7 DIY Tech Skills to Teach Your Kids, Because Schools Won’t

Christian Cawley 22-12-2015

You want your kids to be successful; you want them to learn. But as far as you can see, the skills they need in the future aren’t being addressed by their school. Short of taking them out of the system and homeschooling, what can you do?


Well, you can make use of after school time and weekends, and use these family times to share knowledge that your kids will really need going forwards in life. We’re not just talking about using a computer here, either – rather, general DIY skills that cover all aspects of life, skills that they can use to prove their worth to employers, or even develop into a career of self-employment.

So, where should they start?

Wiring a Plug, Changing a Bulb

Many years ago, there was a big push to promote the teaching of basic tasks like this to girls. These days, it doesn’t matter if you’re the parent of boys or girls, wiring a plug, changing a fuse and changing lightbulbs are still not covered in school. Frankly, I don’t know why.

As is the case with all of the items in this list, it seems to be quietly implied by schools that parents should bear the responsibility of teaching these more practical to their children. And of course, this is fine – the problem is, parents rarely know which skills and specialties they should be exposing their young ones to. Schools offering guidance in this area are few and far between (if they exist at all). This seems bizarre, given the dangers of AC and DC electrical systems, and their importance to western civilization.

So, your first act as the parent of a child who has the necessary hand eye coordination should be to explain the basics of wiring a plug, changing a fuse, and buying and changing a lightbulb. These related tasks can teach a lot, and are a good foundation for the other skills listed here.


Teach Your Kids to Solder

Another vital skill that is remarkably simple to get to grips with (and with an achievable learning curve) is soldering. This is one of those skills that somehow gets overlooked by so many, and yet, when combined with the right knowledge and/or instructions, is so utterly vital; essentially, this is gluing in electronics.

Soldering might be used for anything from replacing parts on a PCB to creating a small radio transmitter. It is an incredibly useful DIY skill.

Our own guide to soldering Learn How to Solder, with These Simple Tips and Projects Are you a little intimidated by the thought of a hot iron and molten metal? If you want to start working with electronics, you're going to need to learn to solder. Let us help. Read More is particularly instructive.

Fix Old Gear: You’ll Need a Multimeter

Why did that old radio stop working? More importantly, can it be fixed?


There’s only one way to find out the answer to both of these questions, and that is with a multimeter, a piece of electronic diagnostic hardware which can be used to measure voltage and current. Problems in circuits – whether wiring, printed circuit boards, or components – can quickly be traced, and with knowledge your children have picked up from rewiring a plug and soldering, the problem diagnosed and potentially repaired.

Multimeters are surprisingly cheap to buy, and typically come with a digital display, selector knob and three or more ports, where the removable probes are connected. Probes come in different shapes, from needles to tweezers and alligator kits. When buying a multimeter, ensure it comes with every option, and remember to instruct your children in safe usage.

Note: While DC/battery powered devices are typically safe to handle, never let children handle a live AC circuit. Continuity problems – checking if one wire is connected to another – should be diagnosed with the power off and disconnected.

Build a PC

I was 16 when I started taking apart computers (and putting them back together again!). Before this point, affordable home hardware were largely integrated systems, but it was the Commodore Amiga that taught me about expansion slots and swapping components out, and sent me on the road to building my own PCs.


With the deluge of notebooks, tablets, smartphones, hybrids and Apple iMac-like all-on-ones currently flooding the personal computer market, you could be forgiven for thinking that there is no need to be able to build your own PC How To Build Your Own PC It's very gratifying to build your own PC; as well as intimidating. But the process itself is actually quite simple. We'll walk you through everything you need to know. Read More . But most gamers would disagree, as would anyone wishing to save money while putting together a reasonably powerful device.

But looking into possible futures where huge unemployment might strike, or civilization might be on its knees, having some basic computer building knowledge could be a huge advantage, if only to demonstrate logical thinking and hand-eye coordination. Many of us will have a pile of old components gathering dust, and still functional equipment can usually be scavenged at your city dump or given away on the local FreeCycle messageboard – show your child how to put the components together into a working machine.

Woodwork & Metalwork Skills

These are increasingly rare in schools these days, despite the fact that society uses just as much wood and metal as it ever did (perhaps more, if we consider the importance of the three Rs: reduce, reuse and recycle).

Therefore, it is important for young people to know exactly how they can manipulate these materials, from hammers and nails to jigsaws and routers, with a bit of grinder, tin snips, metal shears, oxy-acetylene torches and more thrown in.


Check this video for a few tips on metalwork; and here’s our list of beginner woodworking skills you should know Beginner's Woodworking: 5 Skills You Need to Know Many people shy away from woodworking projects simply because they haven't done it before. Here's a rundown of the 5 most important woodworking skills to help you get started. Read More .

Install Any Operating System

You’ve already taught (or are planning to) your young ones how to build a PC. But what about installing an operating system? At the very least, they should be able to install a copy of Windows from scratch How to Install Windows 10 for Free on any Windows, Linux, or OS X PC You don't have to upgrade to Windows 10 to try it. Whether you qualify for the free upgrade or want to try Windows 10 on Linux or OS X, you can evaluate it for free. Read More , but don’t overlook Linux as an alternative How to Install Ubuntu on Windows 10: 3 Simple Methods to Try There are many ways in which you can try Ubuntu. One of them is to install Ubuntu on Windows 10 using one of these methods. Read More , as distros are easier to get hold of. Coaching your youngsters to install an OS on the Raspberry Pi How to Install an Operating System on a Raspberry Pi Here's how to install an OS on your Raspberry Pi and how to clone your perfect setup for quick disaster recovery. Read More is also extremely useful.

And don’t overlook the fact that operating systems can be installed from optical and hard media. Don’t leave them to struggle with CDs or DVDs if they don’t need to – impress the fact that a USB flash stick can be used How To Install Windows 8 From A USB Stick If you’re looking to install Windows 8 and your computer doesn't have a DVD drive, you’re not alone. Whether you have a Windows 8 DVD or a Windows 8 ISO file you've downloaded from Microsoft,... Read More .

Perhaps most importantly, let your child know that as well as keeping a spare operating system to hand on DVD, they should also keep recovery tools handy, just in case of a HDD failure or malware infection.

Learn Online with These Sites

As well as the skills listed above, you’ll find plenty of websites that can teach your offspring a whole host of DIY knowledge. While you’ll find a load of stuff on YouTube, you might want to check, which also offers a gamified reward system full of activities for kids to demonstrate their new skills and work towards particular badges. They also offer paid “camps” to guide kids through particular tasks (an iOS 8.1+ device is required for participation in these), but the activities are available to all to see and be inspired from.


Of course, there’s many other DIY skills that could be taught to your offspring which they sadly won’t learn in school. Fixing an engine, plumbing, building a wall, and wiring a network cable are just a few of those that spring to mind. But what DIY skills would you teach your children? Tell us in the comments.

Image Credits:Young girl create DIY by Dainis via Shutterstock

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  1. Richard
    December 29, 2015 at 8:39 am

    Both of our kids have graduated from High School and have moved on to college or university. They have told me that learning about utilites work and paying bills would have helped. When they graduated, my gift to my daughter and son was a tool kit. My daughter lived in a student resident for a while. She was the only one there who had tools.

  2. Jake
    December 26, 2015 at 10:42 pm

    As someone who goes to school on a daily basis, I can say the only useful skills modern US schools teach is in FACS. (Family and Consumer Sciences). I should also point out I don't know how many schools do this class. In the class, you learn to sew, which has come in handy with those pesky holes in clothing, and how to cook. You touch upon doing laundry, and sometimes have to do dishes, but most of the time, you sit behind a sewing machine, or slave over a stove, and cook a soup or something.

  3. jonen560ti
    December 23, 2015 at 12:04 pm

    I have most of these covered, except wood and metal. all of these are pretty helpful skills to have, i wish school covered these more instead of "new-norwegian", in Norway you actually have to learn to speak and write new-norwegian which is slightly altered version of the norwegian language. think modern english vs middle age english. i have used it exactly 0 times since i graduated and 9 out of 10 students hate it, would have been much more beneficial to spend that time learning DIY

  4. Tom
    December 23, 2015 at 2:45 am

    I don't know about the rest of the folks reading this list, but I was in middle and high school during the bulk of the 90s... back when they taught all of these skills, short of building a computer and installing an OS. I always assumed they still taught all this stuff today. It's good to know they don't anymore, as I now have two small boys of my own.

    As for computer building and OS installs... that I picked up from my dad as he built and upgraded our first PC. (Back when you'd NEVER run out of room on your 40 mb C: drive.) I then built my own from his spare parts when I was 14 (way back in 1994). When my high school computer lab got real computers instead of dumb terminals, I pretty much set up all 20 or so single handed... they ran Windows 3.11... fairly archaic to my Win 95 box on my desk at home. Haha. Ahh... the good ol' days of swapping a huge stack of 3 inch floppies to install Windows.

    • Christian Cawley
      December 23, 2015 at 8:20 am

      This is pretty much what I thought too until my nieces started school about 5 years ago.

    • Anonymous
      December 23, 2015 at 2:57 pm

      Over the years, in the US, useful, practical classes such as various shop classes or home economics (cooking, sewing, etc) have been replaced by touchy-feely social consciousness classes.

      My entire educational experience took place in New York City. Nevertheless, in middle school, I was taught how to use most common tools. We even made a few of the simpler ones. One of the projects we did in high school was to make a drafting board and a T-square which we later used in a drafting class.

      Adult education classes at neighborhood vocational schools offer the opportunity to pick up other skills such as welding, small engine repair, masonry, etc.

  5. CSharp
    December 22, 2015 at 7:48 pm

    That was hilarious.

    • Christian Cawley
      December 22, 2015 at 8:53 pm

      Nice to have amused you.

    • Tom
      December 23, 2015 at 3:41 pm

      I was in school in Upstate New York... yeah, I totally forgot that there was a home economics class that taught some sewing and cooking too.

      In high school, my wood shop class had us make a small cabinet by hand... floating door panels and all. (I think mine was cherry wood.) And my electrical shop class had us make a car battery charger... we even cut and bent or own sheet metal case.

  6. Johng
    December 22, 2015 at 7:17 pm

    Even though they might not be able to do as much, exposing them to automotive and household fixes should be done as well. I bought an easy to work on suv, 2001 4runner, to build my own automotive skills. My kids watch me change fluids and such.

    • Christian Cawley
      December 22, 2015 at 8:54 pm

      Agreed Johng! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.