Improving Your Home Can Be a Family Project
We all want our homes to be neater and more organized, but it's tough with kids. One great idea is to get the kids actively involved in home organization, because what's really important is not just keeping the house neat or being able to find that backpack when your child's running late; it's the sense of ownership a child gets when he's involved in turning his house into a home.
There are also undeniable benefits in bonding with a child over a project. Everyone has a sense of accomplishment, it's a productive way to spend time together and you're teaching her practical skills for life.
It seems like every family has a crazy life these days. Children may be involved in multiple extracurricular activities, while parents have jobs and often volunteer to keep their kids' extracurricular activities going – not to mention driving the kids to different places at different times. It can be dizzying to keep track of it all. That's why home improvement expert Danny Lipford, host of Today's Homeowner, a weekly, syndicated TV show devoted to home projects, suggests that a great project to start with is creating a simple family organizer that can help everyone keep track of important projects, deadlines and activities.
Lipford isn't just saying this as a home improvement guru either; he's saying it as a dad. From the time his three daughters were small, he encouraged them to help with various projects, tailoring their involvement to their age and abilities. That, says Lipford, is important to the success of the parent/child project. "Older children can actually pound nails and use a screwdriver, but younger children can do things as simple as helping to gather and hand the parent tools or help with the planning," he says. "Children also love to paint, and if you're just putting on a primer, it doesn't even matter if they do a very good job. Spackling is another way for small children to help out. Have them do the first coat and you do the second that has to be sanded. For them it's just like fun with clay."
Here are a couple of easy projects that can be done with children of any age:
Family Planning Center
This project consolidates things that may be in multiple areas, such as children's art work, a shopping list, the family planning calendar or documents that need to be signed and returned. First, decide on a location. Lipford suggests the side of the fridge or inside a pantry door or foyer closet. Buy cork squares 1/4 inch to 3/8 inch thick, and then decide what shape to cut them in – or leave them square. To cut circles, use a pencil on a string to draw a good circle. Decide on a calendar to use and position the cork around the calendar using double stick tape or adhesive. Tack a pen to the board, perhaps on a string, to make notes. Have a place for the shopping list, the "honey do" list and plenty of room for art work. For notes about ongoing activities, use sticky notes or a small, stick-up note pad and push pins.
Kids often collect things, from snow globes to keys, or have collections of trophies or ribbons they've won. Lipford has helped each of his daughters make an easy, attractive shelf for displaying their collections. Start with a 2x4 and cut grooves 3/4 inches wide and half the depth of the 2x4 evenly along the length of the board. Slip pieces of 1x6 wood in the slots, using glue or nails, and graduating the width. So, for example, the top shelf would be 6 inches wide, the second shelf 12 inches, the third shelf 22 inches and the bottom shelf 32 inches. Then, use the front edge to hang ribbons or other hanging items using push pins (see photo). If you're not great with wood, Lipford suggests having the wood cut to your specifications at the Home Depot or some similar home improvement store, and then help your child prime, paint, assemble and hang.
Lipford likes to point out that it's easy to get children involved in home maintenance, rather than just going off to do it on your own. Very young children can help oil hinges. (He suggests that an old-fashioned oil can makes this even more fun, and they're very inexpensive.) Older children can take turns with a parent on bigger jobs like power washing. For those in-between, perhaps being in charge of hosing down the porch or hammering loose nails would be a good project of an hour or so.
Real Tools for Kids
Another way that Lipford likes to get kids involved in home improvement, organization and repair is through home improvement toys and tools made just for kids. In particular, he likes a tool bag from Duluth Trading that has a great looking little tool bag with small-sized tools, including angles and squares, that are really sturdy. Lipford likes toy workbenches as well. Those for the very youngest children may have electronic sounds to accompany the little worker. For older kids, there are a lot of scaled down, adult-style workbenches with hooks for tools and drawers for equipment.
What's most important, says Lipford, is to get children involved at the planning stages of a project. For example, with the family organizing station, you can tell them that the family is disorganized and ask their help in solving the problem. You may already know the solution, but it gets them thinking and is a great exercise in problem solving skills.