We have a four and two year old and have been DIY renovating our three homes since they were born. Here are my 40 top tips for DIY home renovating with young kids in tow.
The Background of Our House Remodels with Kids
We started our home renovating journey in our first home, a cute bungalow in town. When our Little Man was born, his nursery and the downstairs bathroom were smack dab in the middle of the renovation process.
Last year with our one year old Little Lady and three year old Little Man, we purchased our country property complete with farmhouse and mobile home out back. (The mobile home we lovingly named Bertha.) We did a major but fast renovation on the Mid Century mobile home, so we could live in it while taking our time on the complete farmhouse renovation.
Needless to say, we have HAD to find ways to work on major house remodels with small children.
- The bungalow we lived in while renovating.
- The single wide remodel was mostly completed while living in our house in town.
- And the farmhouse is being mostly completed while living 50 feet away in the mobile home.
So here are my tips on DIY home renovating with young kids that come from our real-life experience.
Starting with a Good Mindset
1. Accept that Progress Will Be Slower in Your DIY Renovation Project
The first step is to accept that you’re just NOT going to be as fast or energetic on projects when you have little kids in your life. Yes, I still have to remind myself of this DAILY. But the sooner you accept it, the easier you will be on yourself – and your kids! Come back to this step for the duration of the project!
2. Be Proud of You and Your Kids
You are doing a hard job…with kids. So that means you are doing multiple hard jobs AT THE SAME TIME. Your kids are also doing a hard job of living with DIY parents. My best advice: be proud of what you all are trying to do.
3. Realize You Are Training Future Helpers in House Remodeling
Kids may slow you down now, but think in a few years how much help they will be! You are in the process of developing lifelong skills for the whole family. You’re playing the long game!
4. Talk About What You’re Doing and Why
Depending on age, your kids may not understand why you’re pounding holes in the wall but they get in trouble for marking on another wall in a finished space. Set clear boundaries of certain actions are fine “here” but not “there.”
Also share with them your vision of why you are doing DIY renovations. Get them excited for the end goal. This will go a long way towards improving the mindset of everyone involved!
It is not by accident that my first four tips on DIY home renovating with young kids are all about mentality. DIY home renovation projects with young children is as hard mentally as it is physically.
Safety for Home Renovation Projects with Kids
5. Research Materials You Are Demolishing
Yes, many materials in old house can have dangerous substances in them. If you’re ripping out something that has the potential of creating a “cloud,” research if that it has asbestos or lead paint. (ie, plaster with horsehair is typically fine – just dusty. Later plaster potentially has asbestos.)
6. “Don’t Step on Wood” Rules
We are tearing out EV-RY-THING in the farmhouse – walls, flooring, ceiling. That means a lot of wood with nails. We have a “don’t step on wood” rule. Like ever. NEVER step on wood. So far, it’s worked, and they avoid wood on the floor like the plague.
We talk about it often and tell them the reason why. Establishing safety rules and telling them why often is the best way to keep it top of mind.
7. Set Up Fences for Young Kids to Watch the Work
Literally. Depending on the age of your kids fences are super helpful. Set up a baby gate or baby playpen fence so little ones can see you but stay out of the work area.
We also have had the kids play in a fenced yard where they can see the action but be out of the way.
8. Get Cool Kids’ Glasses for Demo Work
If you have your kids helping with demo, safety glasses are a good idea. Get them mini sized safety glasses like yours or “special” sunglasses they only wear while working. They’ll have a great time being “cool” like their parents!
9. Pick Up Paint and Dangerous Tools When You’re Done
Kids are curious. It may seem like extra work to clear up the work site when you finish every time, but if you’re living IN the remodel, this is crucial. Don’t blame the kid for finding paint that was left out or power tools that were plugged in.
10. Don’t Be TOO Fearful During DIY Renovations
I’m putting myself out there on this one, but it is an important part of DIY remodeling with young kids. There are potential dangers everywhere, yes. Ladders, nails, tools, even the dust. I do my best to create a safe space suitable for each age, but I don’t freak out about it. My kids are going to be kids. I want them to be dirty, to JOIN us in the journey we’ve started. And that means taking a risk sometimes.
Involving Kids With Your Work
11. Get Kids Their Own Tools
For both kids birthdays, we got them little tool bags with real but mini-sized tools. Whether you choose real or toy tools, get them their own set for them to “help” and feel a part of the project.
Ideas for Tools My Kids Use All the Time
- Short Screwdrivers
- Tape Measure
- Work (Gardening) Gloves
- Toy Saw
- Toy Power Drill that Runs on Batteries
12. Let Them Use the Tools in the Renovation Project
This depends on what project you’re working on. Let them use those tools you gave them on unfinished walls, floors, or even a scrap piece of wood. This can be an easy way of including them in what you’re doing.
13. Get Them Thrift Store Work Clothes
Do NOT put your kids in good clothes and expect them to not get paint, holes and stains. I loaded up on thrift store clothes just for our work times so I didn’t have to worry about one more thing. Some of the clothes were pretty unstylish to begin with, but I didn’t care!
14. Help you Paint the Primer Coat
Kids love, love, love to paint! I felt like I was telling Little Man all the time “no” when he wanted to paint. Then I realized the primer coat doesn’t need to look pretty, so he got a paintbrush and bowl of paint. (Hint: you need a good drop cloth for this!)
15. “Paint” Outside with Water
Alternative to real paint: If you’re outside or in a room with an unfinished floor, give kids a paint brush with a bowl of water. Just tell them NOT to paint where you’re painting real paint.
16. Set Up a Play Work Zone
If the kids can’t use their tools on the project you’re working on, set up a work zone where they can pound, measure and “saw” away. I get thick chunks of foam and golf type pegs from Amazon (find them HERE) where they can pound away on their own “construction site.”
Scrap pieces of wood are great to give kids so they can play or paint on them.
17. Give Them Cleaning Jobs While You Renovate
Construction (or deconstruction) means a lot of dust and mess. This is a great way to get older kids involved! They can certainly throw trash away, sweep and vacuum.
Extra FUN tip: If you have a lot of nails around outside from a project, give them a magnet and bucket to pick them up! I have fond memories of hours spent this way as a kid.
18. Let Them Tear Out With You
Are you tearing out some walls or carpet? Let them help! Kids are destructive. Everyone knows this. Let them do their best work in a useful way.
19. Praise Them Often
If you create an atmosphere of “don’t do this,” “stop that” and “quit touching” then the kids are going to hate the projects and the lifestyle you’ve chosen. Certainly there are many times they can’t touch or do something.
But praise them often for their efforts, even if it is just playing quietly and letting you work for ten minutes. Remember, this is a hard job for everyone!
20. Reward Stretches of Hard Work with Lots of Snack Breaks
My mom was queen of the snack break. As a farming minded family, we worked HARD growing up. But we could always count on mom coming out with a tray of delicious drinks and snacks mid-afternoon.
Bring snacks and tell the kids “when we finish this small but hard task, we can have a yummy snack!”
21. Don’t Expect them to Actually Be Helpful in Home Remodel Projects
You are telling your kids they are helpful, but this is in kid terms. Don’t actually expect them to BE helpful as little people. That will come later. This tip on DIY home renovating with young kids will save you lots of frustration in the process.
22. Make Kids Feel Important in Their Work
Everyone likes to feel useful and important, kids most of all. They have few chances to actually do something “big” at this age. Give them simple but real jobs. Let them work beside you. Let them feel grown up.
23. Don’t MAKE Them Work
It is tempting to try to teach my four year old not to “quit” a job before he’s finished. But I keep reminding myself this is a marathon. He can “quit” something now, and I know that he’ll want to continue tomorrow. If I turn it into a chore, it’s going to be a chore that he won’t want to do ever again.
I appreciate his help when he’s helping, and I appreciate his company when he’s just sitting there watching.
24. Invite People Over for a Work Party on Your Home
Have you ever longed for the good ol’ fashioned barn raising type of work parties? There have been certain times when a project is too big for just Caleb and me. We ask both sides of our family and some friends over to help and offer a big pizza party later.
Making something into a party makes hard work fun for everyone, including your kids. (I’m just thankful our families are good sports about our version of “fun.”)
Entertaining Kids While You Work on House Renovation
25. Alternate Different Tasks, Snacks and Toys Like You’re on a Road Trip
Just like a long road trip, you have to alternate entertainment pretty often for young kids. Save the most fun option for the end when crankiness begins.
26. Buy Special Thrift Store Toys and Books Just for Renovating Times
We have a large tote full of toys and books to play with JUST during renovation. If it’s at a house we don’t currently live in, the toys stay there.
27. Do Art Everywhere
Have a box of sidewalk chalk, colors, paper, stamps, stickers, etc. Depending on your type of project, they can draw on old floors or walls. Or have a large roll of butcher paper for them to do art on!
28. Set Up a Corner or Room Where They Can Play During House Renovation Work
Kids need their space. They won’t want to help you all the time. Set up a room or corner where they can play. Sometimes, this may just be a clean blanket (or cleanish floor) in a room you’re not currently working in.
29. Get a Pack and Play and Baby Swing
If you have a baby or young toddler, you have to keep them contained in a messy area. Make sure you have appropriate baby gear for them to enjoy. (And if you’re working on a house you’re not living in, I suggest buying a cheap second one at a garage sale you can leave there.)
30. Introduce a Special Audio Book or Story Time
My kids love audio books and stories. One of our best tips for DIY home renovating with young kids is to have an old phone that I download stories to. they can carry it around with them at the worksite. There is one Hank the Cowdog story starring Matthew McConaughey we only listen to while renovating. I know in future years we will always think of the farmhouse when we hear that story.
Some of our favorite audio kid stories and books are:
- Hank the Cowdog
- Special Hank the Cowdog podcast produced by and starring Matthew MacConaughey
- Adventures in Odyssey
- Patch the Pirate
31. Set Up a Nap or Rest Area (but don’t expect them to sleep)
If you are working several hours, make sure the kids have a quiet(ish) area to rest. Remodeling the home you’re living in, this is easier. But if you’re at a house where you don’t live, bring special blankets, room darkening curtains, a fan and a story or music to listen to.
32. Designate a Special Movie Time While you Renovate
This is our last resort but I don’t feel guilty about using it when I’m knocking out some work.
33. Make an Outdoor Messy Play Area with Trucks and Shovels
Most likely you have a dirt patch, pile of dirt or sandbox somewhere. Get some dump trucks, old matchbox cars and shovels and let them go to town getting dirty.
34. Don’t Forget Suppertime – Plan a Picnic
When we lived in town and were renovating in the country, it was an event to come do some work. I always packed a picnic style lunch (or frozen pizza) because sometimes projects would run later than anticipated. No one wants to deal with a hungry stomach, especially a hungry kid’s stomach!
35. Sending Them to Grandma’s or a Friend’s House
Hopefully there is someone around you can send the kids to once in a while. This is absolutely necessary in my opinion. There are times where you JUST CAN’T HAVE KIDS AROUND a DIY project. It may be because it’s too dangerous for them or too detailed for you to be distracted.
36. Hire a Babysitter While You DIY Messy Projects
Again, we are DIY people. We like to think we can do it all! But we can’t. As with above, there are times you can’t have kids with you. Remember the money you’re saving and, for crying out loud, hire a babysitter (even if they’re in the same house as you).
37. Let Them Watch the Workers (out of the way)
My kids adore watching the workers we’ve hired. Hiring help doesn’t happen very often in our household, so when we do, it’s an event. Of course this can only be done if the kids stay out of the way. Stay with them in another room where they can look in or keep them behind a barrier like a fence.
Living with Kids in the Home Renovation Mess
38. Shut Off Remodel Area with Door or Plastic Sheeting
If you’re living in the middle of the home renovation, bless you. It’s hard. However, if it’s not your entire house, you can bring a sense of order with a little separation. When possible, work one room at a time so you can shut off the mess with a door or plastic sheeting and keep the rest of the house normal(ish).
39. Come to Grips of Living in the Middle of a MESS in Home Renovations
No matter how hard you try, you will have dust, displaced belongings, paint cans, bags of tools and whatever else everywhere. It can mess with you mentally. And mess seems to breed mess, right? It may bother you, but don’t let it BOTHER you.
40. Work in Small Time Increments on Most Days
I am an all or nothing type of person. But with one of my tips for DIY home renovating with young kids, is to become a little-bit-at-a-time type of person. Kids don’t give us large chunks of time. Incorporate into your daily routine a habit of setting aside 30 minutes to an hour each day to work. This will add up even though it doesn’t seem like much.
41. Strap That Baby On
If you have a new baby who likes a carrier, then you’re in luck! Strap that baby on and go. Not all, but many things can be do with a baby in tow.
These 40 tips for DIY home renovating with young kids are all things we have done for our four years of remodeling with kids. We have had babies, toddlers and now a preschooler go on the remodeling journey with us.
Has it always been easy? HA! It has NEVER been easy. If we were going for easy, we would not choose this lifestyle. But it has been fun and worth it despite the frustrations. I know the kids are learning life skills that will serve them well.
AND, they are seeing their parents accomplish hard things through hard work. That is one of the greatest lessons we can hope to teach them.
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