Teaching kids how to do basic home repairs

Tots and Tools

by Debra L. Karplus, MS, OTR/L


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One of the best ways you can raise independent children is to teach your sons and daughters to use common household tools safely and learn to do basic home repairs. This helps stretch your dollar, and ultimately stretches theirs, as they grow up into adults living on their own. There are some simple activities you can do to inspire even a very young child to be able to use hand tools with your supervision.

Build an interest in the tools in your basement, garage or workshop with your son or daughter.

A very young child can be taught to use a Phillips or flat head screwdriver to tighten things at home and do basic home repairs, such as a loose hinge or drawer handle. Hammering a nail or tack or using the hammer's claw to remove a nail isn't particularly difficult physically or conceptually. A small hand saw can be operated by your young one to cut a thin piece of wood, such as a dowel rod or molding. There are a variety of wrenches, including socket wrenches, that a child can easily manipulate to tighten a nut. A child with a hand large enough to hold pliers can use them to assist you with a project. Show your child the different sizes of clamps and how to use them. You can even progress to cordless tools, such as a screwdriver or drill, when your child seems ready. Demonstrate how to change the different kinds of drill bits.

Be handy with hardware.

Your daughter or son can also learn to recognize the different types of nuts and bolts, screws, tacks, nails, wing nuts, washers, and other hardware necessary for most repairs and projects. There are numerous books and websites that can also clarify how different hardware is used. Make yourself available to answer kids' questions and help them experiment with new tasks using hardware and tools.

Transform school concepts into fix-it concepts.

At a young age, children learn in school how to use scissors and measuring devices, such as rulers and tape measures. Apply these classroom concepts in the workshop or for basic home repairs. Ask your child to calculate how large to cut some materials for a home improvement project. And, don't forget the level, a rather intriguing little device; show your child how it can be useful for making things straight while doing projects.

Structure basic home repairs and projects, so that your child can watch and provide assistance.

One of the best ways that your son or daughter can learn to become handy at home is to watch someone fix things. You, a friend, a relative, or a hired repairperson is the best teacher of how to use hand and power tools. Let your child observe and even assist next time the plumber, electrician, or air conditioner repairperson is working at your house.

Create a tool box of real tools (not toy tools) for your child.

And why not buy your child some inexpensive tools to do basic home repairs? It will give them a sense of pride and they can work on projects at home alongside you. Be sure to set some simple guidelines as to how and when these tools are to be used. If you shop online, you can find an already assembled tool kits that are inexpensive, such as a 40-piece set for less than $25. This is definitely money well spent!

Next time you head to the hardware store or home improvement center, invite your child to join you. Take the time to wander around the store and look at all the interesting things one can purchase for doing repairs or for making projects. Encourage your child to handle some of the different tools and don't be bashful about asking the store worker any questions.

Producing projects on their own can ultimately be accomplished by your son or daughter.

When your child expresses some interest, initiate working on a simple construction project with them, such as making a model from a kit, assembling something they purchased, or building a project from a kit or even from scratch like a bird house or book shelf. Perhaps they even want to create the design first.

Hammer in safety habits from the start.

Be sure to teach safety concepts. Train your child to use safety glasses, work gloves, and other things that help insure safety in the workshop. Make a game out of quizzing them on safety practices with tools.

Teaching your son or daughter of any age to be more independent is a win-win deal for the entire family. A child who can safely use hand and power tools benefits everyone. Start with close supervision, and then encourage your child to work independently when ready.


Debra is an occupational therapist, accountant, teacher and freelance writer. She is a writer for Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners. She also writes for Grand Magazine, has some items (fiction and non fiction) selling on Amazon.com (kindle) and has written several articles for freelancewriting.com. Learn more about her at DebraKarplus.blogspot.com.

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