Home and garden checklist: Do-it-yourselfers can start young

Published: Saturday, Jul. 21, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 7CALIFORNIA LIFE


Do-it-yourselfers can start young – even before kindergarten.

If you want to get the kids off the couch and into the workshop, teach them how to use basic tools, suggest the editors of Family Handyman magazine.

After they've mastered a few skills, they'll want to make simple projects such as a birdhouse or bulletin board. The skills they learn can last a lifetime.

Remember: They need adult supervision. Stress that tools are not toys.

Here are some tips to get started:

• Introduce tools one or two at a time. Children are easily frustrated. Be careful not to go too fast. Let kids handle a tool, see how it works and feel a sense of accomplishment before moving on to another one.

• Work at their height. Anyone – young or old – works better on a surface that's not too high or too low. You can buy child-size workbenches from school-supply catalogs, cut down an existing workbench, or make one yourself. The workbench top should be at least 2 by 4 feet and stand 24 inches high for preschoolers and 27 inches high for elementary-age kids.

• Screw into drywall first. It's a lot easier than wood. Start some screws in a scrap of drywall and let the kids screw them in with a screwdriver.

• Whack on bubble wrap. To a kid who's not quite ready to drive nails, nothing feels better than whap, crackle and pop. Use a kid-size hammer or a rubber mallet.

• Build a bolt board. Wrenches are fun for beginning tool users. Sink different-size bolts into a board, then let children use wrenches to attach color-coordinated nuts.

• Cut up foamboard. Clamp some foamboard to a workbench and let kids saw it into strips. Available at craft stores, foamboard is easier to saw than wood. A keyhole saw is perfect for small hands.

• Don't toss that trash. Taking apart a broken gadget or small appliance (such as a fan or toaster) is great for young minds and fingers. Kids get to unscrew things, learn how something is put together and have fun.

• Don't do it for them. The biggest challenges for experienced DIYers are time and patience. You have to let kids learn by doing, not watching.

• Play by the safety rules. Always wear safety glasses. Tie up long hair. Wear closed-toe shoes. Clean up after each work session. When using a saw, clamp the wood or secure it in a vise and have kids hold the saw with both hands, or put one hand behind their back to prevent accidents.

• For more tips and recommendations, click on www.familyhandyman.com.


• Mulch, mulch, mulch! Try to keep your plants cool and hydrated with a layer of insulating mulch. Use several sheets of newspaper (yet another use for The Bee), covered with an inch of compost or bark.

• During hot weather, water early – preferably before 8 a.m. That allows the water to soak in, and less will evaporate away.

• On tomato plants, pick off caterpillars and be on the lookout for other pests. Although tomatoes love heat, don't let the vines wilt. Water them two to three times a week, more if planted in containers.

• Feed vegetable plants bone meal or other fertilizers high in phosphate to stimulate blooms and fruiting. Make sure to water before feeding.

• Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more. Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

• It's not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

• Plant sunflowers from seed and watch them reach for the sky.

• Pinch off blooms from basil so the plants will grow more leaves.

• Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

– Debbie Arrington

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