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How to DIY When You Have Kids

I’m going to take a wild guess and say that most of my readers enjoy DIY, and also that a lot of you have kids. And as you are probably are painfully aware, those two things don’t always go together all that well. So here is a list of things that I do to make DIYing with kids possible. It isn’t the kind of list that is full of brilliant tips and ideas that you never thought of, this is just me chatting about what Adam and I do personally. And just for reference, we have four sons ages 7, 5, 2 and nine months.


Let them help

I know that having kids help with DIY projects isn’t the easiest thing. In fact, it is exactly the opposite….it takes longer, is messier, and generally much more frustrating to have a preschooler getting all up in your DIY business than blissfully DIYing by your lonesome. However, letting them help is important. They will learn new skills, think you’re cool, and learn to value both time and money in the process. People in our family are hard-workers and I want my kids to see that and participate in that. Plus, they are super cute in painting shirts that are too big and wielding tools they have yet to grow into.

kids helping with DIY projects


Let them talk

It’s funny how different kids are, right? My oldest son is very energetic and hands on, he loves to work and is always game for a project. He doesn’t’ care what project, he just wants to be involved. My second son is more of a thinker, he would rather sit still for hours and color and read books. He also loves to talk, he is never happier than when he can sit and talk to an adult. He will talk through the entire project with you, wanting to know exactly what you are doing and why without ever actually helping. He will talk about anything too, sometimes it’s dinosaurs, sometimes it’s how terrible his brothers are, and sometimes it’s credit card debt. Seriously, the other day when I was doing a project he was asking questions and we started talking money. He now knows all there is to know about working hard and saving, how it’s bad to borrow money, interest rates, credit vs debit cards, mortgages, you name it. He asked questions and understood it and will tell you all about it if you ask him. He’s five by the way…I have a feeling he is going to be a very wealthy man one day.

kid helping with chores


Tell them to leave you alone

Let’s face it, even when you let them help and it goes wonderfully they are not going to stay engaged long enough to see the project through. My boys, no matter how interested they are in a project, just do not have attention spans that last that long. So I tell them “I’m working, you need to go play.” That’s it. I generally don’t give them directions or set up an activity for them. I have a lot of jobs as their parent, but providing them with constant entertainment isn’t one of them. I’m even meaner than that though, because if they come whining that they’re bored I give them chores, and if they end up just fighting with each other I make them run laps around the driveway.

grumpy toddlerMy two-year-old third son, upon realizing that he didn’t get one of those sweet, doting, compassionate sorta moms.

DIY when they’re sleeping

Gotta love naptime, right? My two younger ones still take naps (and sometimes I’m even lucky enough to have them overlap), which is a great time to get things done. It is a little rough because sometimes projects are loud, but I find that if I tell my kids what to expect the noise isn’t a problem. For example, as I am writing this I have a crew of guys here putting up planking in the living room, and there are saws and nails guns and air compressors all making a racket….and my toddler is sleeping right through it. I told him when I put him down that the workers are here and it is going to be loud, and if the noises wake him up not to be scared and just to go back to sleep. The baby is a little bit harder, but a white noise machine cranked all the way up goes a long way. My two older ones don’t nap, but I will either enforce a “quiet time” for them or do one the three above options. Soon they will be back in school though and naptime projects will be a lot easier.

Also, post bedtime. Post bedtime is literally the best thing ever, and I stay up way too late just because I cherish that quiet time so much. I would rather not get enough sleep each night than waste some of those precious hours sleeping. Usually, I use this time to blog or veg out in front of the TV, but if there is a project that needs to be finished this is a great time to do it. The best, really. Zero kids y’all, ZERO.

sleeping boys


Turn on a screen

I’m not a big fan of plopping my kids in front of a screen, but I’m also not an idiot. Screen time = quiet and quiet is probably the thing I desire most these days and get the least. Plus, there are so many shows now that teach kids all kinds of good stuff, it’s not like it’s all just fluff. I mean, my two year old can count and recognize all his letters…and I didn’t teach him that, TV did. Anyway, here is a list of shows my kids enjoy and I approve of (we have Netflix, Amazon Prime streaming, and a Roku).

  • Wild Kratts (this one is my favorite), Curious George, Super Why, Dinosaur Train (pretty much anything on PBS that isn’t Calliou), Oscars Oasis, Diego, Veggie Tales, Dino Dan (even though I kinda hate this one, the kid on that show needs a psych eval), Bob Ross (yup, the painter..they get sucked into this), Bob the Builder, Handy Manny, Troll Hunter & Kulipari: An Army of Frogs (for the older boys), Octonauts, Story Bots, The Magic School Bus, and any and all nature documentaries.

We also have an iPad, I bought it for Adam this Christmas to replace his broken laptop and the kids instantly took it over. It’s like they were born knowing how to use it. Anyway, for this particular screen I set the timer and the big three each gets 20 minutes, then I take it away. I have to be strict with this one or they get obsessive.



Anyway, that’s how things work around here. How do you handle projects + kids in your house?















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  1. I had to laugh at “if they come whining that their bored I give them a list of chores.” When my kids were little, I used to tell them, “Go find something to do before I find something for you to do.” That being said, my philosophy is that if you can move, you can help, regardless of your age, attention span, skills, etc. I’ve handed my (then 7 year old) grandson the drill with a bit and said, “I need holes here, here and here.” First time he’d used a drill and I talked him through it. He’s a fan of drills now and is an excellent helper. The next summer, he helped me install a Little Free Library in the front yard (including pouring ready-mix concrete and leveling out everything).

    My son-in-law, however, has had to learn all kinds of things as an adult, as his parents would either hire someone to do stuff, or wouldn’t let him help. Since he married into the family, he’s learned how to install ceiling fans (I helped his first one, then talked him through the second), change out the headlight bulb in the cars (talked him through the first one and didn’t hear about the second until he’d finished it), lay brick (he’s become quite the master and is my go-to guy for this now), and all sorts of things HIS family is constantly amazed that he can do, but we just kinda shrug when it’s over.

    Teach ’em young and put their little hands to work helping. :-)

  2. I love all your boys! Having had the pleasure of teaching your 2 oldest, and seeing the others as they grow, a true blessing. You are a wonderful example to them. You also, help keep us moms grounded by being truly real. I love this post. Thanks. Please let the boys know, Ms Liz says hello.

  3. “if they come whining that they’re bored I give them chores, and if they end up just fighting with each other I make them run laps around the driveway.” This made me laugh, because that pretty much sums up my childhood – we learned very young to entertain ourselves. My grandparents lived on a farm, so we didn’t even get a break at the grandparents’ house. Whining = chores. Fighting = some sort of physical punishment like laps or push-ups, then chores. The words “Go play outside” featured heavily, and it could be high summer or raining or -30 and the middle of January, didn’t matter. We were outside, and we were not supervised, and it was awesome.

  4. We don’t do any DIY yet, but I am teaching my four years old to cook. It’s slow, messy and sometimes even fun, and I can see her confidence grow every time. She’s also got some pretty good knife skills!
    The photos of the boys helping are always my favourite!

  5. I laughed when you mentioned Bob Ross because my 4 year old niece LOVES him. I share a Netflix account with my sister and her family and I can always tell when Caroline has been on it because all of my suggested shows are Bob Ross and My Little Pony. She just loves to watch him.

  6. Sensible mama! Kids do love to help, but if you don’t let them the urge will soon go away. It’s a shame when that happens Your pictures are lovely. It’s amazing what kids, even little ones, can actually do if we encourage them! I also love your “go play” directive. Kids NEED to learn to entertain themselves. Dare I say it, they even need to be bored at times! Because that’s when they really start using their imaginations.

  7. Man, when was the last time you did a link-party? I’d really love to see who inspires you and find other blogs to follow!

  8. I love that you simply tell them to go find something to do. Sometimes I think our generation feels this obligation (I’m looking at you, Pinterest) to CONSTANTLY be engaged with our children. It’s simply not possible and I really don’t think it’s healthy. I think kids need to know how to create their own entertainment. Anyway, bravo for forcing them to them use their imagination! :)

  9. Wow! Fantastic tips, I must say. I think one of the problems with parenting these days is that parents are too soft with their kids. Hence, the kids grow up to be soft adults who can’t even handle simple problems in life. That’s part of the reason why we currently have a society of whiners. I like your “hard but fair” approach to parenting. Even though I’m not a parent, myself, I have younger siblings (with a major age difference) I’ve helped bring up and I’ve found this approach to work the best. This is how you earn their respect. Thanks for sharing!
    P.S. Making them do cardio is a punishment, indeed. :D

  10. This is a great idea to involve kids into DIY projects, they obviously learn new skills become more hands on but at the cost of your patience. So it is a great idea to let them work for a while and then ask them to play, which I think they would gladly agree to since they have shorter attention spans.

    1. No, I plan to start it up again in the next week or so. I just decided to stop trying to keep up with the blog and pay more attention to my boys until school started, which it just did. I’m sorry my blogging schedule isn’t at all consistent (I know it’s frustrating), life is just so full right now and I’m doing the best I can.

  11. I got the email subscriber rough draft of this a while back and decided to come check your site to see if the full version ever came up — and it did! We are nearing move in readiness on our fixer upper renovation (still tons to be done after moving of course) and we have two young girls, 4 and 18 months. I may try to get our oldest to help now that we are doing things like scrubbing wallpaper paste off! She does like to help and I’ve been trying to find more ways to say yes to that, instead of the pure control freak I’d rather be. Wish I could do what you do with “go play outside” or “stop fighting/whining, do laps/chores” but she is a passive resistor who says NO and melts in a limp heap in those sort of cases. We’ve had to figure out what works for us.

  12. I’ve lost count of the amount of friends with half finished DIY projects. They keep blaming the kids for not finishing it. You’ve given some good tips here on how to avoid falling into that trap. Get them involved! I’ll be sending the article to a few of them over email :)

  13. I always love DIYs and crafting but ever since I became a mom I find less time to do my passion. Now that my kid is already a preschooler, I think that she is old enough to get involved in my DIY projects. I find that this is really a great bonding activity for our family too. Thanks for sharing!

    – Novie

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