Open the gifts of interaction, instruction and quality time using project ideas for you and your child to do together.
For centuries, parents and children worked side-by-side to survive and transfer information to the next generation. Today, many families live in constant isolation as technology and the continuous pursuit of entertainment erect barriers between its members. Tear down those walls by reestablishing the tradition of working together in fun and creative ways.
Project Ideas for Parents and Children
Each child has a unique learning style and combination of interests. Encourage this individuality by stepping outside the box to try something new.
Paint a Room Together
This practical undertaking gives an opportunity for planning, preparation and satisfaction of a job well done for years to come.
- Allow your child to have input on the color scheme, theme and decorative accents. Discuss and gather materials needed for the project.
- Practice painting techniques on scrap boards before beginning. Have fun with the process.
- Select a project day with plenty of time to reduce stress and increase enjoyment.
- Emphasize the importance of teamwork and correcting mistakes along the way.
- Celebrate a job well done by selecting a great accent piece and planning the next painting project.
Enjoy your success and make plans for the next painting project.
Grow a Vegetable Garden
Gardening offers documented benefits for physical, mental and emotional health. Doing so with your child only intensifies the positive effects.
- Start by brainstorming with your child fruits and vegetables that your family enjoys.
- Research together the types of fruits and vegetables that grow best in your region.
- Choose the location of your garden on your property that has optimum conditions.
- Work together preparing the soil.
- Agree on responsibilities that you will both assume.
- As your harvest comes in, incorporate your produce into delicious dishes for the entire family.
Pass on the value of caring for the earth and each other in healthy, wholesome ways.
Construct a Treehouse
Nothing encourages a sense of adventure and imagination like building a treehouse. Follow these steps in constructing a sturdy, long-lasting structure:
- Choose a healthy, mature hardwood for maximum support, with branches that will bear the load at least eight inches in diameter (or larger if it is a softwood).
- Build the platform as near to the trunk as you can.
- Build in the lower third of the tree.
- Place the load near the base of the tree instead of to one side.
- Leave gaps around the tree to allow for tree movement and growth
- Experiment with creative accessories that give your treehouse its individual personality.
Your treehouse will provide hours of enjoyment for years to come
Decorating stones or rocks is another opportunity to get your child outside. Painting stones is all the rage right now, so get in on the action:
- Select smooth, flat stones.
- Wash the stones before decorating them.
- Seal with a clear sealant or spray-on sealer. Try priming with white paint as an alternative.
- Use outdoor or multi-surface paint to help them hold up due to exposure to the elements.
- Use oil-based paint pens or Sharpies to accentuate your stones. Let them fully dry before writing.
- Seal your design with a clear coating for extra protection.
You may even decorate your garden with these colorful stones.
Make a Bird Feeder or Birdhouse
This project develops simple building skills with an appreciation of nature. Choose from a few popular styles of homemade birdhouses:
- Create a birdhouse from an empty two-liter or milk jug. Wash the bottle thoroughly before filling it with birdseed.
- Make a suet bird feeder using a mesh bag and suet that can be purchased at most grocery stores.
- Repurpose many objects around the house. Some ideas include soup ladles, terra cotta pots and Mason jars.
- Build a classic birdhouse using wood that is thin enough to cut yet sturdy enough to hold up against wear and tear. Make your design as simple or complex as you desire.
Incorporate times to relax and watch the birds that come to enjoy their new homes.
Create a LEGO Table
Many parents know the struggle of keeping LEGOs contained in one central area. Take this opportunity to learn new woodworking skills and to pass them on to your child.
- Select an area of the home that is easy to access yet out of the way. Corners of large rooms serve as perfect places for hosting a LEGO playing station.
- Decide together what features you want to have within your table. Measure your chosen area and leave plenty of space for movement.
- Provide storage space around your construction. Consider built-in spaces underneath the board or nearby shelves.
- Determine if you would like seats around the board. This choice will determine the choice height of your table.
Allow your design to grow and change along with your LEGO collection.
Try String Art
String art is fun for those who enjoy the delicacy of weaving and the power behind pounding on nails. It is enjoyable for almost everyone.
- Start simple. Think of a basic design that you can build with nails and sketch it out.
- Make a paper stencil of your plan. Place the stencil on the board and hammer nails at a distance of one to two inches apart.
- After the nails are in place, carefully tear away the stencil.
- Start weaving the design by looping colorful string, yarn or twine from nail to nail. Tie off the ends by wrapping the last bit of string back and forth between two nails.
As you gain confidence in string art, increase your detail and the depth of your color scheme.
Try Marble Art
The beauty of marble art is in its simplicity. Make stunning marbled pictures by following a few easy steps:
- Gather your materials for the project. These include new bottles of nail polish, shallow pans such as disposable baking pans, watercolor paper, disposable gloves, toothpicks and craft sticks.
- Pour room temperature water into the pan deep enough to submerge your paper.
- Put on disposable gloves.
- Select polish colors that go well together. New, luxury lines of polish work the best.
- Take a toothpick and designate someone to swirl the pattern around artistically.
- Dunk your watercolor paper into the water, and pull out your masterpiece.
- Use the popsicle stick to remove excess nail polish that is floating in the water.
This project easily captures the imagination of people of all ages. You cannot make a mistake.
Tips to help busy families engage in meaningful art projects.
- Eliminate the pressures that make art projects difficult. Some of the best art projects are spontaneous. Grab items that you already have around the house, including cotton balls, empty bottles and paper towel rolls. Keep essential items such as crayons, glue, paper and paints easily accessible.
- Let children take the creative lead. Young children display more creative problem solving when adults provide opportunities for open-ended exploration. Allow them to practice “counterfactual” reasoning, the process of mental experimentation that builds innovative thinking.
- Allow children to use their hands to create their projects. Children’s fine motor development grows through hands-on manipulation of a variety of materials. When children participate in tactile processes such as molding clay, using simple tools or squeezing a glue bottle, they strengthen the muscles used for fine motor skills.
- Support, but don’t take over. Guide your child through encouragement or suggestions, but resist the urge to control. Independent work allows your child to develop the muscles and confidence needed for school and extracurricular activities.
- Praise effort, not the product itself. Children need a growth mindset. Praise your child for the effort given, not the quality of the final product. The willingness to try, fail and learn lays a foundation for future success in academics, sports, and the arts.
What is Family Involvement?
Family involvement provides a safe, inviting environment. Family involvement does not require a rigid set of standards to meet. Instead, the attentiveness to daily play and practical work experiences provides a limitless number of learning opportunities.
Many studies show a connection between neurological processes, language development and behavioral patterns developed through interactive experiences. There is strong evidence suggesting that strong family involvement causes children to do better in school and other lifelong activities. Parents are their children’s first and primary teachers. They have a vital role in providing experiences that foster a love and desire for learning.
More than expensive lessons or prestigious programs, your child needs you. Invest time and focus in creating intentional projects for you and your child to do together. Consider your child’s natural strengths and interests in developing an encouraging learning environment. Demonstrate a love of nature and a respect for a wide variety of skills. Provide basic materials for creative experiences, and involve your child in the planning process of household projects. Turn ordinary experiences into intentional opportunities for joy and exploration. In doing so, watch the spark of imagination ignite. The seeds that you plant now will last a lifetime.