Renovating with Kids
We recently were blessed enough to purchase a house down the shore for our family. Part of what made this possible for us is that the house is a real fixer-upper. We need to update just about every single room before even moving our furniture in and staying overnight. We are up for the challenge, though. As avid fans of everything HGTV and DIY Network, we know the kinds of transformation houses like this can go through. We also know the value of how hard work on our part will translate into big time savings down the road. So this is the beginning of our renovation journey.
We have to make the most of weekends or school and bank holidays to do get the work done, which means all three of our kids come with us. Before starting work this past weekend, I searched online and even posted this question to facebook:
There isn’t much out there on how to get your kids involved with renovations in a safe way. In “Mommy” mode, I packed up a bag full of snacks and activities to serve as a diversion and keep them busy while we work. I lamented to my husband that, after a few more weekends of this, our kids were going to revolt. I wished that I had kid-safe activities to get them involved and help them feel like this is as much their new house as it is ours.
In typical husband fashion, he didn’t respond with much. Mostly nods and shrugs. When we got to the house, however, he not only got our kids involved, but he had them arguing over whose turn it was to use which tool. With work gloves (aka kids’ gardening gloves) and safety goggles (adult size eye protection taped to kid size with painters tape), they got to work helping us both out.
My husband’s task was demolishing an oddly placed closet in the bathroom. As you can see from this “before” shot, that large white box on the right is the closet which was placed along the wall in the center of the already small bathroom. Good thing I’m finished with the whole pregnancy stage of my life because I don’t think I would have been able to fit through there with a big round belly.
So he got to work removing the door and shelves, and breaking down the walls of the closet. To my surprise, he invited the kids to help him. Thankfully, he only brought his heavy rubber mallet instead of the real sledgehammer. Once the boys saw that Daddy was putting holes in the wall on purpose and they were allowed to do the same, they were soooo on board!
Our oldest got the first turn. He was hesitant at first. I think he was worried that he might get in trouble for breaking the wall. When Daddy showed him he really wanted him to smash the heck out of the wall, though, he really got the hang of it!
When it was our Kindergartener’s turn, he didn’t hesitate. He saw that his brother was actually cheered on for breaking stuff. This is was right up his alley. It’s amazing the power these little guys packed into each hammer punch. Thank God for the safety glasses because drywall was flying everywhere! I don’t think they’ll forget this for a long time. Demolition is fun!
Once the drywall was down, we put my oldest to work cleaning up the debris off the floor. This is the kid who resists any kind of cleaning like it was water to the Wicked Witch of the West. His nickname around the house is Messy Marvin. You can imagine my utter shock and surprise when he happily scooped and swept up the mess from the demo. I guess I just need to call it “renovation” from now on and he’ll be a more willing helper!
As he cleaned up the bathroom mess, our younger two wanted to help me in the bedroom next door. We knew we had some really ugly carpet to pull up, but we didn’t expect the surprise we uncovered underneath the padding. Not just one, but two layers of ancient, ugly, cracked linoleum floor were between us and the hardwood floors below.
Both my son and daughter came in to help me roll up the carpet and padding. As I showed them how to pull up the sheets of laminate, they started pulling right away. In order to fit the larger strips into garbage bags, we had them roll them up and jump on them until they cracked into smaller pieces. Jumping and breaking things on purpose? Oh yeah, they had fun!
While my daughter soon lost interest and went downstairs to play with her stuffed animals, my son stuck with me and did an incredible job helping clear out the rest of the linoleum. With a crowbar in hand, he scraped up the glued-on pieces, while still being careful enough not to scrape the hardwoods underneath too much.
The best part about the day wasn’t seeing the progress in the house. It was seeing my kids’ reaction to the progress that they, themselves made. They felt empowered, strong, and helpful. And they were. It made me proud to see them recognize their own accomplishments and warmed my heart that this vacation home will forever hold the same “we did that” feeling for them as it will for us.