Kylee Larson’s husband, Phil Larson, composed the Kylee Makes It theme song, “We’re Gonna Make It.”
Dressed in a white-and-black striped long sleeve shirt with a solid yellow patch and black overalls, Kylee Larson sets her iPhone on her tripod and turns on her microphone pack to start filming a video for her kids’ art YouTube channel, Kylee Makes It.
Thinking about what they wanted to do with their lives while quarantining during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Larson and her husband, Phil Larson, decided to create their own YouTube channel after spending most of their time in lockdown watching videos with their 3-year-old son, Dax Larson.
“My husband is a musician and composer, and I just like making things,” Kylee Larson said. “It all kind of came together that making the channel would really fit [with] what we wanted our family to look like on the other side of [quarantine].”
As parents, Larson and her husband had already done their research on what a kids’ YouTube channel looked like. Before she created her channel in June 2020, Larson worked as the director of the communications team for Church at the Crossing in Indianapolis for three years. There, she learned how to find a way to bring art and creativity into her role and identity.
Larson said she was able to be creative with her communications team at Church at the Crossing when they had to come up with a way for people to reflect on the meaning of Ash Wednesday. Larson and her team created a space for people to walk through various stations that invited them to reflect through different words, images and creative expressions.
“I think sometimes we can reach something in our souls with art and creativity that can’t be reached in our traditional “church” settings,” Larson said.
Larson and her husband began filming for their YouTube channel in August 2020 and posted their first four videos the following October. Combining art with science for kids ages 3 to 9 and their parents, Larson said Kylee Makes It is about incorporating a creative element with kids’ interests .
“We always try to have an element of something that [parents] could do with your kid or a teacher could use in a classroom,” Larson said. “A lot of people say things like, ‘I'm not an artist, I can't draw.’ But we're all makers. We all do something.”
Cartoonist Dee Parson, or “Supr Dee,” guest-starred in Larson’s video, “Kylee Makes a Cartoon,” to teach Larson and her subscribers how to draw Plush Maria, a character from his comic strips. Parson said he was nervous at first to film for a kids’ show, but he wanted to make sure the viewers saw someone having fun while doing something they love.
“[My hope is that the kids] get those same feelings doing the things that they want to do — even if it isn't art related, to just see someone who's having fun drawing and seeing it in different ways that they probably haven't seen before,” Parson said.
Because Larson still considers herself “a kid that makes stuff,” coming up with ideas for videos on her channel was not hard as she has “more ideas than time.”
“There's so many great content creators, especially around kids' art,” Larson said. “Everybody kind of has their own spin. We're just trying to make good content, trying to connect with parents and that's always the best part — to hear from parents or teachers who have actually used it and kids who are connecting with it.”
When Hannah Stephens worked as a special education teacher at East Washington Academy in Muncie, she would play Larson’s videos for her kindergarten through fifth-grade class. As a friend of Larson and a teacher, Stephens said Larson and her husband asked for her thoughts on their videos.
“I loved how [Kylee Makes It] didn't just catch my students' attention, but it also caught mine and other teachers that came into my room,” Stephens said. “I had one student that was very particular about what was played in the classroom. If it was something she didn't like, she would leave the room and refuse to come back in.
“When I had on Kylee Makes It, she stayed in the room and watched every second of it, and would sometimes get up and restart it or find another one we haven't seen.”
Kirsten Striet-Harting, a pastor at Park Place Church of God in Anderson, Indiana, met Larson when they attended graduate school together at Anderson University. Striet-Harting said she and her two daughters, Nora and Hazel, have watched Kylee Makes It since Larson began posting videos.
“With Kylee, not only are [kids] getting cool art and science projects they can do, but they're getting this kind, safe, happy adult that is also talking to them about their feelings,” Striet-Harting said. “I always have a big smile on my face because they’re so good, and it's so fun to see my friend doing something that she clearly was meant to do.”
Larson said her favorite video to film so far has been “Kylee Makes A Solar System,” as she was able to come up with her own way to create her papier-mâché solar system for her son. Although Larson does film with her son from time to time, she said she doesn’t like to include Dax in every video because she feels as though that is a lot of pressure for a kid.
“There's nothing shy about Dax,” Larson said. “He loves being in front of the camera. He is a ham.”
Molecular biologist and friend of Larson, William P. Ranahan II, guest-starred as “Dr. Bill” in four science-art videos for Kylee Makes It. Larson drove to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to film with Ranahan II in his laboratory at Oral Roberts University, where he is currently “training” mushrooms to live on cancer cells to use the products as natural chemotherapeutics.
In the lab, Ranahan II taught Larson how to create an ice volcano, regular paint and black light paint. There, Larson was able to film versions for kids to safely do at home or in the classroom. Ranahan II said he hopes Larson’s videos will teach kids how to develop hidden creativity within themselves so they can build up their confidence.
“Kids who become interested in science and art will become more inquisitive, more interactive and more expectant with the real world around them — as opposed to just being entertained,” Ranahan II said. “[Kylee] is always in creative mode and just being around her helps me see the world through more creative eyes.”