Take advantage of the great weather and longer daylight hours that spring and summertime offer to tackle a home improvement project with your kids. Building, repairing, and improving the energy efficiency of our homes is both smart and green. It's also a great opportunity to teach your children beneficial skills that will come in handy throughout their lives. "Home improvement is dangerous, messy, and often the source of intense frustration," writes Lori Garcia for Babble, so we try to keep kids as far away from it as possible. But, as Garcia points out, excluding little ones from DIY projects means missing an opportunity for education and building memories. The conceptualization, design, prep work, execution and clean up teach valuable skills and instill a sense of pride in a project well done. Of course, you can't have toddlers helping with plumbing -- but here are 10 kid-appropriate projects that the entire family can complete and enjoy together!
1. Container Gardening
If you’re planning an herb garden or just want to spruce up a window, invite your kids to help you plant. They can help choose what to plant, what containers to use, and with the actual transplanting process. It’s an opportunity to talk about growing food, to teach responsibility through plant maintenance, and to show them how home-grown food is used in the kitchen. Check out 7 Fruits and Vegetables That Are Easy for Kids to Grow.
Re-painting a room or outdoor area seems like a massive change, but it’s actually quite superficial (read: easily fixed if something goes wrong). So if there’s a fence that needs a face-lift, or if your kids have been begging to change the color of their walls, don’t be afraid to say yes. Work with your kids to choose a non-toxic color and prepare the room for painting. Then, give them a brush or roller, and have at it!
3. Bird Feeder
Backyards can be a haven for wildlife, providing a unique opportunity for observation and connection with nature. Attract more flying friends to your yard by using our tutorial to make a DIY milk carton bird feeder.
4. Backyard Beehive
As more people learn about the plight of the pollinators, backyard beekeeping is making a comeback. If you’re interested in opening a home for local honey bees, building your own DIY hive is a great project with tasks for all ages. Allergic to bees? Try this insect hotel made from reused materials instead.
5. Composting Bin
If you’ve got a garden, you might as well be composting. It’s a great way to repurpose kitchen scraps into the best soil treatment known to man. Your kids can help you make one from a trash can using this simple tutorial. For extra fun, just add worms!
6. Make Green Cleaners
Got older kids who are interested in chemistry (or just like pretending to be mad scientists)? Enlist their help in a day of making DIY green cleaning supplies for every corner of your house. From window wash to oven cleaner, we’ve got all the recipes you need. Then, give kids some non-toxic markers and let them decorate the containers and spray bottles. Who knows, it might even make them excited to clean!
7. Upcycle Furniture
Using waste materials to make something useful is a great skill to teach kids early in life. There are lots of great upcycled furniture projects that introduce kids to basic tools and repair processes. You could turn an old door into a dining room table, use a broken cabinet to make a beautiful credenza, or use old shipping pallets to make just about anything! Give kids tasks based on age, from sanding, to drilling, to refinishing.
8. DIY Lamp
Why shell out big money for a brand new lamp when it’s so easy to make your own? This post from Wise Bread has 9 ideas for amazing DIY lamps and lanterns, many of which use re-purposed materials and are perfect for kid’s rooms.
9. Recycle Broken Crayons
Recycling broken crayons into new crayons is an especially perfect endeavor for the wee ones, who often color with so much vigor, it snaps the poor crayons in two. If you’d been saving up all the little bits and nubs of crayons, get your tots to help load them into a muffin tin. A few minutes in the oven will completely melt the wax. When cooled, you’ve got sturdy new mega crayons that are much harder to break!
10. Testing Smoke Detectors/Furnace Filters
This may not be as fun as oven crayons, but it’s an important skill to impart to pre-teen and teenage kids. Regular inspection of smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors, as well as furnace air filters, is important for safety and energy conservation. Give your older child a clipboard and inspection schedule. Once they’ve been trained in how to conduct a periodic test, ask them to record the results and report back to you.