Mind-numbing time-waster games may seem to rule the world of apps, but we’ve been discovering other more productive things to do with our beloved devices…
Number one with a bullet! We just love DIY. It’s an app but you don’t have to have an iPhone or iPad because they also have a fully functional website as well. Your child registers and fulfills projects (uploading photos of their work) to earn virtual skills badges. You can also watch tutorial videos, or just browse and look at other kids’ projects. Privacy is protected, kids are not supposed to use their real names or upload photos of themselves – they can pick their own animal avatar for their account (see below). As a parent, you register as well, so every time they upload you get a notification via email.
The Skill Badges are varied and intriguing. Animator, Astronomer, Baker, Beekeeper, Bike Mechanic, Biologist are just the first few on the lengthy list. The projects under each topic are well thought out – there are things that kids as young as 5 or 6 can do, but also more complex ones that should challenge teenagers.
DIY is entirely free*, and is mediated by some really great people. They post videos of their work too, the animation and special effects ones I’ve watched are amazing. They also leave encouraging comments from time to time on the kids’ projects, which was really exciting for my daughter.
(Another aspect I really liked was that the kids comment on each other’s work, and their comments are always complimentary and sweet. I don’t know whether the comments are heavily moderated or kids are just much nicer than grownups, but it’s a nice change from the awful trolling that so-called adults engage in.)
“Social networks today are about what you like, not what you do,” said Isaiah Saxon, a DIY founder and its Chief Creative Officer. “We want to create an experience for children that’s about what you make, and in turn makes these skills heroic.” (from New York Times article by Nick Bilton)
And just when I thought I couldn’t love them any more, they post a new project on how to build a Solar Theremin! These people are way too cool.
There’s something to interest everyone at DIY. My daughter’s been coming back to it again and again over the last three months: from snow forts to sewing to stop-motion animation to making stew. DIY has become my #1 suggestion for what to do on rainy days – I can’t recommend it highly enough!
* DIY is currently free, but in the New York Times interview the founders say they might start charging a small fee to join in the future