Let’s Play Renovation (Part I)

Let’s Play Renovation (Part I)

When renovating a house, sometimes the little things can get lost in the shuffle—photographs, mail, knick-knacks, nine-year-olds.


I kid, of course. As a mother of two and a construction manager, I know how tough it can be to keep an eye out for how junior’s feeling even the kitchen still has walls. Renovations are tough on everyone. No one likes the inconvenience or the mess. We grin and bear it (sometimes with wine and exercise and a varying level of whine) because we know that a fabulous new home will be the outcome.


Kids process things a little differently. There’s the time issue, for example. Eight weeks to a grown-up is barely enough time to finish the holiday shopping. Eight weeks to a kid is an entire summer vacation. It’s a long time to have a torn-up family room when you’re seven or eight years old.  Also, kids may struggle conceptually with what you’re doing with their kitchen.  They may not be able to visualize the final product. Some kids may find the demolition of the dining room to be fun and messy; some may find it kind of disturbing.


Just as there’s no one kind of kid, there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy for smooth sailing through the construction zone with your freaked out five your old or your precocious preteen.  But here are a few ideas:


  • Have a Family Meeting. Do this as soon as you draw up your plans. Gather your kids together and explain what you’re doing to the house. It is important for parents to disclose some of the challenges ahead of time. Explain that renovation is inconvenient for everyone—kids and grown ups alike—and that the next few weeks/months may require some creative, adventurous thinking.


  • Walk them through the things that will be different.  Take them through the schedule. “On Tuesday, we’ll move the stuff out of the kitchen. On Wednesday, the contractors will take out the cabinets, etc.” Give them, if you can, a realistic timetable. If they will be in the house with the crew, introduce them to the contractor. Set guidelines for safe/not safe play zones. Ask for their “help” in keeping things running smoothly.


  • Provide Visual Aids.  Help your kid envision the final product with a crayon drawing. Show them the way the new counters will be constructed with Legos. Make the new space tangible for them. Give them something to look forward to, whether it’s a cupcake decorating party in the new kitchen or a camp-out in the newly landscaped back yard.


  • Include Them In the Process, to a point.  It’s important for a kid to feel some ownership in a renovation, but there’s a reason why most ten-year-olds don’t make the cover of Architectural Digest. Let them make small decisions, “We’re considering these two paint colors for the upstairs bathroom. Which one do you prefer?” Know that kids’ tastes will change (sometimes weekly) and chalkboard paint (though extremely cool) may be a recipe for chalk dust in morning cup of Joe.


And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Renovating with children in tow can open a Pandora’s (toy?) Box of issues, ideas and answers I will return to in the next few weeks. In the meantime, remember that you have the power to take a messy situation and add a dash of fun. Happy kids make for relaxed adults. And relaxed adults make renovations so much sweeter.



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