It's Elementary: Teaching Kids to DIY

When a pipe leaks or a door sticks, some people grab their toolbox. Others grab their phone and call a pro. For that second type of person, home ownership is frustrating and expensive. And I don't want my daughter to become one of them. So whenever there's a fix-it job around our house, I get her involved. With her "help," jobs take twice as long, and I know her 7-year-old brain probably won't retain the how-to information.


Teaching kids to DIY
Start some screws in a scrap of drywall and let the kids screw them in with a screwdriver or a kid-size cordless screwdriver.

But teaching her exactly how to do things isn't my goal. What I want her to learn is this: DIY isn't just expertise and experience. It's 90 percent attitude, a willingness to give it a try and figure it out. With a little guidance—from sources like this web site—you can fix almost anything. That's the lesson.


She doesn't know she's getting a lesson, of course. She just thinks it's big fun. Here's some of the fun we've had:


- Snaking out a plugged toilet. A dreaded job for most of us, but she loved it (see drawing) and is looking forward to the next plug-up.


- Soldering copper pipe. Some lessons, like letting a 7-year-old handle a torch, can only take place when Mommy isn't home.


- A simple plywood box with a hinged lid, hasp and padlock. I cut the parts; she screwed them together. It's crude and ugly, but she thinks it's high art and loves locking up her treasures.


- Changing car oil. Spills, greasy hand prints, lots of cleanup. We will not be trying this one again for a few years.

A kid's-eye view of snaking a toilet
To unplug a clogged toilet, feed the snake into the trap while cranking the handle. A helper makes the job slower and messier, but more fun.


More DIY tips and projects to do with kids:

DIY tips for kids


A bookcase you can build with a junior helper


How to Fix a Clogged Toilet