This article was originally published on our sister site, Charles & Hudson, by mother of two Tabatha Muntzinger. We thought it deserves to be republished on Built by Kids as she offers some great tips for doing-it-yourself with small children around.
Understand You Can’t Do It Completely Yourself
Sure, with one kid it might be easy to tackle some of the smaller projects during naptime or by popping in a movie. However, once you have as many (or more) little people as you do big people, that option is generally out. As soon as you’ll get your hands dirty, someone will need you to care for them right that instant. Also, little ones are curious, so it’s very hard to keep them away from things like sharp objects or wet paint when you’re the only supervising adult around.
Ask For Help, And Often
We’ve been lucky enough to have friends and family near by who are willing to do one of two things: come over and be a spare set of rough hands or babysit the kids (usually out of the house). Both are immeasurable resources. If you’re not as lucky to have help within driving distance, plan ahead. See if you can’t get Grams and Gramps to come into town one long weekend to stay with the kids, or better yet, to take them on a short trip. If that’s not an option, realize there’s no shame in hiring someone to work alongside you. If you’re lucky, you may just pick up a new trick or two.
Set A Deadline. Double It. Then Double That.
We’re being completely honest here — like many aspects of your life post-childbearing, it will take you AT LEAST twice as long to accomplish anything with littles running amok, even if you do have an extra set or two of hands. Things come up with children that childless people don’t have to be too worried about — everything from a stomach bug to a preschool playmate’s birthday party — and in your new role as parents, it’s your responsibility to put your needs behind your kids’ 95% of the time. So while it’s good to have a goal on when you want/need your project completed by, make sure to leave some wiggle room. Chances are, you’re going to need it.
You have more mouths to feed! It’s a pain in the rear to run out of money mid-project for anyone, but for a family it can cause even more strife if things are tight (and really, aren’t they for everyone?). Save up at least 30% more than you think you’ll need so again, you have breathing room if something goes awry — say Junior gets curious about the staple gun — plus if plans have to change to be more kid-friendly, you’ll need to be able to accommodate that.
Lists Are Your Best Friend
Sure, you used to have a mind like a steel trap, but months on end of late night feedings, nightmares, blow-outs will damage even the most astute of memories. Write it down. Largely. In permanent ink. And take it with you to the store. Pin it to your kid’s coat or baby bag so you don’t forget it.
There is nothing worse than working on a project at midnight because you had to wait for the kids to go to bed to realize you forgot an important, must-have component of your project and to then have to wake up the kids to go to the store to get it. You never want to wake a sleeping baby or toddler. EVER.
If It Stinks, The Kids Shouldn’t Be There
Much like in pregnancy, you can’t release chemical fumes into the tiny little still-developing airways of children. If in doubt, just get them out. Revert back to “Ask For Help” on ways to do that. Our kids’ first sleepover without us was at their Gramma’s house so we could stain and poly our floors. This is DIY with kids — no chocolates and roses over here.
Number one rule of parenting: everything is a learning experience. If your kids are old enough, introduce the safer, simpler aspects of your project to them. Let them hold a flashlight or a screwdriver you’re not using, and thank them and congratulate them on being helpful. As they mature and gain better comprehension, let them help you do things like paint or maybe even drill small holes (with supervision, of course).
Take the time to not only explain what needs done, but the reasoning behind the steps. Encourage them to try even when they’re afraid, and if they mess up, use that as a moment to cheer them on for trying, not berate them for making a novice mistake. What better way to do-it-yourself than by passing on your passion to the next generation? It’s a win-win — you get a project complete, the kids learn new skills, quality time is spent and memories to last a lifetime are made. What more could you ask for?