8 kid-friendly summer DIY projects

Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | August 4, 2015

"I'm bored."

Do you hear that a lot from your kids during the summer? Why not get them involved in a home improvement project that's age-appropriate? It can keep them from climbing the walls for one thing, but it can also be a learning experience.

Involving your kids, even younger ones, from the early planning stages of the project through completion can develop their skills not only for physical tasks, preparation, and cleaning up but also for creativity, planning, and design. Let them cut out pictures from magazines, research possible projects, and watch video tutorials with you. Allow them to brainstorm freely before you agree on a project and direction.

The best DIY home improvements to do with your kids develop their skills and creativity without discouraging them. If they can play, interact with, or just enjoy admiring the completed project for its aesthetic value, better yet.

Preparing you and your kids: family home improvements

Some words of caution before you hand little Emma or Ethan demolition tools like hammers and crowbars, thinking that ripping open walls helps a restless child to blow off steam:

  • Consider whether they are physically and emotionally capable of doing the project you have in mind for them.
  • Remember you will have to supervise them, so you may not actually get much done yourself.
  • Make certain masks, goggles, gloves, and any other protective gear needed for the job fit them properly.
  • Explain how to safely use any supplies and equipment you give them and what precautions to take.
  • Expect them to tire quickly and leave, even if they start out in high spirits.
  • Above all, be patient; abandon your perfectionist tendencies; expect mistakes and messes to happen, be prepared to overlook those, and securely cover any home furnishings you don't want to suffer much collateral damage.

DIY project ideas

Remember that some - especially younger - children may have a shorter attention span, so for them, keep projects relatively short and simple. You know your own kids better than anyone, so choose not only age-appropriate activities but ones that suit your child's personality and interests.

The Internet offers a wealth of tutorials and videos for projects like the following, so don't let your lack of knowledge hinder you or the kids. Here are some suggestions to get you started.

  1. Mosaics. Make mosaics not just from tiles but from any small colorful or textured bits - pebbles, shells, buttons, dried beans. Decorate all sorts of outdoor planters, table tops, bowls, even the inside of a birdbath.
  2. Paint old furniture. If you plan to paint indoor furniture to use outdoors, you'll need to weatherize it or it can deteriorate quickly from exposure to the elements. Garage sales are a great place to pick up inexpensive furniture pieces. That way, your kids can get as creative as they please without you holding your head in your hands.
  3. Planting. Many kids love plunging their hands in dirt, and this project validates that very basic urge. Caring for what they plant and watching it grow locks in the learning experience for many months to come.
  4. Solar lights. Fun and easy for even the little ones, planning where to put solar-powered lights to showcase your landscaping and seeing them "turn on" as if by magic in the dark can delight them. Take the opportunity to initiate a discussion about solar energy.
  5. Fence art. Decorating the fence can be anything from painting a mural to designing a hanging piece of art. For a simpler project for younger kids, drill holes in the fence at regular intervals, which stimulates design skills and challenges older kids to use math and take measurements. Then have the kids fill the holes with different colors of marbles. You can freeze or heat the marbles until they crack for an even more interesting effect.
  6. Paint a wall with chalkboard paint. Summer has its share of rainy, indoor days. When the paint dries, hand out the chalk and let the erasable drawing marathons begin.
  7. Stepping stones. Working with concrete requires some protection, but other than that, this is an especially creative project and relatively simple. All sorts of items can be embedded in concrete such as bits of sea glass, smooth rocks and pebbles, leaves, and your kids' hand prints. Frames for the concrete can be hammered together from wood, or you can use something ready-made like an old cake pan or picture frame.
  8. Tree house. This might be one for the grown-ups to build, but as one parent said of how his kids, 10 and seven, helped out with his elaborate tree house project, "They helped in small ways - handing me tools, picking up dropped nails with a magnetic sweeper - but they preferred to stay on the ground, hammering scrap wood into sailboats and slingshots."

What kids can learn helping with summer DIY projects

If your kids enjoy the experience of working on projects like these, they should come away with a sense of confidence and satisfaction that they can contribute something of value to the family's shared home environment.

As they get older, you can include and instruct them in more complicated or physically demanding projects. For now, let these early experiences be more about fun and companionship with you and siblings. Don't let them worry about mastering a craft or particular skill until they've demonstrated that they have a real interest in and aptitude for it.

When its time to clean up, even if they have left you to finish the job, be sure to bring them back to help you clean and put away tools and supplies, and to step back and admire your mutual handiwork.

Photo credit to Myryah Shea

About the Author

Iris Price is a single Baby Boomer whose antidote to a lack of retirement funds was to launch a long-delayed career as a writer. While others her age concoct bucket lists and travel the world, she bought a new-construction home and obsessively creates lists of must-have home improvements and personal realization goals. She specializes in writing about home services and self-motivation.