In this post, I want to share with you how to do a DIY project with your preschooler. If you’re like me, whenever you’re refinishing a dresser or building a bookshelf, your first instinct when your little one comes around is to shoo them away. However, involving them in household projects is SO good for them and it can be a fun, bonding experience if we allow it!
Recently, Finn and I had so much fun with this DIY furniture painting project! We’ve had an unstained bench in our entryway for a few years now, but I recently decided to update that space. Originally, I’d planned to paint it white, but when I brought it up to Finn, he said, “Why don’t we paint it red? Like a fire station?” So, that’s what we did!
You might be wondering…Why in the world would you want to do a DIY project with a preschooler?!
- If I wanted to get something like this done without my kids, I’d have to do it while they’re asleep or when someone is watching them. And I’m going to be honest, that’s just not how I want to spend my free time. Because of my chronic pain, I usually need to spend nap times resting/taking it easy or at least not doing something that would put strain on my joints. And sanding/painting/moving furniture is not very nice to your hands when your joints are prone to swell.
- It’s good for him. It teaches him several useful, real-life skills. He has to follow instructions. It takes quite a bit of fine motor skills. It’s bonding. It’s fun. It builds his confidence in amazing ways. To be able to look at something in the house and say, “I helped put that together!” is a unique, wonderful experience for anyone – especially a child.
Yes, it did test my patience at times. There were, of course, things I had to do without him. But the end result was something we were proud of – and had created together! This is a big confidence booster for a kid (or an adult!).
So, if there’s a DIY project you want to do but haven’t done it because you have a preschooler sticking their nose in everything, maybe this will give you the confidence to let them assist you!
Here’s some tips for your next DIY project with your preschooler:
Prep in advance: lay down a drop cloth, get the paint and other tools ready, and get your mind ready! Ha!
Have an “obedience” talk: I typically have some version of this conversation before we do activities that could get messy or require him to pay attention more than usual. I make sure there’s no distractions, have him look me in the eye and say something along the lines of: “I need you to make sure you listen to my instructions and wait for me to tell you what to do.” I make sure he understands what we’re doing and if there’s anything potentially dangerous (or if there’s something I simply don’t want splattered across the house!)
Don’t do something that’s undoable: paint can be stripped, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend painting your front door with your preschooler!
Protect them: this goes without saying, but make sure you’re aware of what could be harmful or toxic to your child. Have them wear protective gear (mask, gloves, eyewear) if necessary. With most DIY projects, there are chemicals involved that children shouldn’t really be around. For example, I applied polyacrylic coating during Finn’s nap because I didn’t want him inhaling those fumes, even with a mask!
Give clear instructions and do it with them first: sometimes I’m guilty of assuming my kids know how to do things that I don’t remember learning. When I first handed Finn a paintbrush, instead of brushing the paint on the bench, he hit the bench with the bristles, as if he were hammering the paint into the wood. So I demonstrated how to paint and then took his hand in mine and showed him how to do it. He still wanted to hammer the paint in too, but I made sure he did it AWAY from me!
Trust them: part of the process of our children growing up is learning how to do things independently. Once we show them how to do something and then assist them in doing it, it’s time to let them try on their own. Most likely, they’ll “fail” in some way or another – but what matters is that they’re trying, they’re learning and they’re creating new neural pathways in their growing brains! At some point, we have to trust our children to do tasks on their own – and I think you’ll be surprised by how happy and confident this will make them.
Praise them: make sure you’re not just correcting them whenever they are learning a new task, or this will discourage them. Of course they need you to teach them how to perform the task correctly (or at least mostly correctly! Ha!) but don’t forget to praise them for their effort, their creativity, the fact that they’re being brave by trying something new, etc. It always surprises me how much my children bloom when they’re praised.
Take a deep breath: when you add children to most any project, it complicates things. It won’t go exactly the way you want it to go, and that’s OK. Take a deep breath, count to ten, take a break – whatever you need to do in order to be in a good mental space, do it.
Enjoy the process: relish the bonding experience between you and your child as you create something new! Not only is this an enjoyable memory, but you also have an “artifact” of that memory: your DIY project! This is so special and will make your child feel special, too.
I hope that next time you have a DIY project around the house, you include your little one in the process! Make sure you tag me on Insta with the end result. 😉