Home improvement projects are great ways to teach kids new skills while building their confidence. These used to be a common part of family life, and most of us grew up surrounded by opportunities to learn building, gardening and general home maintenance skills from such sources as family members, shop classes and scout troop projects.
But today’s kids don’t have quite the same educational pool to draw from. Industrial arts courses have all but disappeared from school schedules, family calendars are loaded with outside activities and commitments, and technology has tuned everyone into instant gratification, answers and solutions.
Meanwhile, residential construction hasn’t changed much over the past few hundred years, and homeowners still need to have the know-how and tools to tackle routine maintenance and the occasional structural surprise. So, make time now to team up with your child for a project and you'll build memories along the way.
Pick something safe and simple that provides an age-appropriate introduction to basic tools and concepts, and strengthen their personal investment by getting them involved in the planning and shopping phases of the home improvement project. Above all, remember that this is quality time rather than productive time--your priority is to enjoy a home improvement project with your kid without deadlines or other time constraints.
- Outdoor furniture: Create something new for your family’s favorite outdoor room from scratch or a kit, or spruce up existing pieces with a fresh coat of paint. Look for low-VOC formulations in fun colors, and give artistic types license to add embellishments such as ornamental hardware or hand-painted details.
- Sandbox: Create a new play space, and then shop for gear to enjoy in its sandy square footage. Project tip: Add protection and introduce a new level of planning by devising a clever cover or sun shade.
- Tree swing: Locate a sturdy branch with plenty of clearance underneath and gather a few simple tools, rope, a seat (round, rectangular or tire) and hanging hardware to design your own version of the time-honored tree swing.
- Mini golf or croquet course: Create a custom course with simple, stand-up plywood cutouts decorated to reflect a theme or spotlight young artists’ creativity.
- Tool caddy: Get home improvement education off to a great start by making a caddy that keeps gear safe and handy.
- Equipment storage: Work together to build bins, boxes and cubbies to hold the season’s outdoor gear. Personalize and organize using paint, adhesive letters and other embellishments from the hardware store.
- For the birds: After researching the habits of your local feathered friends, create a feeder or birdhouse to welcome them into your yard and create opportunities for observation.
- Get into gardening: Plan and plant a plot of veggies, or select colorful summer annuals to brighten up flowerbeds and attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Building a compost bin is a home improvement project that'll help kids dig even deeper into green living.