When my brother and I were kids, we handled the cleaning of the house, shoveling the deck and driveway and helped out with the cutting, splitting and stacking of wood. Not to mention the migration of the wood into the basement. At the time, we were convinced it was child labor. Looking back on it, it is comforting to know that we were taught responsibility and even a little bit about running a home. If you had seen as many houses as most real estate agents have, you’d be horrified at how inept lots of people are with maintaining their homes. But I digress. Let’s get back to child labor… Err… I mean, allowing your kids to help out with home improvement projects.
I’m not very accurate in gauging kids’ ages. I tend to describe them as “about this tall” when referring to someone’s offspring. Anyone who has children knows exactly what I mean and are great at translating for me. When it comes to having kids help out with remodeling projects, it will really come down to your own kids and your understanding of their capabilities. Ron Swanson was handcrafting wooden chairs and canoes at 5 years old! Not all of us were that skilled with woodworking tools at that age. (I think he was also drinking scotch!)
One of the old stand-bys for kids helping out is when it comes time for seasonal cleaning and culling out. Kids can not only create piles in their own rooms (for keep, sell, donate) but they can also help out in the cellar, attic and garage. This is especially true if you are the one doing the filtering. They can simply provide the transportation of the items into the appropriate piles. This will allow you to stay stuffed up in the attic making the decisions and not having to make countless trips up and down the ladder to the “piles”.
Another only slightly frightening idea is to have the kids help out with painting. They have been enjoying painting and art projects since before they could walk. And while I don’t recommend just tossing them in a room with a couple of rollers and a gallon of paint, with some supervision it could be a really fun project for everyone. I recommend prepping the snot out of the room before starting. This way you can get the dropcloths in place, tape off what needs to be taped and really have everything ready for the kiddos when they join the party. “If it is their own room or a playroom, get them involved from the very beginning with picking out the paint colors,” notes Badger Realty agent, Peter Pietz. “It will give them more ownership of the project and will make it much more rewarding to see their choices in full living color.”
Another great way to provide that sense of ownership to your kids is with a simple project like a backsplash in the kitchen or bathroom. This is a low-impact project that does not have to involve power tools or lots of demolition. You can lay out the dimensions for them and allow them to select or create the design with the tiles. Depending on their age (or height for me) they can even help with the area prep and installation of the tiles. And let’s be honest, no child is too young to start making weekend trips to the home improvement store!
Speaking of demolition, another great project for kids is pulling up carpet or generally helping out with pre-renovation destruction. Most kids will absolutely cherish the ability to break stuff, especially if mom and dad sanction it. Replacing the vanity in the bathroom? Shut off and disconnect the water lines and hand your kid a hammer. It’ll be great exercise and they will have a blast. The hardest part, at least for me, is giving up the ability to smash that thing on your own.
Although a little late in the season, getting your kids to help out with gardening or lawn work is another place they might actually enjoy themselves and help out at the same time. I can attest that no kid enjoys hours of raking, so be prepared to pony up some cash for that one. In the garden though, kids can clean up the rows from the earlier harvest and do some prep work to ready the soil for the winter. If your kids have any interest at all, they will enjoy learning this invaluable skillset and are likely already appreciative of the earth’s bounty from this summer.
It takes a lot to run a house. I’m still on the fence over whether my parent’s decision to have children was solely based on yard work, house cleaning and keeping the wood stove stoked. But having responsibility for part of the home, as well as feeling some ownership and pride in that home, is something that stuck with me to this day. Get your kids involved as early and often as you can. They may not appreciate it at the time, but it will reward them later in life.