DIY: The Next Generation

We believe inspiring creativity and fostering a sense independence is good stuff parents should do all year round, but since it’s National Keep Kids Creative week, we thought there was no better time to highlight some terrifically creative families and a few cool kids who are teaching the next generation of DIY’ers.

We’ve asked them about their favorite projects and what DIY means to their family, and they’ve delivered with some great words of advice and awesome suggestions for how you can get your family making and creating. And who knows? You could have the next generation’s Bob Villa or Martha Stewart on your hands!

So get out there and make something!

Mariah Leeson from Giggles Galore


Mariah from Giggles Galore

What does DIY mean to your family?

DIY projects give our family the freedom and creativity to personalize projects to our taste, style and current needs. Our home is filled with meaningful projects we've hand crafted and our kids love helping out with these projects.


What is your proudest DIY moment?

DIY Grocery Store from Giggles Galore

One of my favorite projects was the custom grocery store my husband and I made for our kids as a Christmas present one year. We used old wine crates to create this fun gift and it is so rewarding to see our children playing with something we lovingly handcrafted just for them. Another one of my favorite DIY projects was the custom subway art I made for our family living room. I re purposed the picture we had hanging in the living room and recreated something that was personal and meaningful to our family. It is so rewarding to hear comments from people who visit our home and admire our subway art. I've even had several requests from friends or family to make one for them.

If you’d like to try your hand at making a DIY play area for your kids, here are a few great tutorials for a kitchen, a grocery stand and a pretend store.

Why were you inspired to get involved in DIY, or to start making things on your own or with your children?

Growing up my parents were always involved in making DIY projects and I loved helping my mom with these various projects. I have fond memories of special Christmas presents or fun summer evenings spent making projects and as a parent I wanted to carry on this tradition with my family. I enjoy creating special and meaningful gifts for my children as well as getting them involved in projects we create for our home.

The holidays are a perfect time to get kids involved in DIY projects like keepsakes, gifts and decorations. Here are some instructions for creating beautiful handmade ornaments, gingerbread houses and decorative tiles from our friends over at Fireflies and Jellybeans.

What is your favorite activity that encourages children to use their hands and their brains?

Our kids love helping with our projects and creating special projects of their very own. I believe any project that encourages them to use their creativity and try different things is a great way to learn. In our house we love to paint and find new ways to turn "trash" (like tissue boxes, old jars, etc.) into treasures! One their favorite projects were our tissue box monsters we made together.

DIY Tissue Box Craft


What kind of benefits have you seen in your children or others from encouraging a DIY attitude at home?

I believe that by allowing our children to be involved in DIY projects they are building a strong sense of character. From learning to express their creativity to figuring out how to solve problems they are gaining valuable skills while creating fun and memorable DIY projects.


Super-Awesome Sylvia from The Sylvia Show and YouTube


Super Awesome Sylvia Show

What inspired you to create the Sylvia's Mini Maker show?

While I was learning about DIY and the MAKE movement after going to Maker Faire, my Dad and I decided to try and make a fun little show online. Unexpectedly, it got very popular, so we decided to keep making them!


Where did you learn about doing it yourself?

My grandpa has always been making things himself, out of wood, or with old wheels, little things to help himself out. I guess this rubbed off on my dad enough that I learned a lot from him.

About MAKE and Maker Faire

MAKE Magazineis a website and magazine dedicated to encouraging people to embrace a do-it-yourself lifestyle and helping them make the most of technology at home and away from home. The website includes DIY news and information, original content on building, repairing, and modifying technology, and step-by-step project articles on a broad range of topics.

MAKE is also the creator of the world’s largest DIY festival: The Maker Faire. The Faire is a celebration of the creativity, invention and resourcefulness that exists in the do-it-yourself community. It is a two day family festival that first began in 2006 and has grown to include over 100,000 participants in 2011. Check out the Maker Faire YouTube Channel for videos from some of the past participants.


What would you tell other kids about doing-it-yourself?

I think kids should be curious and try to make something instead of buying it. Or if something breaks, to try to fix it or maybe make something new with it! There are so many cool projects online that show you how to make cool things out of everyday stuff, why wait around and spend too much money, just get out there and make something!

Here is one of Sylvia’s most popular videos off her YouTube Channel – Creating Squishy Ciruits! It has almost 100,000 views on YouTube and is a whole lot of fun.




What is your proudest DIY moment? Favorite moment?

I've done lots of cool things with electronics and crafty stuff, but personally, my proudest DIY moment was when I finally made a stable tent fort with a rope and a blanket. Those things are hard to keep up!

Who is your DIY hero?

Probably my Grandpa Fred, my dad's dad. He's always making cool things in his shed. When my dad was 3 and in a body cast because he broke his leg, his dad made him a custom chair for him to sit in out of old broken chairs and plywood. And just last month he made this cool rolling tool/shelf holder out of spare parts he just had lying around. He's such a cool guy!

What is your dream DIY project?

My dream DIY project is to have a huge wall mural in my room covered in conductive ink, so I can press flowers or something else and have my door shut or the light turn on. It could control a ton of things, and maybe even display lights and messages. My inspiration comes from the interactive wall at MIT's media lab (which I got to visit!!).

MIT's Interactive Wall


Angela Guyer from Our Family Journey


Angela Guyer from Our Family Journey

What does DIY mean to your family?

DIY means our kitchen table is never clear. It means lots of tools, crafts supplies, projects in progress at all times but it also means quality family time together.



What is your proudest DIY moment?

My husband will tell you it's building our raised garden bed. I'd say it's a toss-up between creating a storage solution to clear our kitchen clutter or reupholstering an ottoman I was planning on getting rid of.

DIY Kitchen organizer Our Family Journey

Why were you inspired to get involved in DIY, or to start making things on your own or with your children?

I started doing things myself to save money. I'd see something I like and attempt to replicate it or tweak it to fit my needs. I quickly realized not only was it saving money but it also brought a sense of accomplishment and personal satisfaction. Before long, we had a growing list of to-dos. Getting the kids involved was more their decision. They wanted to emulate us so we let them "help" with toy hammers and screwdrivers.

One of our favorite family DIY websites has a Tool School geared towards kids. Head on over and check it out at Built by Kids.

What is your favorite activity that encourages children to use their hands and their brains?

It's important to cater to the child's abilities and interests but I think puzzles are a great activity for kids of all ages. Whenever we are building something, we involve our daughter by asking where she thinks something should go and finding safe ways for her to help like getting a tool or inserting a screw in a pre-drilled hole. A lot of times we will work in parallel, I'll give her a sheet of paper or canvas to paint which becomes artwork displayed around our house. We also find crafts that are specifically for her enjoyment.

The Guyer Family from Our Home Journey

Interacting with your kids through DIY and other hands on activities does more than just encourage creativity and independence, it truly stimulates the mind. Not convinced? Check out this study done by the UK Department for Children, Schools and Families on The Impact of Parental Involvement on Children’s Education.

What kind of benefits have you seen in your children or others from encouraging a DIY attitude at home?

I've noticed our children have a greater appreciation and sense of pride for something when they make it themselves so we have continued to encourage do-it-yourself activities. DIY projects don't always go the way you expect them to so they have the opportunity to use problem solving skills and work on their patience.


Paul Blazek from The Shire General Store on Etsy


Paul Blazek from The Shire General Store

What inspired you to create the Lord of the Rings figures?

I've always liked Lord of the Rings, I have read all the books, except the Silmarillion, and my Dad reads them aloud to the family, too. Then I realized the figures would be pretty easy and fun to make out of polymer clay. Mom told me about Etsy and I thought maybe I could sell some and a whole bunch of people would like them.


Where did you learn about doing it yourself?

I have a book about making and baking other things out of clay, and I adapted some of the techniques from it to make my figures. For instance I use bunched up aluminum foil as a base and wrap the clay around it to save baking time and clay.

The Shire General Store

What would you tell other kids about doing-it-yourself?

Make sure you have all the supplies you need before you start, because if you run out in the middle you might have a problem. And if something doesn't work the first time, try again or see if you can think of some way to fix it.

What is your proudest DIY moment? Favorite moment?

I guess it was the day when my Etsy website (The Shire General Store) suddenly had a lot of page views and sales. Someone on a website wrote an article about my figures and all of a sudden everyone wanted to buy them! It was really exciting! We even got to ship some to places like Australia and Germany.

Paul Blazek - The Shire General Store

Who is your DIY hero?

Probably Thomas Edison, because he kept trying, even when things didn't work! And my Uncle Matt, because he gave me my first bunch of clay and my book about making clay figures.

What is your dream DIY project?

If I had enough time, enough clay, and enough space, I would try to make a scale model of Middle Earth, complete with mountains and rivers and the Shire, and the characters fighting in Helm's Deep!

If you’ve been inspired by Paul’s clay creations and would like to make your own, it’s really easy to get started and make your own clay! All you need is some flour, salt, vegetable oil, water, a mixing bowl and a wooden spoon. When your creation is made, it can be baked and then painted! Check out the full instructions here!


Amy Oyler from The Scientific Mom


Amy Oyler from The Scientific Mom

What does DIY mean to your family?

To me, DIY gives a sense of independence, of empowerment. When we build or fix something, we also build the experience and confidence that stems from having done it before. Whether it's fixing a toilet or planning a garden, we know that we can do it! When you have the confidence to figure out how to construct or fix something, that confidence will carry on to other areas of your life as well.


What is your proudest DIY moment?

My daughter and I are both very environmentally conscious. After researching various forms of composting, we decided to build our very own compost bin! My daughter and I took turns measuring our boards and drawing the cutting lines. I even bought her a child sized hammer so she could help me put the whole thing together! At the time, she was 5 years old and was beginning to learn about measurements. This quickly became a great lesson in the practical uses of her math skills! Once we began using our bin, the composting itself provided wonderful opportunities to learn about ecosystems, decomposition, and food webs.

DIY Compost from The Scientific Mom

Check out Amy’s tutorial on her blog about how to make a DIY compost bin – bonus points for some more extra cute pictures of her daughter Kat hard at work!

Why were you inspired to get involved in DIY, or to start making things on your own or with your children?

I began with my own desire to create. We started with making hair accessories, and from there we began painting flower pots and even renovating old furniture together. My daughter was 3 at the time, so many of our projects encouraged the type of hands on learning that young children thrive with. Then a friend of mine showed me how to use a power saw and I was hooked! I bought a saw and a skill saw and that opened the door to many more projects!

What is your favorite activity that encourages children to use their hands and their brains?

Experimentation! In my house, we love science, and we love trying to figure things out. Whether we're creating chemical reactions or building towns for her toy animals, asking questions and figuring out solutions is a big part of learning. Some of my favorite activities that use both of these skills include: constructing toy boats powered by various means and racing them over the water, making puppets, sets, and giving puppet shows to tell a story, or taking spare junk around the house and building robots out of them!

A DIY Water Wall from Curbly

There are plenty of fun and awesome DIY project that involve science, in fact we wrote about a few in our Taking Science from the Lab to Kitchen article a little while back. If you’re looking for some more inspiration though, this DIY Water Wall from the folks over at Curbly is a great way to get your kids asking questions, using their hands and their brains.



What kind of benefits have you seen in your children or others from encouraging a DIY attitude at home?

I think it's really important for my daughter to see something that she thought of become a reality, and to know that she made it! There is a great sense of pride and accomplishment in that it helps to foster independence in her creativity. Because we have a background in DIY, she feels confident about working on all kinds of projects!


Keri Riley from Backwoods Mom


Keri Riley from The Backwoods Mom

What does DIY mean to your family?

In our family, do-it-yourself is not a hobby, but a way of life. My kids are all adopted from foster care and come with a set of issues. We want them to feel success, to feel good about themselves even if they have limitations. Being able to do things on their own will get them through life. It’s not about being frugal, it’s about being self-sufficient.


Why were you inspired to get involved in DIY, or to start making things on your own or with your children?

This summer we moved into the woods of Alaska and camped out while building a cabin in which to live. With limited space, we packed away all their toys. Instead of sitting around saying, “I’m bored”, they picked up sticks from the ground and created. It was then that I knew I’d spent far too much money trying to entertain them when what I really could have been giving them were tools…both for building and for life.

Backwoods Mom Cabin

The picture above is of Keri and family’s new cabin, currently a work in progress. Head over to her blog to read all about the changes they have had to make, the ups and downs of the building process, and ultimately why this little piece of heaven is so important to them.

What is your proudest DIY moment?

Yesterday my son, 17, built the floor of his very own cabin. While he was pounding the last nail, he looked up at me and said, “If I hadn’t been adopted here I wouldn’t know how to do any of this. Now, I can build my own home.”It’s a proud moment for a parent when a child acknowledges they’ve been given the gift of independence.

What is your favorite activity that encourages children to use their hands and their brains?

My favorite activity that encourages my kids to create is a pile of lumber, a measuring tape, and some nails. This summer my boys have built a wagon, tables and chairs, a garden fence and about sixteen forts from trees and lumber scraps. They have not asked me to get their electronic games out of storage one time. In this case, "less is more".

DIY Fort from The Family Handyman

Some might say that no childhood is complete without the experience of building a treefort, and we’d have to agree. Whether you opt for the simplest of designs or go for something a little bit more experienced, building a tree house with your children is a memory you’ll have forever. Head over to The Family Handyman for safety tips, layout ideas and everything else you might need to know about building tree fort.

What kind of benefits have you seen in your children or others from encouraging a DIY attitude at home?

Encouraging kids to “Do It Yourself” is like giving them the tools for survival. If they can work with their hands they will always find employment, rely less on others, and have the self-esteem and work ethic to go far in life.

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