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Family yard spruce-up

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Home improvement with kids

Whether your winter is long or short, warming spring temperatures tell you to get outside. And with spring a time when many families take on home improvement projects large and small, you may be thinking about gardening and landscape projects and other ways to perk up your surroundings from the outside in. Large or small, kids can help with outdoor projects -- and many love to do so.

Family Gardening

When you plan home improvement projects, you may think you need to work around your kids. Instead, try working with them -- including them in your plans, the work and the satisfaction of the result. We often think of older children as helping with yardwork (and many a teenager has earned good money mowing neighborhood lawns), but young kids can be involved, too.

Small, focused tasks

If your yard task is big (say, digging a new vegetable garden), break it into smaller tasks, several of which are sure to be child friendly. While it's not appropriate to have a young child operate machinery, kids can help mark borders of garden beds, sort seeds, arrange plants, water seedlings or even go for another bottle of water for his hot and sweaty parents,. Although small, each of these tasks contribute to the whole.

If your yard task is small and tedious, such as weeding, keeping focused can be hard. Turn the weeding into a game and offer rewards for the child who can pull the most weeds. Just be clear about which plant is the weed and which is the perennial you want to keep!

Digging in the dirt

For a kid, what better way to spend an afternoon with you than making mud pies and getting insanely dirty? Kids love to get in there and get dirty. Let them help you with all the dusty, dirty, muddy tasks -- and don't forget to take pictures before they hit the tubby.

Honest opinions

Another great way to enlist your kids' help? Get their opinions. Seriously. Kids tend to give honest opinions, and they will tell you if something looks really off -- or really great. Sure, sometimes kids' aesthetics are ruled by cartoon colors and imagery, but sometimes they really can provide insight or come up with a solution you didn't think of. Just because they are young, don't rule out their ideas!

Their own gardens

Kids also love to have their own gardens or garden areas. When you are working on your big yard project, set aside an area for your kids to grow their own vegetables or flowers. When they know that the big family effort to do this project will result in a spot just for them, they are more likely to give you a little extra space and time to finish it. And when everyone has a stake in a home project, you are all likely to enjoy it more.

More family home improvement tips:

Get kids involved in painting their rooms
Home improvement projects with kids
Getting kids to do chores
More tips on gardening with your kids

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