When my obsession with DIY projects started, I was a stay at home mom to my newborn son and my 22 month old daughter. My life was CRAZY. Having two kids in under two years is all kinds of chaos. But for whatever reason, that was when I discovered how passionate I was about it. So over time, with a lot of mistakes, I figured out how to incorporate DIY into my life, even with a little baby and a 2 year old.
If you have any young kids at all, you know that they basically require every little piece of you. All your attention, all your energy, and definitely all your sanity. I mean, seriously. Most days I don’t even shower… sometimes I go a day or two without any adult conversation. But I’m not insane or anything… totally normal.
…So I know it sounds questionable to also do things like build a window box or fake floating shelves or paint your front door around two toddlers. Very questionable, if you feel constantly fried like me. But I promise, it DIYing is totally possible if you do it right! And to me, doing something I love and that makes a difference actually helps me be a better mom.
Now if you have a ton of family around who can take your kids for long periods of time, or your kids are older than mine, you probably won’t have to take all the steps I’m about to list. But learning how to plan out my projects and maximize my time has helped me in many more ways than one. It has especially helped show me that I am capable of taking on more and different projects, even when the kids are being crazy.
Kids First + Safety First
Doing projects is awesome, but your kids are awesome-er. So if and WHEN they interrupt you, don’t snap at them or get frustrated. Having kids makes doing-it-yourself much more inconvenient–they make everything more inconvenient! But they also make your life, like, full of purpose and love and stuff. So don’t be annoyed with them!
The absolute most important part of any DIY project around kids is safety. Duh, right?
So first, you need decide what you are not confident doing around your kids. I do not suggest ever using any kind of saw around kids. At all. My opinion on that is that if there’s any chance of a dangerous catastrophe, DON’T TAKE THE CHANCE.
And unless you’re taking on some huge woodworking project–which I have yet to do–sawing usually takes no more than a few minutes, so it’s something you can definitely plan for when the kids are in bed or your husband is home to watch them for just a few minutes.
On the other hand, I do use my drill around them, because at this point my Dewalt drill and I are BFFs. We’ve been through so much together and I know it would never betray me. 😉 But seriously, I know how and when to use it without risking any safety. But if you are not fully confident with your use of any kind of tool or equipment, it is not worth the risk.
Whether you use your drill or even a hammer and nails, make sure you put all your tools and pieces out of your kids’ reach–especially if you have toddlers. Especially ESPECIALLY ESPECIALLY if you have mischievous toddlers. Like this one.
Basically, plan for and prepare for them to do exactly what you don’t want them to do. 😉
The other thing I never do around my kids is use any kind of a product with fumes. When I sealed my painted countertops, I waited until they went to bed. I think it’s important to be careful with those precious little brains and all these heavy chemicals. I do spray paint, but only when we’re outside and they are on the opposite side of the yard.
Projects You Can’t Do
I truly believe you can do more than you think. I do mean this in a mushy way–follow your dreams! Face your fears! All those things!
…But I also mean, like, you can do more projects than you think. Honestly, I have found that almost every project I’ve ever done is easier than it seems, and even most big projects you really can plan and get done successfully.
That’s the next part.
But I have two toddlers who are completely dependent on me every single minute of the day. My husband works a lot, and doesn’t even make it home before the kids are in bed sometimes. Even when he does, he hates DIY projects and often isn’t able to watch the kids for more than a few minutes at a time. I am taking these on completely by myself–and that is okay.
So certain projects are not realistic. And that’s annoying, but it’s okay. Our kids don’t stay little for very long–those very few projects can wait until then.
And that’s why I made this collection of projects for moms. I wanted to put all my favorite projects for moms on a tight budget together.
So you probably won’t see me recommending you to build an addition onto your house 😉 The good thing is that I have actually found very, very few project ideas that are totally out of the question. Most things can be done by following this key….
The Key to Actually Getting Your Project Done
The key, all in one word, is PLANNING.
Before You Start
Be proactive about all the ways your kids could get in your way, get something unsafe, or mess up the project. Does it sounds like I expect the worst of all children? I promise I don’t. I miiiiiight just know from experience.
If there is a way of blocking them off from where you are and they are safe and happy, do it. If not, set boundaries for the kids old enough to understand, and make sure everything is safe if they don’t. Have I said the word “safe” enough? No? SAFE SAFE SAFE SAFE SAFE. Ooohhh now it’s starting to sound weird.
Pro tip: Give them a snack as you start your project, too! If I give my kids food, I know I have like 80% more time to work 😉 Plus I use these snack catcher things to minimize crumbs and they’re amazing. Last week I put veggie chips in there and this little guy didn’t even need me for like 25 minutes. A record for him!
First, split your project up into parts. Decide which parts, if any, you cannot do around the kids. Think about the approximate time you need for each part.
Then decide what time opportunities you have. This may be naps, a movie, a favorite activity, when the kids are with a babysitter, or just any time the kids end up playing independently.
Once you have a plan for when you are going to tackle each step, you can plan for your plan. For your plan for your plan. (For your plan.) So if you are going to do one step during a nap, you can get out all the tools and supplies before they even go to sleep–that way you don’t waste any time and you can be as productive as possible.
I’m going to use painting my countertops as an example.
The first part was cleaning and taping everything. This was no problem to do with the kids around at all.
The next part was priming, which I didn’t want to do around them because of the smell, the fact that they would most definitely touch it, and that I couldn’t stop in the middle. So I planned for that after bedtime.
The actual painting of my counter wouldn’t have any smell, so it was fine to do with the kids around, except that I definitely couldn’t stop in the middle. So I planned with my husband (days in advance) so he could watch the kids for this. Cool.
The last part was sealing, which was similar to priming–a smell I didn’t want the kids around, and I couldn’t stop in the middle. I also had to do at least 3 coats and wait two hours in between. So this was a little bit tricky to figure out. But Andrew agreed to take the kids about an hour before their bedtime so I could do the first coat and then continue after they were sleeping, and not have to stay up all night.
And that was it! Not so bad at all, right?
The countertops were a little bit of a bigger project to plan out (even though it was really insanely easy). But when I did my backsplash (twice!), I didn’t plan anything at all. I did the whole thing during the day in a few hours. And even when I built my window boxes, I barely had to plan. I just had to make sure I had all the supplies available, but out of reach. I was able to do every step (sanding, drilling, screwing, painting) with the kids around, and I was able to stop and deal with the crying child when I needed to. Super easy.
To help you plan for any project, you can download my Project Planning Printable right here! It includes a safety and productivity checklist and an example to help you plan your next project.
A Few Notes
Kind of like I said in the beginning, your kids are first. Don’t get frustrated at them for being kids and for needing you–that’s a beautiful thing! Instead, be prepared for interruptions, expect them, and give everybody extra grace. Including yourself.
Also, something is going to get messed up. It might be with your project, but more likely it’s going to be with your home or routine. Pretty much every time I work on a project, our living room turns into a disaster area. I wonder why…
It’s all about your perspective. If you remember that you’re kids are first and that doing crafts or home improvement is secondary, you are a lot less likely to flip out on your kids and then feel bad later.
And if you remember that it’s totally okay to leave the dishes for a little while or those toys so that you can do something you enjoy, you’re going to reap the benefits of self-care.
So think about it. What is a project you’ve been wanting to try? What is stopping you?
You got this! 🙂