Growing up, I always enjoyed baking. I would scour my grandmother’s cookbooks, copying by hand on index cards any recipes I wanted to try at home. I improved upon my kitchen skills gradually throughout my teenage years, moving from simple drop cookies to more advanced layer cakes and pies, which I learned from watching my grandmother in action. Seeing exactly the way her hands worked with pastry dough was something I could never learn in cookbooks. Yet more sophisticated endeavors always eluded me. There were certain techniques that were hard to learn by simply looking at step-by-step pictures in a book, and by the time I graduated high school, my grandmother had taught me all she knew.
My desire to master the art of baking led me, inevitably, to the internet. More specifically, to YouTube. After receiving a set of piping tips for my birthday, I wanted to know how to use them to make the intricate designs I had seen on the cakes in patisserie windows. All I had to do was enter the tip number and model in a search, and I was bombarded with tutorials that showed me exactly how to create the perfect buttercream flowers.
This, of course, led me down a rabbit hole of different cake decorating techniques I wanted to master, and as my skills grew, so did my confidence. I began making custom cakes and cupcakes as a side hustle – always leaning on new YouTube videos to hone and perfect my skills. It gave me the same sort of experience I had in my grandmother’s kitchen – I could watch every move as an apprentice (with the added perk of being able to rewind and study the more difficult parts).
In fact, I found it so useful, I began to turn to YouTube for a variety of free learning experiences from how to prepare for a camping trip to aligning my chakras, acquiring skills that would have otherwise been out of my reach. I didn’t have the time or interest to read through a whole textbook on something I’m curious about, like meditation, nor did I have the means to take a course in real life, but a five-10 minute video? I definitely had time for that.
Here are just a few ways you can use YouTube to learn some seriously cool stuff:
1. Brush up on a childhood skill
My mom taught me the basics of knitting, but I had completely forgotten how to do it. One quick video later, and I was well on my way to knitting myself a new scarf. If you used to play piano as a kid but forgot how to play everything but chopsticks, used to draw but have gotten a bit rusty, you can easily brush up on your skills by watching online tutorials. In fact, with a little practice, you might just surpass the skills you had as a child and really impress yourself (and your friends).
2. Learn or master a trade
While I used YouTube to learn advanced fondant and piping techniques for my baking, you don’t need to be prolific in a skill to benefit from online tutorials. There are plenty more videos on how to make a simple chocolate cake than there are on carving out a geode cavity on a three-tier confection. You can find something simple – like learning to sketch a flower – and follow your interest as far as it takes you.
3. Acquire practical life skills
From learning how to meal prep to budgeting to being able to fix your own plumbing problems, YouTube has a wealth of practical knowledge to help you improve your life. My husband constantly uses YouTube to figure out how to fix car issues or perform upgrades on his bikes. All those things you never learned in school? There’s almost definitely a YouTube video for those skills.
4. Build your professional skill set
Whether you need to learn a new computer program to get the job you want or you’re looking to ace your interview, YouTube has you covered on the professional front. My husband and I both swear we owe our current jobs to watching Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk on body language and learning about power poses.