replacing it with a deck. Then they discussed it a few more times–my Dad even made a few sketches to help visualize the finished project. I was very excited about this impending project.

Actually too excited. One Saturday morning, I woke up, grabbed a hammer and crowbar, and demolished the old porch. It was a stack of weathered boards before I was discovered.

Turns out this was a some-time-in-the-future project, not a let’s-get-started project. I was in a bit of trouble, but it did nothing to sour the sense of accomplishment I felt. The initial surprise and anger I felt from my parents was soon replaced with an acknowledgement that I had done a decent job at the demolition–the porch was gone, the old boards were neatly stacked, and I had done it without waking the neighborhood.

Creativity Booster

Having the opportunity to use tools and create sparks creativity.

I’ll use my daughter as an example. When she was tiny, she was at my side for all kinds of do it yourself projects ranging from baking bread to roofing the house. This led her to work on her on creative projects. The most memorable was the 3 foot tall ferries wheel she built for her Barbie dolls from tissue boxes, straws, craft sticks, and masking tape. Now, as a Mommy, she creates beautiful things from fabric and yarn while sharing her knack for DIY-ing with her kids.

STEM Learning

Most do it yourself projects drip with opportunities for learning around Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. DIY projects allow kids to get hands-on. Need examples? Look back at the few DIY projects I’ve mentioned so far in this article and think about all the STEM learning potential they contain.

These interactive experiences are more learning rich than just hearing about something while sitting criss-cross-applesause during circle time in preschool, or listening to a teacher lecture in elementary school. I learned much more about the life cycle of plants and how to care for them while hoeing the onions and carrots with my Grandpa on visits to the farm than I did in years of school science classes.

All The Other Learning

Do It Yourself projects offer more than just STEM learning opportunities. In fact, if you look closely, they are platforms for all the learning we want to offer young children. DIY projects offer up opportunities to hone physical skills, language skills, social-emotional skills, and cognitive skills. For example, while baking cookies with my Grandma:

  • Physical Skills. I honed my hand-eye coordination and visual tracking skills as I measured and poured ingredients. I learned that I could only lean back so far on the chair I was standing on to reach the kitchen counter before the chair and I would topple.
  • Language Skills. I learned about the give and take of conversation, added to my vocabulary, and had my ears filled with stories as we chatted.
  • Social-Emotional Skills. I learned to wait for the cookies to bake and then cool. I learned to live through the pain and shock of burning myself on a too-hot cookie sheet. I learned that even Grandma–with her unending patience and love for me–had her limits if I started acting like a jerk.
  • Cognitive Skills. I learned about things like cause-and-effect relationships, the importance of following a recipe’s directions, and how the temperature of the oven and how well we mixed the batter impacted the resulting cookies.

Conclusion

I guess there’s at least one more reason to DIY with kids. If you approach it with the right mindset, it can be a very enjoyable experience for everyone involved.

I’d love to hear about your DIY experiences in the comments below. You can also share photos or video of your projects.

Going forward, it might make sense to abandon the DIY label in favor of something like DIWTHOK (Do It With The Help Of Kids) or PKCHW (Projects Kids Can Help With), but, for simplicity, I think we’ll stick with DIY.

This post made possible with support from:

Producers

Dawn Stonehocker

Shirley Rempel

Assistant Producer

Stefani Ilkic, Cindy Bays, Serena Smith, and Sally Swiatek

Supporters

Laura Spillman, Nancy McNeal, Cherie Davis, David, Carly Storer, Stacia Ceryes, Kelly Ann, Bethany Corrie, MHerzbrun, Natalee Garay-Espinal, Monica Morrell, Stephanie Hayes, and Kals

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Jeff is an early learning speaker, toymaker, podcaster, content creator, author, and founder of Playvolution HQ who is really bad at getting his picture taken.

After nearly 30 years working in early learning programs, Tasha now devotes her time to making Explorations Early Learning and Playvolution HQ work, quilting, and taking care of her pet duck, Tape.

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