How to paint a room with a 5 year old

Welcome to week 2 of Ellie’s room makeover. Last week was paint week, and Ellie was involved in every part.

I see blogs occasionally talk about how to DIY with kids or the challenges of home reno with children. So I thought I’d join the conversation and share how Ellie (5 years old) and I painted her room together. Fittingly, I have 5 tips.

Start small

Painting a whole room should not be a child’s first project, in my opinion. Ellie’s first real build was just before she turned one when we put together her play table and chairs. Simple tools. Quick project. Since then, she’s been part of all different kinds of DIY (and she no longer tries to eat the tools).

Baby playing with screwdriver and drill

For painting (beyond her craft paints and paper), she’s practiced on a bird feeder and shelves. We’ve built up her knowledge and comfort level over the years, so that she is interested in and capable of being involved in painting a whole room.

When it came to painting that room, we broke it up into smaller tasks. The first day, we worked for about an hour doing the edging. The second day, I finished the edging and started the rolling while she was at school, but left a section for her to roll. The third day, I did the second coat solo.

Step by step

There are multiple steps to painting a room, and Ellie was part of all of them. This is a good way to get your child involved and excited (and have them participate without actually painting, if you prefer).

Planning what colour to paint. Going to look at paint chips. Buying the paint (we got to watch the colours being added to the can and then the can being mixed in the shaker). Clearing the room. Patching any holes in the walls (spying holes is a good task for a child). Sanding and priming the patches.

For the actual painting, there is both the cutting in and the rolling. Cutting is great for children as it’s done with a brush. Just make sure to pick a spot where precision isn’t required (more on this below). Rolling is a bit more challenging. Ellie tried the roller all by herself, but decided she preferred when we held the roller together, so we did.

Gear up

As with any DIY project, the right equipment is key to success.

Ellie prides herself on having “work clothes”–pants and a shirt that got paint on them when she was working on an earlier project. Having clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty is one less thing to worry about.

Choose a small paint brush and pour some paint into a smaller cup. These will be easier for your child to handle and minimize the mess.

Tape off trim or anything that you don’t want painted, lay out newspaper or dropcloths to protect the floor, and have some rags handy. (The dog and his bed are optional, though not in our house.)

Talk it through

Painting is like any other skill. You have to teach your child how to do it. Take a bit of time at the start to demonstrate the proper technique. Be detailed: how deep to dip the brush in the paint, how to wipe it off on the rim, how wide to make their strokes.

I had instructed Ellie to paint as wide as her hand. That was not a concrete measurement for her, and I noticed her edges were growing wider and wider. I ended up swiping a line on the wall with my brush so that she knew how wide to go.

Pick your spot

Ellie is careful and responsible. But she’s also 5, and this was her first time painting a room. I didn’t expect her technique to be perfect, so I thought about where she could do the least damage. We started with edging around the outlets. They’re low to the floor so they’re easy to reach. They’re small, so she can finish one off quickly and feel a sense of accomplishment. If she gets any paint on them, I can easily scrape it off once it’s dry. For the most part, they’ll be behind furniture so an imperfect finish won’t be an issue. I also assigned her each of the corners, starting behind the door.

Ellie strayed from her assigned spots once and started working her way across the wall. I explained that we were rolling that section and didn’t want to see brushstrokes there. She understood and went back to her corner.

No matter how careful you are, how well you prepare, or how skilled your child is, it’s also absolutely fine to smooth out your child’s brushstrokes while the paint is still wet. Touch-ups are also fine. We had a few spots on the trim that needed to be covered, which was no big deal.

The result of our teamwork is a fully painted room, and a great feeling of pride for us both. I love seeing her grow and learn. I know that I’m teaching her so many valuable lessons. Ellie, who was once reluctant about moving rooms, is now excited. Everyone who visited us this weekend for Easter got a tour of her new room.

Ellie has been around DIY her whole life. She’s comfortable around tools and knows how to be safe. She knows projects take time and she has to be patient. DIYing together is not always perfect. I’m not always as productive as I want to be. But I know the skills she is learning are important. And the experiences of doing these projects together is priceless.

Up next, window week. Blinds and curtains here I come.

Do you DIY with kids? What are your tips for helping kids learn to be handy? Any painting disasters or triumphs to share?


3 thoughts on “How to paint a room with a 5 year old

  1. How wonderful! On the idea that you’re going more slowly when she helps, you’re doing two things at once (working and teaching) so that makes sense. In a way it’s not really going slower if you factor in the multitasking! And on the benefits of hear learning DIY from the beginning: one you didn’t touch on is that you’re growing your own helper! She may create more effort now, but there will come a day when she will speed up the process and make things much easier. The skills she’s learning will be so useful to her all her life, and who knows, may even influence her choice of career and/or hobbies when she gets older. I think this is awesome parenting. ❤️

    • I love your perspective so much. I’m already seeing the tipping point of her actually being helpful. She did a great job with the painting, and I was able to work on my own sections at the same time. (She also made our scrambled eggs this morning.) I’m so proud of her… and me!

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