We bought a handyman's special as our first house for less than $60,000. It's been a great experience, and actually has not been the “money pit” some old houses turn into. When we moved into our house we had two boys under the age of three. They are now 7 and 8 and have a sister, who is a toddler. When we tackle home improvement projects around our house it's a family affair! Everyone wants to help and we've learned some tricks for avoiding total chaos during our projects.
The Toddler “Helper”
Toddlers love to help mom and dad. They imitate everything we do and it's the perfect age for teaching them good habits. However, unless you want your painting project to look like modern art, they can't help a whole lot. When you are buying your project supplies pick up a smaller plastic paint bucket and some cheap brushes so your toddler can “paint” with you. We thought the foam brushes that you buy in an assortment would work but they don't look like the brushes mom and dad use and it was not a big hit. Give your helper some water in their paint bucket and a place to “paint” that is away from the actual project, but where they can see you. Encourage them! “What is my little helper doing? Wow, what a good job!”. Obviously this does not last forever, but it goes a long way towards occupying your helper.
Our boys are now 7 and 8, which is a great age for tasks that don't need a lot of detail. They helped paint the porch with primer and the window and porch boxes. You will have to judge the maturity and coordination of each child as to what they will be able to do. Removing nails from items we were repairing and placing them in a container was a good task too. There were spots that needed wood putty added before painting and this was also a job they handled fairly well. Fence painting, washing down walls, sweeping the porch and clean up duties were things they were a big help with. Remember to keep it simple and keep it focused. Don't give them a list of things to help with, but instead just take it one task at a time. Obviously preteens and teens can take on much more responsibility and work along side you throughout the project.