Can We Work, Please?

The first words out of my grandson’s mouth when he arrived for his summer vacation was “Can I work? I want to work.”  We all had a good laugh then his father asked if he could wait a day so we could just visit and catch up.  The next morning he woke me up asking what work he could do. One track mind?

I did anticipate this and had a few things I’d saved for them to help with around the property.

I’ve lived here almost two years and one thing I couldn’t get help with was the closet. There are two shelving units were attached the one stuck out blocking access because it extended beyond the doorway preventing my chair from passing through.

I had asked my daughter-in-law to move the shelf that was causing the problem but after briefly looking told me she couldn’t because it was attached to the wall.

mini handyman1

We had a really hot June so I had to bring the children inside during the hottest part of the days. After a long winter and sitting in a classroom their delicate skin wasn’t used to the hot scorching sun and I didn’t want them getting burned.

On one of those afternoons my grandson was frustrated because the work was outside. I decided to let him play in the closet and see if he could figure out how to detach the shelf.  We set up the step-ladder and I handed him a set of screwdrivers. I assumed anyone who wanted to ensure this shelf stayed put would use screws. They didn’t, they simply nailed it in place to the top of the door frame.

My grandson grabbed the hammer instead and used the claw to pry the shelf off the door frame, then moved the shelf to the back of the closet freeing up enough room for the closet to now be functional for me.  Seeing how much he’d learned and how quickly he could problem solve I nicknamed him my mini-handyman.

The cicadas provided him with another job that required a handsaw.  This branch fell into the drive in the middle of a beautiful afternoon.  We hadn’t had rain or a storm, and after inspecting the branch we couldn’t see any reason it fell.

mini handyman12

You can see the leaves are still green in this photo yet less than two hours after removing the branch the leaves were brown and brittle and the branches were so dry you would have thought this section of the tree had been cut down last year.  That’s when we realized just how destructive the cicadas were.

The cicadas live off the sap in the branches and the females cut slits in the branches to lay their eggs where the hatching cicadas then use the sap for nourishment. If too many eggs hatch in a branch they will drain the branch of every drop of sap killing it but I had no idea how fast a tree branch could die.

When the children were here for Christmas we had mild weather so of course they asked for work they could do outside. There isn’t much you can do when the ground is frozen. The children decided to carry down the sections of trees I’d had trimmed and cleared to fill the garden beds.

mini handyman11

Having to work from a wheelchair I needed to have raised beds which will use a lot of dirt to fill and push the initial costs of starting a garden up. I decided to use the Hugelkultur method to reduce the amount of soil I would need to purchase while adding nutrients as the wood decomposed. Another benefit of Hugelkultur is that the rotting wood extends the growing season by a couple of weeks on each end of the season.  Living in the Northeast anything I can do to extend the growing season is a blessing.

Not all the tree branches fit nicely in the raised beds. We had to cut many of the branches and stomp on them to pack them in good.  A handsaw would have taken a long time so I brought out my cordless multi-tool my son gave me for Christmas a few years ago to help with my furniture restoration projects. My grandson couldn’t wait to use a power tool. 🙂

mini handyman7

In case you are wondering, I introduced my grandson to tools when he was three years old, yes with his parent’s permission. I first showed him how to use a screwdriver to put in and remove screws, from there we moved on to a hammer and simple non-power tools. The first power tool he used was a drill with a screwdriver bit.  If well supervised children adapt to tools quickly.  Now seven we still supervise him and remind him of proper safety measures.

Now that the beds were ready, they had to  be filled.  Because the part of the property where I am building the gardens is fenced in I had to have the soil dumped in the driveway and lugged up into the yard.

dirt 6

I purchased five yards of clean top soil. I had the soil dumped on a 12 by 10 tarp thinking that would be large enough, it wasn’t.  The neighbor kids were excited to see dirt but when I had to put an end to playing in it so I could fill the beds they quickly left. Not my grandson.

mini handyman5

I had considered purchasing a wheelbarrow but thought I would be doing most of the hauling of the soil and couldn’t see maneuvering my chair and a wheelbarrow at the same time without spilling a few loads.  I headed to the store and picked up a couple buckets sold for washing a car.  The children might have been able to handle the wheelbarrow but this works well for me. I can fill a bucket or two and carry them into the yard on my footrest to dump.

The first day my grandson wanted no help but had a sore back  and legs from carrying the buckets himself into the yard.  Not wanting him to overdo it and hurt himself we pulled out other projects for a couple of days before I let him loose on the dirt pile again.

The following days we took turns filling the buckets, then I carried them into the yard for him to dump. He was frustrated with me when I would make him stop during the hottest part of the day so I always tried to have activities to fill that part of the day, such as sewing. After a few days of work he’d moved more than two-thirds of the soil into the yard.  You can see above in the picture of the neighbor boys laying on the top of the pile how high it had been.

mini handyman8

His sister while not the laborer her brother is wasn’t going to be left out of all the “fun”.

mini handyman10

Children may love to work but they know the fine art of taking breaks and having a bit of fun too.

mini handyman9

There were no jobs  they didn’t want to take part in.  They offered to help weed.

mini handyman6

Sanded down thrift store picture frames and helped repaint them to better match my decor.

mini handyman3

And spotted a chair we found in the attic crawl space that needed a good sanding. There is something about the lines of the legs I just love, when done this will be a nice little corner seat on the deck.

mini handyman4

When I moved here my son informed me he was having the deck repaired, railings put up and ramps built as a move-in gift.  Well, the railings never went up. I have been very nervous about a child falling off the deck ever since.

After getting quotes from various handymen I determined it was way cheaper to purchase my own saw than pay to have the railing put up by someone else.  I didn’t have the proper saw when the kids were here so decided to at least temporarily put up some of the wood to give me some peace of mind.  I realized early on there was no way I was going to get away with using a power tool without sharing the work.

mini handyman2

My saw arrived today, so those temporary rails will be coming down this weekend, after the rains stop.

These jobs weren’t done all at once, I’m not a slave driver. 🙂

Children love to be helpful and they love to learn new skills.  Not all seven-year olds are ready to use a power tool and there are some tools I won’t introduce him to even though he has been raised around tools.   I wish you could have seen the pride these two have when they finish a task and the appreciation they have to be trusted to help with these jobs.

Did your child, or you, have a favorite tool they couldn’t wait to use?




  1. No, my husband and I never used tools well. Early in our marriage we decided that working together on these things wasnt good for our continued co-habitation … if you know what I mean. 🙂 In fact, we called him “check book man” because it was our answer to anything that needs fixing. Neither of us had an interest in getting skilled either so our kids never learned any of that from us. But my son as an adult is pretty much self taught. Has a bunch of tools. He is very very handy. My daughter is also pretty self sufficient, but she lives in a condo so the opportunities to do things with your hands are pretty minimal. But I totally admire folks who take these tasks on and just figure it out as they go along – and you are giving your grand children such a gift of skill and knowledge and confidence. It doesn’t get any better than that.


    • You crack me up Elaine! “wasn’t good for our continued co-habitation” so many people would try to fight through it because they had an image of their lives being different than reality handed them. No wonder you have been married so long, you were willing to roll with the punches. 🙂


  2. Even though my mother had me sewing things at three years old (my first thing was to hem a skirt for a large doll), I wasn’t allowed to used the sewing machine until I was nine. Then I made a sleeveless blouse with her although she did the button holes. I don’t know if she wanted us to be older and more coordinated so we would keep our fingers out of the way of the needle or that was the way she spaced out the teaching time with the four of us.

    As you grandson is getting older, I think he is looking more and more like his father. Is that what you think?


    • How funny. I remember my grandmother teaching me to sew by hand before I started school but then when she decided to teach me to use the sewing machine I had no interest.

      Most people think he looks more like his father but I see more of his mother. In the end, I tell him he looks like himself.


  3. I used power tools and tackled many non traditional projects when my girls were growing up so they thought nothing of doing the same. As adults, one has continued to be quite self-sufficient whle the other prefers to have someone else do everything for her. It’s interesting, I think, as they were raised pretty much the same way.
    It’s wonderful that your grandchildren enjoy helping you and participating in your projects. You must have a real knack for making it fun for them!


    • I think we can show all our children the same things but their personalities will determine which ones take up the torch and follow our lead and which ones won’t.

      Well, there are things I can’t seem to teach. My granddaughter wanted to learn to crochet this summer. After a while she announced that I wasn’t a very good teacher and decided we’d try again next time she came down. There’s something about the finger-work that I can show but can’t explain.


  4. I was never very co ordinated with tools or such. My husband is pretty good, but honestly, way way too impatient with himself. He thinks if he thinks of something he should be able to do it right now. He will research and such on the net, and get it done, eventually. Not saying this well…although he eventually is able to get most jobs done, he cannot accept that he is not good/great at everything. sigh.. One might think that is a good trait, but, sometimes not. Sometimes it is better to either do without, or hire someone competent at a particular job.


    • I know exactly what you mean. I am fine with tools but when it comes to other tasks such as knitting or quilting I know it should be easy but I just can’t accomplish those activities without getting completely frustrated and angry in the process. I like to think I can do anything any one else can so in the case of quilting when I see men and women alike making beautiful quilts I think I should be able to as well and hate feeling defeated.


  5. I love this post! I think it’s wonderful how kids just want to dive into these sorts of projects that most of us as adults would consider drudgery. I think the key is that kids always focus on the “doing it” part rather than the goal of “getting it done”.

    I’m not great with power tools. I have a somewhat irrational fear of cutting off body parts. When I was in college I took a sculpture class – which landed me in the ER three times over the course of the first few weeks of class. I smashed my thumb with a hammer and the professor thought it was broken (luckily it wasn’t) – I got hot glue from a glue gun stuck to my finger which caused a 2nd degree burn – and then there was the bizarre butcher paper accident where somebody knocked over a roll of butcher paper, which hit me on the shin and took off most of the skin as it slid down. So when we started in on the power tools the next week, I decided that discretion was the better part of valor and dropped the class.

    My fear only got worse a few years after college when my landlord sawed off half of his hand when he slipped using a table saw.

    Anyhow, these days the only power tools I use are an electric drill and electric lawnmower (when I’ve let it grow too long for the manual one.) I’m sure I’d get things done quicker if I could make friends with them, but honestly, I’m just not sure it’s worth it.


    • I think you were smart to drop out. 🙂 I had a friend who seemed to get hurt no matter what she was doing, her kids were the same way and even the man she married later in life. My oldest son’s father was what I just called a klutz and could get hurt walking….wait he did several times. Not kidding. I worried about my son inheriting those qualities but thankfully he takes after my side of the family. 🙂

      I have been wanting my railing up and finished for so long now that I even asked my daughter-in-law to bring my son’s circular saw and leave it here so when my son visited he couldn’t say he forgot the saw. You should have seen the reaction. She, and both my son’s informed me there was no way they would allow that kind of tool to be any where near me because they knew one day I would devise a supposedly fool-proof way not to get hurt and would try to use it. They are probably right. I know the danger of a circular saw with my limited strength but I also hate having any jobs unfinished. I bought a miter saw this week to do the rails, I’m confident that it’s stable enough I can’t get hurt but my boys are holding their breath.


  6. Your grandkids are awesome and a credit to you and their parents. I did a lot with hand tools when I was younger, rather than any power tools, but am pretty comfortable with power tools now. My daughter has not been interested in anything like that, but I am hoping it will slowly develop, like some other skills she is now acquiring at age 22.


    • She might take to it later especially if a need arises that would be better solved by doing it herself. I still prefer hand tools only because I feel more connected to the work I am doing, don’t know if that makes sense or not. Plus I don’t like the noise of power tools but there are some jobs where they are the best solution and in that case I will use them.


  7. Lovely that your grandchildren love to help! Our grandson, too, is growing up with tools as his dad renovates their house and he is allowed to use proper tools obviously under supervision. In fact, in kindergarten they spent every Thursday in the woods and all the children took a knife with them to learn how to use it as they busied themselves in nature, built a fire and cooked sausages over it (a group is about 15 kids, I think, with 2 adults supervising). Every week, summer and winter. They loved it and learned to use a knife safely! My British connections’ eyes popped when they heard this… but they didn’t have any accidents, it was just matter-of-fact. Now my granddaughter is looking forward to starting KG in August and to her weekly woodland morning – with knives lol! She is also one who comes and immediately asks what she can do, she was so delightful when we took her sailing, always wanting to help with everything incl. setting the table, cooking and clearing up, very hands-on ;).
    As a child, I had a capable mother but a rather incapable father, so it was my mom who changed plugs when we moved countries (she did electrocute herself once, which as an 8yr old I found amusing, as she flew through the kitchen… :o) or built flat-pack furniture and I learned to get on with it, also moving furniture around regularly was a typical thing! My grandad (mom’s dad) was a DIYer, so I guess that’s where that came from. My dad paid someone if he needed the slightest thing doing at home or on his cars, not practical at all. As an only child, I also taught myself things from books, seemed normal to me. However my grandmother and mother did teach me to use the sewing machine – my grandmother used a hand-cranked one until her 90s so that was a bit easier at first, then my mom’s electric one when I was older. Otherwise I tend to be a bit nervous of power tools, especially saws. But I will use a drill if necessary – having said that, I was thrilled when my husband introduced me to the old-fashioned twist-drill lol!! He is pretty practical, I must say. Schools in Switzerland still teach kids stuff, though – woodworking, woodturning, crafts usually incl. crochet and knitting and so on are part of the curriculum, but also they all learn to sew on a machine in 4th grade. Yes, accidents do occasionally happen (I think there was one child in each daughter’s class who managed to sew a finger or thumb) but they lived – we don’t live in a blame or suing culture so it was no worse than a scraped knee or a bumped head, I guess. Even if they don’t use these skills later on, they have had an introduction, or it could lead to a later apprenticeship if they enjoy it and as the Steiner school people know, they learn dexterity, rules, caution and it helps the brain develop (which is why all Steiner kids learn to knit).
    What’s not to love about all that?! Go, Lois!!


    • The first time I heard about kindergarten classes outside where kids get to run around doing all kinds of things that in the US are deemed to dangerous for children was in a documentary titled Make Me a German. My son and I watched it amazed at the differences between the two cultures. Your grandchildren are very fortunate to have that experience and that of helping renovate their own home. The pride and stories they will have about their home when it is completed. 🙂

      When I gave up trying to bring about changes in our schools and took my children out to homeschool I spent that last school year doing research. I knew about the Montessori methods but it wasn’t until then I learned about Steiner, the Classical Method and so many others. In the end we combined unschooling (which to me is more child-led) and Steiner/Montessori as our home education program. One year for the art curriculum I allowed my son to redesign his bedroom. Calculating costs, picking out paint, wall paper, helping to hang new drywall and finish it, etc. He had a blast but in our state we have to report to the school and submit work from our program at the end of the year.. I had the school call me and question the art program but in the end they approved it. Nature studies were a big thing too and I can still recall the afternoons my boys went out tracking and sketching scat they followed. 🙂 I wish the internet had been available where I lived when I began homeschooling as it would have opened my eyes to more educational philosophy that I could have learned from to make my boys’ education even better. You are very fortunate to have the systems you have.

      My grandfather still had all his hand powered tools when my boys were little so the first drill they ever used was the hand crank one like your husband introduced you to. 🙂 There are still some tools I won’t use myself. I know my physical limits. For instance I needed a circular saw to make nice clean cuts for the railings I’m putting up this weekend, but I’m terrified of cutting off a limb using one so I bought what we call a miter saw. It’s a circular saw built into a table so I can’t drop it while using it plus it won’t jump back at me should it hit a knot in the wood.


  8. You have awesome grandkids. My son learned to use power tools at a young age, too and used to build all kinds of things. Now in high school, he’s the electrical lead for his robotics team.


    • That’s fantastic, Christy. I wouldn’t be surprised if my grandson does something similar. I gave him a set of snap circuits last year and it’s still his favorite toy. He’s picked his father’s brain (who is an electrician) to learn even more. Whatever he does in the future it will be something he can keep his hands busy.


I'd love to hear your thoughts, won't you please tell me what's on your mind?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s