What We Learned while Painting with Toddlers


For over 2 weeks, we’ve been reviving the walls and ceilings in our living room and dining room. See the white splotches, above? That’s repair work that we hired out to professionals (Veteran Painting out of Shakopee, for those Twin-Citians interested).

We planned to do the actual painting ourselves to save some money. As per the usual, this project has dragged on far longer than we expected, and it’s still in progress. We’re still in the throes of it.  I do love that phrase “in progress”. Because of the word “in”. :p  No, actually, because of the word “progress”.  “Progress” is a lovely word.

Here’s what we’re learned along the way:

Let the kids be part of it. The disruption to routine and room(s) is inevitable,  and can lead to consternation and confusion from toddlers and parents alike. If everyone can be involved, then it tempers some of this.

  • I wish I had let them draw on the walls before we primed. I did let them play with dry paint brushes, but when they ended up in mouths, had to take them away.
  • They love new things. I was whisking one of them up the stairs to a nap, eager to get back down to help, when I realized just how fascinated he was by the shop vac. I wish I had let him watch it longer, while in action, and ask questions. It would have helped him acclimate to these “new” surroundings.
  • I could tell the kids were on edge about all the upheaval, and my first reaction was to keep everything as close to normal as possible. But I also realized, from experiences like the above, that they needed some familiarity with these strange happenings. It’s all happening in their home, after all. So the next morning, before getting them up, I made sure nothing dangerous or spill-able was in reach, prepped 2 sippy cups with milk, set out 3 granola bars, and placed a familiar throw rug in the one free spot in the dining room. We broke tradition, eating our breakfast there. It was fun. They were able to spend time in the space, and it helped them to get comfortable. We were all finally more peaceful.

Play area.  We normally keep toys in the lower half of the China cabinet. It needed to be moved away from the wall, but I left the toys in it and made sure we aimed it so that the drawers and doors point out. I showed my 3 year old where the throw rug is, and that the toys are still accessible. I explained that if she wants to play with something, she can bring it to the rug. This is as close to normal as I could make things, and it has worked out ok, though many toys have ended up in the kitchen (which is uglier than sin right now). I think giving our 3 year old some ownership and responsibility helped, though.

The routine. One whole day while the walls were being repaired, I decided to get the kids out of there. We played and lunched with our friends, which went well, then tried napping at their house. FAIL! I expected at least one of them to sleep. Neither did. In turn, mama didn’t get much rest and meanwhile stressed over grocery shopping. We HAD to go, so we headed away, towards the only store on the way home (an expensive one) during rush hour. Even to grab the few items we absolutely NEEDED would have taken too long. When daddy called saying we should eat out, I was in the middle of the meat section looking at some gorgeous BOGO pork. We hurriedly came up with a plan to drop off the cold groceries, pick him up, and go to the restaurant. It was all supposed to happen before bedtime, somehow. It didn’t, and I’m sure  you saw this coming long before I did! It all added up to me deciding that next time, I will carefully consider whether the work being done on the home truly warrants the gamble of trying naps somewhere else.

Take breaks! This applies to toddlers and adults. A couple of times I’ve run away with the kids to the store or the park. Being outside is calming to all. Shopping is therapeutic for me. Today is the first day in roughly 13 that I haven’t put some sort of wet pigment on the wall. And I wish I had taken a day like this last week. Tomorrow, we have some childcare set up so that we can work, but we are also going to a birthday party and finally having date night. I hope to take Sunday as a real day of rest. I don’t know how I could face this coming week, still with our main living areas in chaos, if I didn’t have these non-painting periods planned.

Tune in next time for some key learning on the technical side of painting! Ceiling caulk just may change your life. It did mine!


Mary Clare



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