Given how much I’ve written about the importance of creativity for children, I’ve been surprised and happy about the recent appearance of new sites for children dedicated to the pursuit of active creativity: getting kids off the couch to make things. Encouraging kids to do more with their hands than play video games is important, and finding activities for them to do just got much easier.
The first site I’ve had my eye on is called Built by Kids, which is a deep well of DIY projects for parents looking to build a dollhouse or plant a garden with their kids over a weekend. Kids can also submit their own “Built by You” projects each month to be featured on the homepage and the chance to earn prizes from sponsors. The “Tool School” is also a great resource for helping kids understand different tools available to them, and provides a foundational craftsmanship education that they can use throughout their lives.
The founders claim that by “teaching children practical skills and encouraging them to submit to their creativity, children become more confident, capable and cosmopolitan.” I agree, and I would definitely suggest that any parent looking for collaborative, hands-on activities to do with their kids to dive into all that Built by Kids has to offer. I for one will be checking out the universal construction kit that will be handy for my three-year-old.
A similar site called DIY.org takes the idea one step further by creating an online community for kids to share their own projects with other kids in a completely safe, anonymous setting that parents can monitor. The kids get their own “portfolios” to show off what they make and can earn stickers for completing certain projects. There is even integration with a pretty impressive iPhone/iPod touch app.
DIY.org has gotten a good amount of press lately for its focus on activity instead of passive participation. In the New York Times, co-founder Isaiah Saxon is quoted describing most social networks as being “about what you like, not what you do… We want to create an experience for children that’s about what you make, and in turn makes these skills heroic.”
His comment about heroism reminded me of when The Dangerous Book for Boys and The Daring Book for Girls made a splash with their publication a few years ago. The concepts within were so simple (learning how to fish, read a compass, and tie knots, for example), but they were radical in their simplicity. They stirred within parents a nostalgia for the days of youth before iPads and Kinects. Before alternate childhood dimensions.
Given that my son is just getting old enough to participate in hands-on building projects like this, I’m curious about how other parents have intentionally integrated this kind of activity into their lives (or not). What do you think? Is this new movement a good thing, or are these new websites another result of over-involved parents? Do you make it a point to do hands-on projects with your kids?
Caleb Gardner is an amateur father and husband who writes at The Exceptional Man and dabbles in photography, design, and music. When listening to the cacophony of modern-day America, Caleb prefers a side of Scotch. He calls Chicago home, and in winter, less-nice things.