Impressions that last a lifetime

Kids are born makers. Just ask any parent about their daily battle to sort, store and display their children’s art projects and you’ll be hard-pressed to find one who isn’t overwhelmed. From watercolor paintings to Lego creations to Rainbow Loom jewelry, we’re swimming in a sea of kiddie masterpieces.

But there’s a reason kids are such prolific makers: For them, the process is as valuable as the product. Long after their work is finished, kids carry the confidence gained by the act of creation.

Vimeo co-founder Zach Klein believes strongly in this idea, and in 2011, he launched, a community devoted to helping youngsters learn skills—and confidence—by completing projects and sharing them with their peers.


As a child, Klein spent his free time designing web pages, but the adults in his life didn’t recognize that the talents he was developing could be the foundation of his livelihood. Conversely, through the traditional skills he was learning in Boy Scouts, Klein found both confidence and validation.

With co-founders Daren Rabinovitch, Isaiah Saxon and Andrew Sliwinski, Klein created a mash-up of his childhood experiences: a co-ed, Scout-like environment where kids could explore both digital and hands-on skills, earn patches and connect with other kids in a safe place online.

“I wanted to make the community I wish I had when I was a kid,” Klein says. “My interests weren’t relevant at school because they weren’t understood to be important yet…I realized that adults are poor predictors of which emerging skills will be valuable when our kids grow up.”


That’s why most of the skills and challenges kids can tackle via DIY are suggested by kids themselves. And there are as many unconventional skills (beatmaker, circuit bender, entrepreneur) for the 400,000-plus members to choose from as there are classic skills (actor, athlete, chef). “I don’t want to place bets on what will be important someday,” Klein says. “I just want kids to have the opportunity to practice whatever makes them passionate now and feel good about it.”

DIY membership is free, although parents must supply credit card information to prove that an adult has OK’d the membership for kids to access the online tools. Kids can explore hundreds of skills, try challenges and get peer feedback. Some of the skills, like animation, involve using digital tools. Others, like clothing maker, are hands-on, and users must submit a digital record of their work to receive credit for completing the challenge.

And with the new DIY Camps feature, kids can earn embroidered patches for completing challenges, receive personal feedback from DIY mentors, and collaborate with a small group and a counselor.


DIY’s social components give members an opportunity to discuss skills in their own terms. “We believe the best person to teach a 10-year-old chemistry is an 11-year-old who just spent a year figuring it out,” Klein says.

One unexpected offshoot of DIY is the 400 and counting grassroots clubs where members connect face-to-face to make stuff together. Naturally, the do-it-yourself philosophy is front and center there, too. DIY recently released a club handbook. The No. 1 rule? They must be kid-led. “Leadership is an important skill to practice, and you can’t get a chance to do that if parents are hogging all of the responsibilities,” Klein says.

All this boils down to that one simple idea DIY hopes to instill in these creators and designers of tomorrow: confidence and the belief that you can do it yourself. “I don’t think it’s important that they use the skills they learn on DIY for the rest of their lives,” Klein says. “What’s important to me is they develop the muscle to be fearless learners, to never feel stuck with the skills they already have.”

This article was written by Sarah Witman and originally published in Issue 06 of the Mohawk Maker Quarterly. The Mohawk Maker Quarterly is a vehicle to support a community of like-minded makers. Content focuses on stories of small manufacturers, artisans, printers, designers, and artists who are making their way in the midst of the digital revolution. Learn more about the quarterly here and sign up to receive future printed issues.

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