How to Tackle a Project When You Have Kids

Recently we tackled a huge painting project around here that took two weeks and involved almost half of our house. We have three kids (3.5, 2.5, and 1) but try not to let that stop us from tackling home projects. I’ve been asked by several people how we can did it with them around.

It’s tricky and not how I would want to live life on a normal basis! But if you space your projects out and don’t head from one thing to the next, knocking a project out in a weekend or three, or in a month, is how you need to approach it.

a mom of three kids under three shares her tips on tackling home projects when kids are around


1.) Have a clear plan and set goals

I think this is important. Know what you want to get done, set realistic goals. Don’t try and do everything because you’ll end up disappointed that the project is taking too long. Priming one night, taping another, paint this room’s trim, paint the next room’s trim, paint this room’s walls, paint the next room’s walls. If you feel like you need a break one night, take it. But get back to work the next night.


2. Work during bedtime and naps

This is gold here. These are your magic hours. Do not waste them (even if you are tired).

If all of your kids nap, or nap at the same time, or go to bed at night, then you are golden. Take care of small (read: annoying) prep work during the day as you can, drink coffee or tea around dinner and work like crazy when they go to bed.

During the weekend, Doug does most of the work during the day and I chip in when I can, usually when a kid is napping. When he naps, the other two can have special movie time, and I can help out but am able to leave to take them potty, refill drinks, etc. When a kid or kids are not napping, I only work when I can but know that keeping them happy and busy (and out of the room) are my primary concern.


3.) Let one room get trashed

I brought up bins of toys from the basement and the room was crazy, every flipping toy in the house seemed to be out. It was bad. But it kept them busy and happy, it was like a toy party.

Some nights we cleaned up together, some nights I just wanted them to go to bed and I cleaned up, and some nights we just said “to heck with it” and left it for the next day.

Same goes for the kitchen/laundry/rest of the house, some rooms were decent, some were a pit. But I wasn’t going to cry if it was a huge mess.

Remember, your primary concern is knocking out this beast of a project, not running for mom/wife/person of the year. Either you get this project finished or you have a clean house, it can’t be both! Let it go. :)


4.) Frozen pizza

We try to eat healthy and I like making our meals from scratch, but now is not the time for extravagant meals. Keep it simple food wise, keep the clean up and prep fast.

When a project is going to go down stock up on things like frozen pizza, eggs, sandwich fixings. I like having healthy options so we are not just eating 3 meals of pizza a day. Some good options are: salad ready to go, cut up veggies, fruit, protein shakes, smoothies, hummus, nuts, yogurt, and dips. We also like making tacos or a nacho platter because it’s easy, yummy, and sneaky healthy.

If we are working on a week night, I try and have dinner ready and the kids and myself fed when my husband comes home. This way we can get to work right away and it’s done.


5.) Netflix

I try not to let the kids watch a lot of movies. While I do want to finish the project, I don’t want to neglect them completely. Let’s just say they have more movie treats than normal, often when my youngest is napping. But we alternate it with books and playing and I do take breaks to play with them.


6. Get them involved

Let them use clean paint brushes and rollers in one room, let them pull up chairs and watch, talk about the project and what you’re going to do, and ask questions. And when they’re bored, have them go play. :)


7.) Coffee, Fruit, Protein, Snacks, and Music

Keeping the music on and ourselves fed and energized is the key. If we feel sluggish at all, we’ll take a snack break. I like the Songza app rather than Pandora because it has playlists, I feel like their mixes are more eclectic. I like playlists that are fast, have a strong beat, are fun, have a upbeat feel to them, or I can sing along with and be silly to. Boy bands, country party, workout dance stuff, top 100, 90s music, etc. No sappy or slow stuff.


8.) Keep on keepin’ on

I didn’t want to paint every single night. I hated it. I cursed my paintbrushes. I complained a lot. More than a lot. (I’m sorry, Doug.) Things were really tense. But now that it’s done, it is so worth it and I am glad we can relax! Knock it out and you’ll be much more happy. Devote a weekend to painting the kitchen and finish it. Take a weekend off. Devote the next weekend to doing ______.


8.) Ask For Help

If your parents or any siblings or friends are not busy, like your kids, and live close (ours are more than an hour away), I would definitely take advantage of this! It’s a two way street though, be sure to thank them with a gift card for a night out or if it is a friend or sibling, take their kids so they can get out or tackle a project.

You could also offer to help family members or friends when they are taking on a project and maybe they will want to help you when you are working on yours.



Did I miss any ideas or topics?

What do you and your family do when tackling projects? How do you keep the kids busy and happy?


  1. says

    We have just finished remodeling our main bathroom which took a LONG time, . We are very fortunate and and have great neighbors (with kids of similar age) who looked after our girls when we had to blast through a few projects on the weekend. Friends and neighbors want to help! They know what it’s like :)

  2. Stephanie from CT says

    One thing you left out was babysitters. Because you are home, it doesn’t have to be an uber responsible 16 y/o or a grandma. A responsible 11 y.o, or even younger, can play with the kids, get snacks and take them to the potty …. and you are only seconds away if he/she needs help. They work cheap (I usually figured half the going rate for a “real” baby sitter), And the kids always loved having a BIG kid play with them, And as a bonus, you are training/testing out a real baby sitter down the road.

  3. says

    Great post! I’ve never seen someone take on this perspective before. A DIY addiction and a toddler can be a scary combination. My son wants to be involved in everything I do, so I try to give him a similar, kid-friendly project to do while I work. Letting him “paint” the concrete with a foam brush and water or giving him scrap wood to play with with his toy drill are my go-to’s when I work outside.

  4. Virginia says

    When my sisters and I were young, about nine or ten, Mom had us help, too. Mom worked (or else she would have taught us herself), so Dad taught us how to put the dropcloth down, how to spackle- and we kids did a lot of sandpapering- and some of the painting. He was also there to supervise us while we were on the ladder, too. Mom did most of the painting, though.

  5. Martha says

    Thank you for this encouragement. As new, first-time parents to two through foster care, we’ve recently had to tackle some major projects just to get a kid’s bedroom ready. Now I need to tweak other areas of the house to make them more kid-friendly. I’ve been stressing. This makes me feel better about knowing it WILL get done.

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