Home Renovations with a Toddler

When we bought our almost 100-year-old house in Lansing, we knew we were being ambitious. We started with simple things like painting all the rooms, tearing out bushes from the front yard and fixing some of the floor trim, and it already looked so much better. Then we got pregnant with our first child, and things got more exciting from there.

My husband and father-in-law replaced our roof when I was in the first trimester — don’t worry, I wasn’t allowed on the ladder. And from that point on, our little girl has been a renovation baby! Asbestos removal, radiator upkeep, plumbing fixes that resulted in poop falling from the ceiling, we’ve seen it all (and smelled it all). As I write this, we’re about halfway through with a complete overhaul of our kitchen, and so I thought this was a good time to share some tips we’ve learned on home renovations with a toddler.

1. Keep calm and carry on 

Of course, this applies to all phases of raising a toddler, “demo day” or not. But during home renovations, your home life will invariably be flipped upside-down. We’re lucky, our kid somehow sleeps through the sound of power tools — possibly because we’ve been training her for that from inside the womb — but yours may not.
We’ve had our toddler sleep in different rooms to avoid the noise, even taken her to our parents’ homes for days to escape fumes from wood stain, or a lack of heat in the upstairs bedrooms. I’ve found that if we stay calm, explain things to her and act like washing dishes in the bathroom sink is normal, she assumes it is and carries on, herself. Your attitude has a huge impact on your kid’s attitude.

2. Let them work with you

Toddlers are curious creatures, and naturally things like saws, drills, and glass tiles will draw their attention immediately. They can’t join you in every aspect of home improvement, but there are some things they can do. Let your kid help put packing materials in the recycling bin. Have them press the trigger on the drill while you hold it in place — this one gets bonus points for the loud noise it makes!

3. Encourage imaginative play

When kids see you do something, they’ll want to try it, too. We got our daughter a play mop and broom set, and it has become her favorite toy. Whenever we’re sweeping up debris or sawdust, she grabs her broom and joins us. It makes the job slower, but so much cuter! This doesn’t have to be expensive, either — we found a toy tool set at a local thrift store for less than $3.

Renovations with small kids at home will always be a little more stressful, but how special to be able to involve them in creating the space that will hold their earliest memories. I hope this short list encourages you to give it a try.

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