Remodeling with the Whole Family

Kids and construction projects may seem an ill-fated match, but they go together as well as a hammer and nail.

One couple decided to involve their three children, aged 12, 11 and 10, when they replaced an old patio with a master suite and family room. They decided to do most of the work themselves and thought they could best proceed if their children were active participants, not bored bystanders.

Four months later, the renovation job ended on schedule, thanks in part to their children, who handled a range of tasks. Now the couple recommends the total family approach to anyone facing a major remodel, or less complicated work. "Our children learned the value of doing something yourself."

Choosing Good Projects

Getting the kids involved is easy. Experienced parents say that successfully involving children in remodeling requires a realistic appraisal of what youngsters can safely do, patience to teach them proper technique and a watchful eye to head off trouble.

Of course, extra hands help speed a project along. And a team effort also helps forge stronger bonds between family members, and enables children to learn valuable, lifelong skills and respect for their homes – something often taken for granted.

And there’s one more bonus: Remodeling projects are a good way to fight inactivity, no small step when better than one in five children under 18 in this country battle a weight problem. Hammering, sawing, carrying loads and climbing into awkward spaces can have anyone breaking a sweat.

How to Involve Your Kids in Your Remodeling Project

Here are a few tips for spurring your child's participation without risking their safety.

  • Lose your fear: Sure kids lose concentration, make mistakes and keep messy rooms. But that doesn't mean they’ll be a liability to your project. Indeed, their success depends on how well you train them.
  • Give clear instructions: Make sure your instructions are clear and that children understand that while remodeling can be fun, it's not a time for goofing off. Once they've started a task, shun the micromanagement approach. A few well-targeted comments are far more likely to bring results than a steady stream of instructions that may only serve to undermine a child's confidence.
  • Be safe: Proper safety equipment and techniques are a must. Don't be careless about either, lest you wind up with an unwanted trip to the emergency room and a traumatized child.
  • Build a connection: Sanding a few boards is fine. But children relate best to a project when they're participating at all levels. If children sit in on the planning stages, by the time work begins they fully understood what their parents were up to and why.
  • Keep it simple: Want to guarantee disaster? Start your kids with something complicated and difficult. They'll grow discouraged and you'll spend more time correcting them than advancing your work.
  • Take a break: Time away from the construction gives children (and parents) a new burst of energy and makes them more eager to help.
  • Stay low-key: Give your kids a guilt trip for not helping and you can be sure they'll head in the opposite direction the next time you ask them for help.

A little bit of planning and supervision goes a long way. Including your children in your remodeling project will help you build your family connections and your home. Enjoy the satisfaction of accomplishing a task together.