Remodeling expert Dan Fritschen wanted a practical, inexpensive way to keep his 12-year-old daughter engaged this summer. So he encouraged her to install a wireless alarm system in their home, a project she was able to complete within a few hours.
Setting up a wireless alarm system was the ideal project for his daughter Chrissy, who completed the job with the help of two other middle school students. They used an easy-to-install security system, watched a YouTube installation video, followed the instructions, added batteries, aligned the sensors, set up the control box, created passwords, and programmed the dialer to call when the alarm is tripped.
"Many kids can benefit from a bit of variety in the typical summer routine," said Fritschen, the creator of RemodelOrMove.com and author of five books on home remodeling. "Installing an alarm system is one example of something they can do that that offers many challenges and learning opportunities and is beneficial to their families."
Fritschen suggests several other simple projects for preteens:
Test your smoke detectors and other devices
Take a walkthrough of your home and point out important safety devices in kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms like smoke detectors, radon detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers. Test the devices and, based on your observations, have your child create a report to recommend those items that need to be improved or replaced. Children can learn budgeting lessons and financial discipline by creating a shopping list that compares brands, features and cost estimates. Shop for any new devices together and let the kids handle installation and putting in new batteries under your supervision using the instructions provided.
Replace a lockset or doorknob
If the doorknobs in your home are dated, why not let your son or daughter select, with your approval, and purchase a new one to replace the old? Standard spacing makes installing most interior locksets simple. An older child under an adult's supervision can use an electric screwdriver to do the job more effectively. Updating your door's hardware will not only enhance the appearance of your home, letting your child take the lead on installation will provide valuable do-it-yourself (DIY) experience.
Add solar landscape lighting
Solar patio lights that get their energy from the sun make your home safer, add ambiance and let you enjoy patios, gardens and decks at night. Planning and installing wireless lighting is a great project that children will enjoy. Everyone – including your neighbors – will appreciate the end result. You can make the project a teachable moment by giving kids a budget along with your objectives. Have them design an installation plan just like a real electrical contractor for you to approve.
"These projects have little room for error, and will provide children with knowledge that he or she can build something," said Fritschen. "Although your child may roll his or her eyes when you suggest these 'fun' projects, they are wonderful opportunities for kids to be responsible while creating value for the family."