DIY for Kids

It's never too early to build the skills of future DIYers

Getting tools into young hands early and often is the best way to develop DIY skills for kids. We asked pros who teach DIY to kids for their best advice for getting kids started with tools.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Getting familiar with tools

“There’s a lost generation of children who have no practical hands-on skills. They may know how to operate an iPad at five but wouldn’t know the first thing to do with pliers or a screwdriver.”

Timothy Dahl, founder of builtbykids.com

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Whack on bubble wrap

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Screw into drywall first

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Build a bolt board

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Cut up foam core

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Perfection is not the goal

My 10-year-old son and husband were building a backyard fort together. I walked outside and I heard my son complain, “But Dad, if you don’t let me do the hammering my way, nobody will know that a kid helped build it.”

Elisa Bernick, Associate Editor

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Introduce tools one or two at a time

Kids are easily frustrated. Be careful not to go too fast. Let kids handle a tool, see how it works and feel a sense of accomplishment with it before moving on to another one.

Books and Programs

Monkey with a Tool Belt and the Noisy Problem by Chris Monroe.

Chico Bon Bon the monkey uses special tools from his handy-dandy tool belt to fix a very large problem in the pipes. We LOVE this book!

Programs
Shop class used to be where many kids were introduced to DIY, but no more. There are some great regional programs and courses, however.

Check out:

Chris Monroe

Make DIY for kids easier and more fun with books and programs.
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Don't do it for them

The biggest challenges for experienced DIYers are time and patience. That’s why pro carpenters have their children take my classes. It’s very easy for an adult to take over and just do things for the child, but you have to let kids do everything they can do.

Joe Lichty, Kids’ Carpentry instructor

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Work at their height

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Play by the (safety) rules

1. Always wear safety glasses.

2. Tie up long hair.

3. Wear closed-toe shoes.

4. Clean up after each work period.

5. When using a saw, clamp the wood or secure it in a vise and have kids hold the saw with both hands or put one hand behind their back to prevent accidents.

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Don't toss that trash

Taking apart a broken gadget like a fan or toaster is great for young minds and fingers. Kids get to unscrew things, learn how something is put together and have fun (cut off the cord for safety). If you don’t happen to have anything broken lying around, you can buy small appliances cheaply at yard sales or thrift stores. Look for older versions. The newer appliances are mostly snap-together plastic.

Skip electronic devices, which might have potentially dangerous parts. Capacitors, for example, can hold voltage long after they’re disconnected from a power source.

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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • Safety glasses
  • Hearing protection
  • Cordless driver
  • Hand drill
  • Keyhole saw

You may also need a craft glue gun and child-size versions of standard hand tools.

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

  • Foam core
  • Drywall
  • Scrap wood
  • Broken gadgets and appliances
  • Drywall screws
  • Roofing nails