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Interview with DIY on how Minecraft, Legos, and duct tape will prepare kids for future careers

My daughter divides her free time into making comics, playing Minecraft and Lego building. She’s obsessed with these activities. Adults may not always “get” childhood obsessions with Minecraft, duct tape or Legos, but what’s important is creating a space where all kids can learn, fail, experiment, and take risks through the passions they value.


This concept led Vimeo founder Zach Klein to build DIY, an online community and app with over 400,000 young users where kids can nerd out and gain badges in skills like astronomy, beatmaking, game development, meme hacking, sailing, urban design, and yeti. That’s right. Your kid can be a yeti expert.

“My objective with this wide-ranging set of skills, and involving the community so closely in their development, is to give kids the chance to practice whatever makes them passionate now and feel encouraged –– even if they’re obsessed with making stuff exclusively with duct tape,” said Klein in a recent edsurge post called How Minecraft and Duct Tape Wallets Prepare Our Kids for Jobs that Don’t Exist Yet.

“It’s crucial that kids learn how to be passionate for the rest of their lives. To start, they must first learn what it feels like to be simultaneously challenged and confident. It’s my instinct that we should not try to introduce these experiences through skills we value as much as look for opportunities to develop them, as well as creativity and literacy, in the skills they already love.”

Parent Co. contacted Chalon Bridges, Director of Learning and Partnership, to learn more about DIY Camps. Bridges hires all DIY counselors and works with them to design dynamic curriculum and learning experiences. She also dedicates much of her time to forging alliances with school partners and youth organizations likes 4H, identifying possibilities for ways the app could be used with different communities of kids to learn.

You can follow Chalon Bridges @chalonbridges and DIY @DIY on Twitter.

Parent Co: A few of us at Parent Co. are using DIY Camps with our kids. We look for something a little different that’s not only a safe place for kids to be, but teaches them skills they’ll need for the future. My seven-year-old daughter thrived with Lego Master Camp last month. She’s starting Film Director Camp this week!

Chalon: Good! Oh, that’s so great!

Parent Co: Absolutely! We’re both thrilled DIY doesn’t end after the summer.

Chalon: DIY Camps and diy.org are both year-round. We’ve had a bunch of schools that love the tools that we have created, and their teachers will be using to create their own version of camps this fall.

Parent Co: Can you tell us a little bit about how DIY Camps work?

Chalon: Fundamentally, it’s about participatory learning and kids learning by doing. Every morning, a counselor posts a new video. There are three different categories of videos from counselors: challenges, how-to and pro tips.

Challenges are creative prompts to do and try something. Often it’s something they’ve never done before. We’re trying to create a safe place for them to experiment and try.

How-to videos teach basic techniques that help kids learn new skills. Pro tips are more advanced techniques.

Over the course of a month the rhythm of a daily post from the counselor sparks kids to post their video response. That starts a communication thread where the counselors can provide mentorship and feedback, and where kids within the community can also provide feedback and encouragement to each other.

We hire the world’s best mentors, no matter where they live on the planet, who are passionate about the topics that they’re leading, and pair them with kids who are interested in that topic. Kids emerge with a new skill set plus, hopefully, with some new friends.

Parent Co: It’s a really exciting time for education and online learning. I think something like DIY really opens a new door, that it’s modeling what the future of learning and education could be.

Chalon: I spent the first twenty years of my career in formal ed. Teachers remain my heroes, and there are so many teachers who are trying valiantly to innovate within the system. But change is sometimes slow, and it’s going to take time until we get all schools really preparing kids to be creative and innovative. I feel like there’s this amazing opportunity in informal education to solve that problem now, to move fast, and to figure out how to make passion-driven learning possible for kids immediately. It’s a really nice complement to all of the innovation efforts that are going on within schools today.

Parent Co: It’s fascinating to watch my seven-year-old use video and social media tools for the first time. She gets really excited when she gets a comment from another kid or a counselor, and she loves giving feedback to others. I’m curious, what have you learned about the way kids interact with video and social media from DIY?

Chalon:  In my first week, when I joined forces with Zach, we sat down and did an analysis of the comments and what kids are saying within our community. What was most striking was that we had a 99.8% kindness rating on our comments, which is stunning. That just doesn’t happen in a lot of online social communities.

I credit Zach for creating the rules that established such a kind community. First, kids only share original creations and work. There’s a level of respect and appreciation for each other’s work, and it breeds kindness in the comments they post.

Second, we have a “no jerk” policy. If somebody is unkind they get warned or suspended – and we toe the line on that in order to establish a safe space for kids to be creative.

Parent Co: What else makes DIY Camps different from other online learning spaces for kids?

Chalon: It’s free-range learning. There are no grades. It’s really fascinating to see what kids opt to do when it’s just about what they want to learn.

We have a really unique approach to using technology. That is, most apps try to get kids hooked on the screen. We almost do the opposite. We send them back into the real world, and the bulk of their learning actually happens from them responding to our challenges in the real world. They use our app to share the results of their challenge with the community. It creates this interesting interplay between technology as a tool to help you interact in meaningful ways in the real world.

Finally, we’re ad-free, so kids get a safe space to learn about social media without being exposed to ads.

Parent Co: What does the future hold for DIY Camps?

Chalon: We’re hoping we’ll have hundreds of camps within the next year. We’re a small company right now. We have twelve people on staff. Since launching DIY Camps, I’ve hired nineteen counselors, and we think we’ll go up to sixty by next year. We want to make sure that our offerings for camps span a wide array of topics and interests for kids. What you’re seeing today is really a starting place, and it’s far from the ending place that we’re imagining.

Parent Co: That’s incredible!

Chalon: The other thing that we really love is that we’ve got a lot of international kids within our camp. In one of our private beta camps early on, we had in one session a kid from Australia, another from Ireland, another from Chicago, etc. It creates this great learning environment and global connection between the kids. About 25% of our kids right now are international, so I think there’s room for growth there.

Parent Co: What a great way for kids to engage with others around the world. Well, we’re loving what we’re seeing at DIY and can’t wait to see what the future holds!

 

Each DIY Camp lasts four weeks. Instructors post daily videos, and kids can post as little or as often as they like. First camp costs $10. Subsequent camps cost $39. Parents can track progress and view projects, and kids names are kept private. There are no chat options on this site. Kids can also earn digital and real-life skills badges in the mail!

 

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Whether you're filling out your own registry or shopping for a soon-to-be-mama in your life, it can be hard to narrow down what exactly new moms need (versus what will just end up cluttering the nursery). That's why we paired up with the baby gear experts at Pottery Barn Kids to create a registry guide featuring everything from the gear you'll use over and over to the perfect gifts under $50.

Check out the picks below, and happy shopping (and registering)!

MUST-HAVE BABY GEAR

These five gift ideas are designed to make #momlife easier while solving some of the most common parenting dilemmas.

1. Doona All-In-One Infant Car Seat/Stroller

One of the first things you learn when you become a mom? Those infant car seats are heavy. Which is what makes the Doona All-In-One Infant Car Seat/Stroller so genius. It's the world's first completely integrated mobility solution, quickly transforming from safe car seat to functional stroller without any extra parts. Simply pop out the wheels, pull up the handle bar, and you're ready to roll.

Doona All-in-one Infant Car Seat / Stroller, $499

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GIFTS THAT CAN BE PERSONALIZED

Even the most utilitarian gift feels a little more special with some personalization. Here are some of our favorite options that can be customized with baby's name or monogram.

1. Nursery Blankets

You'll never forget the blanket you bring your newborn home in. And with Pottery Barn Kids' assortment of blankets, there's a wrap to suit every new mama's style. Choose from fuzzy neutral patterns or stylish printed options, and add baby's name for an extra personal touch.

Nursery Blankets, Starting at $39.50

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GIFTS THAT GROW WITH THEM

Save money and space by gifting items that will last long after baby's first year. These clever gift items will have mama saying "thank you!" for years to come.

1. west elm x pbk Mid-Century Convertible Crib

A convertible crib is an investment in years of sweet dreams. We love this mid-century-style option made from sustainably sourced wood with child-safe, water-based finishes. When your baby outgrows their crib (sniff!), it easily converts into a toddler bed with the matching conversion kit.

west elm x pbk Mid-Century Convertible Crib, $399

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GIFTS UNDER $50

Sometimes the littlest gifts mean the most. Here are our favorite gifts under $50 they'll be sure to cherish.

1. west elm x pbk Dot Muslin Swaddle Set

When you're raising a newborn, you can never have too many swaddles. Perfect for naptime, burp cloths, stroller covers, and spontaneous play mats, a muslin swaddle will always come in handy. And we especially love this neutral patterned collection in platinum, nightshade, and peacock.

west elm x pbk Dot Muslin Swaddle Set, $45.50

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Learn more and explore all Pottery Barn Kids' registry must-haves here.

In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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They say there's no use in crying over it, but for pumping mamas, spilled milk is a major upset.

When you're working so hard to make sure your baby has breast milk, you don't want to lose a drop, and Chrissy Teigen knows this all too well.

The mom of two posted a video to social media Wednesday showing her efforts to rescue breastmilk from a tabletop. She used various utensils and a syringe to try to get the milk back in the bottle.

"I spilled my breastmilk and this is how important it is in this house," she says while suctioning up milk with what appears to be a baster.

In a follow-up video Teigen continues to try to rescue the spilled milk.

"We're trying," she says as she suctions up a drop or two. "I got some."

Teigen is currently breastfeeding baby Miles, her son with husband John Legend, and has been very public about the fact that she pumps a lot as a working mom.

She's also been open about the fact that milk supply has always been an issue for her, not just with Miles but with Luna, too.

"I actually loved [pumping] because I'm a collector of things, and so when I found out I could pump I [did it] so much because I knew the more you pumped, the more milk you'd make," she told POPSUGAR back in March. "So I loved collecting my breast milk and seeing how much I could get, even if it was very, very little."

Like a lot of moms, Teigen did struggle emotionally when a pump session wouldn't get her the ounces she wanted.

"I wasn't producing a lot of milk, and it was frustrating. When you're frustrated, [it can also make you] not produce that much."

Research backs her up. Stress has been linked to lower milk production. Because of that, she's trying to stay positive this time around, but captioned her video post "EVERY DROP COUNTS IN THIS HOUSE" because, well, they do.


So many mothers can relate. Have you ever tried to save your breastmilk?

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What is it about networking that's just kind of...awful? Typically inconvenient and often awkward, formal networking events rarely yield the results most women (and especially mamas) are looking for.

Whether you're reentering the workforce post-baby leave or simply looking to make a complicated career switch as a busy mom (or just struggling to juggle play dates and professional meetings), making the right connections is often a hurdle that's difficult to surmount. And more and more often, networking comes up short in providing what moms really need.

When time is truly at a premium—a session swapping business cards can be hard to prioritize. Shapr wants to change all that.

Designed with busy people in mind, Shapr is an app with an algorithm that uses tagged interests, location, and professional experience to match you with 10-15 inspiring professional connections a day. You swipe to indicate interest in networking with any of them, and if the interest is mutual, you're connected. (But don't worry, that's where the similarities to that dating app end.)

It makes it easier to connect with the right people.

From there, you can chat, video conference, and even meet in person with potential mentors, partners, and investors while growing your real-life network. No more wasting hours trying to pick someone's brain only to discover they don't have the right experience you need. And no more awkward, stilted small talk—even suggests a few preset icebreakers to help get the conversation rolling more quickly.

The best part? You could do virtually all your connecting from your couch post-bedtime.

It simplifies switching careers or industries.

Sysamone Phaphone is a real mom who was fed up with traditional networking options. When she quit her full-time job in healthcare to pursue founding a startup, she quickly realized that in-person networking events weren't only failing to connect her to the right people, they were also difficult for a single mom of two to even attend. "I was complaining to a friend that I was so tired and didn't know how I was going to keep doing it this way when she recommended the Shapr app," Phaphone says. "I tried it right there at dinner and started swiping. [Later], in my pajamas, I got my first connection."

From there, Phaphone was hooked. Her network suddenly exploded with developers, potential partners she could work with, and even people to hire for the roles she needed. She was also able to connect with and empower other women in tech. Now, checking in with Shapr connections is just part of her routine. "I look for connections after drop-off at school and on my commute into the city," she says. "Then after bedtime is done, I go on to check if there is anyone I've connected with."

It helps you find a mentor—no matter where they live.

Another common roadblock Shapr removes? Location. While you probably wouldn't fly to LA from New York for a networking event, the Shapr app lets you connect and chat with the person who best meets your needs—regardless of where they're based. Even better for parents, the "mom penalty" many women contend with when trying to get back into the workforce doesn't exist on Shapr—if you have the right experience, the connections will still come.

To connect, simply create your account, enter up to ten hashtags you want to follow (either industry related like #film or #tech or by person you're seeking, such as #developer or #uxui), preset what you're looking for (investors, collaborators, etc.), and indicate how you prefer to meet. To connect with more people at once, Shapr also has community groups within the app around interest topics that you can join. And even though the connection begins in the digital space, it often results in the in-person experiences mamas crave.

"I wish I could encourage more moms and dads to use it because it has been a lifesaver for me," Phaphone says. "It empowered my career and career choices, and it provides so much convenience. I can put my kids to bed and not go to an event, but still meet 20 people in a night."

For women looking to grow their business, position, or simply achieve a little self-growth, Shapr is changing the way we connect. This powerful new app could change everything, mama. Download it today to get started.

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