Tons of DIYs You Can Actually Do with Your Kids — No, Really!

published Feb 9, 2022
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Close up of a father and son painting the walls of their home.
Credit: Getty Images/ Geber86

The only thing more satisfying than seeing a DIY project you worked hard on come to fruition is watching your child look at something they made with their own two hands with pride. 

And if you have a love for the do-it-yourself lifestyle, it’s something you can instill in your children from day one. “DIYing is more than putting something together or adding more character to your home,” says Atlanta-based woodshop teacher Char Miller-King. “Working with my kids is not only a bonding experience, it’s instilling a sense of pride in their work, empowering them, and teaching them that creativity has no limits.”

Of course, the type of projects you can tackle together will vary depending on your child’s age, abilities, and experience, but it helps to broaden the scope of what a DIY project is. “When working with my kids, they reach for the heaviest and loudest tool first,” says Miller-King.” But you have to guide them through age-appropriate stages to get the most out of the experience.

“I give the children an overview and take them through each step of a project,” says Miller-King. “They start with measuring, then help with cutting and assembly. I believe kids really like painting. It’s something about putting the finishing touches on a DIY project that feeds the soul.”

As kids grow, they can take ownership in a wide range of projects for nearly any aspect of the home—cleaning, gardening, repairs, painting, and eventually building. 

Ready for some good old-fashioned family fun? Use this age-by-age guide to find an appropriate project for you and your child. 

Credit: Getty Images/ Halfpoint Images

Ages 0 – 3: Projects That Empower

“So many grownups underestimate how capable our littlest humans are,” says Anne Gillyard, CEO and creative director of grOH! Playrooms. Though they won’t be wielding tools or even painting just yet, once they’re standing and stable, toddlers can “help” with a variety of household projects like setting the table or sweeping. There are plenty of pint-sized versions of these common cleaning tools, including brooms, vacuums, and wet mops. Kids this age can also help take care of the garden, doing small tasks like pulling weeds. At this stage, it’s all about empowering your children with control and independence — something everyone wants their children to learn and know, says Gillyard.

DIYer Amanda Walker of Dwell Aware has two kids who are now 3 and 6, but she’s been working on home projects around them since the oldest was only a year and a half. “I have always kept kids wooden tool sets on hand so they could be alongside me in projects,” Walker says. “They would both help with my projects non-stop if I allowed it, but I try to constructively find tasks for them on a project so the projects still get finished!”

Walker’s kept her kids busy by letting them use screwdrivers, hammers, paintbrushes, tape measures, “and even those fun painter tape pulls!” she says. “I think it’s a great way to relationally connect, and bring them into the beautiful process of creating. Living in a home where projects are happening a lot,  they get to see that we are always learning no matter what stage of life we are in.”

Ayesha Anwar of Plays on Patterns has found success with similar tasks for her 3-year-old (though she says her 16-month-old is still a bit too small to participate). “Things that we have found that have been age-appropriate for her have been picking out paint colors, learning to use safe tools like a screwdriver and helping us with prep such as covering baseboards with painter’s tape,” Anwar says. “Oftentimes we encourage her to also set up her own version of a project, to help her learn the skills at her developmental and age level.”

Some other great projects for this age group:

  • Watering plants with a kid-sized watering can
  • Digging holes for planting and/or dropping seeds in
  • Using paint chips to practice naming colors
  • “Helping” hammer in a nail using a toy hammer
  • Finger painting together using nontoxic paint
  • Experimenting with play dough (for ages 2 and up)
Credit: Getty Images/ Geber86

Ages 3 – 5: Projects That Encourage Independence

As your child grows from a baby to an older toddler, they can begin to help take more ownership in creating the space you live in, says Gillyard. A great idea: Involve them in creating a family piece of artwork. Give them a “toddler choice,” which is essentially two options — like two colors — they can choose from, she explains. The trick: The two options you present are both results you’d be happy with, but the toddler feels in control of the outcome. 

At this stage, kids can also get more involved in household tasks that continue to teach independence. With proper supervision, support, and the right kid-size tools (i.e. child-safe plastic knives), they can participate in activities like chopping vegetables for the family dinner.

DIYer Chelsea Foy of Lovely Indeed has two kids, ages 5 and 6, and has been creating with them for years. “I think any time you’re working with your hands, a kid is interested!” Foy says. “That can mean cooking, sewing, painting, even cleaning. Any time my kids have shown interest, I have tried to take their lead and let them explore the things that they want to be involved in.”

Foy took that early interest as an opportunity to teach, even when her kids couldn’t be hands-on. “I’ve tried to introduce them to tools as we work, showing what each tool does and teaching tool safety,” she says. “Now that they’re a little older they can handle things like low-temperature glue guns with relative ease because they’ve been around these types of tools since they can remember.”

As for creating with kids this age, Foy has a word of wisdom: “Patience, patience, patience! No one ever said making things with kids was easy — but it sure is worth it,” she says. “I’ve definitely learned to sink into and enjoy the process, and not to be afraid of a little mess.”

Some other great projects for this age group:

Credit: Getty Images/ Pilea House

Ages 5 – 8: Projects That Feel Personal

As kids enter elementary school, focus on activities and projects that further increase independence. “At this stage kids are starting to develop their own identity — they’re figuring out who they are and what represents them,” says Gillyard. Because of this, any projects that help personalize their space are great options, she explains. Find a project that taps into their interests, like hanging a shelf to hold their toy car collection or DIYing Hana’s Happy Home has gone a step further. “My six-year-old knows how to use a drill,” she says, a skill that she taught him last year. It’s something that evolved naturally from his attention to and participation in Sethi’s DIYs at home. Both kids also help paint. “I usually load up the roller or the brush for them so that they don’t drip too much,” she says — a smart trick for any other parents looking to give their kids some independence with a little less mess.

Recently, Sethi built a play structure for her kids with their help along the way. It’s something that not only helped the kids learn new skills, but also gave the family more time together. “It was a real labor of love, and every day after dinner we would go outside and work in our backyard and work on the play structure,” Sethi says. “I think it’s really fun to have some thing that you share in common with your kids. I can see this going into a lifelong passion for us together.”

Gbeke Omosebi of Simplicity for Designs says that’s something that’s important to her in raising her kids, also 3 and 6. “It makes me feel so happy to see them so interested in the experience,” Omosebi says of her DIYs with her kids. “It also reminds me of when I was little watching my mom in her creative elements from quilting to baking. That’s how my love for being creative started and is one of the reasons I love DIY and crafting.”

Omosebi has given her kids age-appropriate play tools to follow along with on DIYs, but as for some of the creative decisions, she welcomes their input, asking for their ideas, letting them choose colors, and bringing them along when it comes to shopping for materials.

Some other projects for this age group:

  • Painting their own terracotta pot, and then planting something in it
  • Using popsicle sticks to create plant markers for the garden, or for houseplants
  • Making an organizer for small trinkets using egg cartons and paint
  • Making an organizer for larger items using a shoebox, paint, tissue paper, buttons, and other supplies
Credit: Getty Images/vgajic

Ages 8 – 12: Projects That Let Them Take Ownership

As children approach their tween years, they typically ask for a big bedroom update, says Gillyard. Let them take ownership of the project and what their space looks like — let them choose the color and help weighted blanket for their bed. With heavy supervision and instruction, this is also a great opportunity to teach your kids some more concrete DIY skills, like painting a wall, she explains.

That’s something that’s been on DIYer Lindsey Mahoney’s mind. Mahoney, of Building Bluebird, has two kids ages 9 and 7 — both of whom she tries to include in any home DIY projects. “We believe that learning DIY skills at a young age helps kids feel more comfortable making repairs or updates in their own home when they become homeowners,” Mahoney says. “Our kids aren’t always interested in our projects, but if it is something we tackle over a weekend, we like to include them in a portion of the project. We teach our kids that as a member of the family, it is important to help with these projects since it is something that we will all enjoy together once it is finished.”

Those family projects have led to individual creativity and growth. “I love that my kids have started creating their own floor plans to show us and are using their imaginations,” she says. “They are also so proud of our projects and love to share it with friends and family. Whenever a guest comes to our home, they like to give full house tours and share all of the details from each DIY they helped with.”

But Mahoney’s favorite type of project to include kids on? Demo. “With demolition, kids are always thrilled when you tell them they can take a hammer and smash through a wall in your home,” she says, though the task obviously requires close supervision.

DIYer Lisa Kanegae of likes to help her two kids, also 7 and 9, work on projects that have some immediate payoff. “I find letting them screw things in to put pieces together is something they enjoy doing since they can actually see the outcome of what they’ve done,” she says. “They’ve helped me build a shelf for their grandmother since I cut all the pieces and all they needed to do was screw them in. It was instant gratification.”

The bite-sized chunks can help encourage kids to stick with the project, since it’s encouraging to see progress. And Kanegae thinks it’s valuable for her kids to see not just success, but also some failure. “I love having my kids help me. I enjoy the fact that they get to watch me struggle doing something but persevering in the end,” she says. “We get through it together and they can see as difficult as the process was, if you keep pushing yourself you can accomplish anything.”

Some other projects for this age group:

  • Helping design and paint a small mural, like an arch
  • Helping hammer in nails for hanging artwork
  • Making a no-sew throw pillow for their bed in their chosen pattern
  • Raking or other garden prep
Credit: Getty Images/ Maskot

Ages 12 – 15: Projects That Encourage Responsibility

The teenage years are a great time to get your kids involved in nearly any household chore, as this gets them thinking about the household broadly — and what taking care of it entails, says Gillyard. Let your kids own projects from start to finish. Think: birdhouse (you can even buy a kit)

  • Redoing a piece of furniture from their room
  • Credit: Getty Images/ Nick David

    Ages 15 – 18: Projects That Give Them Life Experiences

    At this stage, it’s all about letting go of that control and allowing your children to practice being adults while they’re still in your care, says Gillyard. Let them make mistakes—and then talk about them together. And don’t be afraid to experiment with a wide variety of projects. Some kids are even building or <a rel="noreferrer noopener" href="refinishing%20furniture%20at%20this%20stage,%20says%20Gillyard.%C2%A0</p>%0A%0A%0A%0A<p>As%20kids%20enter%20adulthood,%20it%E2%80%99s%20important%20to%20allow%20them%20to%20do%20some%20serious%20identity%20searching,%20so%20they%20can%20find%20things%20they%E2%80%99re%20really%20interested%20in%20and%20committed%20to.%20Think:%20%E2%80%9CI%E2%80%99m%20not%20going%20to%20do%20this%20for%20you,%20but%20I%E2%80%99m%20going%20to%20help%20you%20do%20it,%E2%80%9D%20says%20Gillyard.</p>%0A%0A%0A%0A<p><strong>Some%20other%20projects%20for%20this%20age%20group:</strong></p>%0A%0A%0A%0A<ul><li>Leading%20the%20charge%20on%20a%20flat%20pack%20furniture%20build%20or%20an%20IKEA%20hack</li><li>Building%20simple%20gifts,%20like%20a%20<a%20href=" https:>DIY cutting board

  • Making their own rug
  • Painting their bedroom
  • Fixing up a piece of furniture from a thrift shop or online marketplace
  • Household fixes, like de-gunking a shower drain or fixing a squeaky door
  • DIYing with the whole family might not be the most efficient means to an end — multiple DIYers said so, in fact! — but the process provides plenty of opportunities to not only spend time together, but also teach kids valuable skills and lessons. “I love the fact that when your kids help you build something, they get to see the fruits of their labor,” Kanegae says. “It’s not like a toy you buy them that they stop playing with after a few days.  When they do something with their own little hands, they can look at it every time and think, hey, I did that and feel so proud of what they’ve accomplished.”

    This post originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: The Ultimate Guide to “Do-It-Togethers” for You and Your Kid, No Matter Their Age