Painting Beds Peach: Or Teaching Your Kids to Love Work (and Design?) at an Early Age

MerMagPaintingBeds1Our family spent the weekend working, working, working! We've been rearranging our little home to better suit our current and future needs as a family and the boys were right there with us the entire time (OK, we did have to send them out to the back yard a couple of times and did put in a show for them from time to time when things got super hectic, but for the most part, they were right there in on the action with us).

We started the day with painting the boys beds, and let me tell you, the boys were really into it. I love the excitement and fervor little ones have when the are included in on "adult" work.
MerMagPaintingBeds2Wanting to take advantage of their excitement, I decided to put them to work. So we suited them up in paint gear (a.k.a old seasonal pj's) gave them some brushes and rollers and let them go at it. Well, we did have some guidelines for them, so things didn't get too out of control, such as:

1. Stay on the plastic.
2. Only dip your brush/roller into the paint after applying several coats to the beds.
3. When dipping into paint only get a little bit of paint, letting excess paint drip off before applying brush/roller to bed.
Throughout this process I also learned that as a parent I needed to follow a few guidelines myself, such as:

1. Don't overreact when they make mistakes (which is pretty much a guarantee with Littles), such as when they get globs of paint in spots on the bed. Simply point out what is going on and help them to smooth it out.
2. If you need to go back over things, be careful to let them know that they did a great job, and that your painter job is the "follow upper", or something with an even sillier name.
3. Be patient.
4. Put on some fun motivating music to keep all of your spirits up (we tuned it to Pandora's Vampire Weekend station and rocked out).
5. Try to run with their enthusiasm and not to squelch it when they want to do something above and beyond what you had in mind for them. Realize that pushing your limits (as well as theirs) is just as much a part of this process.
6. But even still, remember that it's OK to have boundaries, like when they want to paint the underside of the bed. Say, "Oh I'm so happy you LOVE painting so much, but we don't really need to do that and we are done, so let's put the paint and brushes away now".
7. Teach them how to clean up (and the importance of it), even though you really just want to do it yourself as it will be much faster and a whole lot less of a mess.
8. Sigh in relief when it's all through, and then pat yourself on the back for aiding in creating self-actualized human beings and relish in the family work time spent together.

(notice how I had many more guidelines than they did throughout this process?! Remember, teaching kids to work, and to love it, is actually more work for you in the short term, but a huge pay off for both you and them in the long run).

I can recall a number of fond memories working with my family as child. One such memory involved my dad and my older sister and I deep cleaning our entire kitchen one Saturday morning so that we could then go to a water park later on that afternoon. I'm sure I initially wasn't into it but as we all chipped in together and cranked up the Beach Boys we all had a really really fun time. (I still think of this memory when hearing certain Beach Boys songs to this day! I think my sister also introduced me to Tori Amos that morning and I've loved her ever since.) I can remember feeling closer to my dad and sister in this moment than in our typical day to day interactions. Isn't it crazy how work can do this?! I also remember that the first water park we wanted to go to was closed down so our dad drove us all the way to Loveland, Co (another town just outside of where we lived) to catch the very last few moments of that water park before it closed. I can't say as I remember much of that water park experience, but I do remember the fun I had cleaning the kitchen with my dad and sister very well!

OK, so In addition to painting beds, we moved the boys into our larger room and put our things into a much smaller room (which I actually LOVE a whole lot more as it has a much more cozy, clean and simple vibe to it now). I got a quick snapshot of the boys new "in progress" room just as the light was beginning to fade (which explains the dark, graininess of the photo).
MerMagPaintingBeds5We love it so far (although I really want to change the boys quilts out for a simple grey and white patterned comforter, such as these from West Elm. Don't you just love peach and grey together?! Although Jon fears it will veer too feminine. What do you think?). Well I was sure to point out to the boys what a difference all of their hard work made, and they are definitely over the moon about their new beds. We have sort of a manta in our house that goes something like "sometimes things are hard, but we do them anyway". We are then sure to point out the pay offs, and stuff like, "it will get easier the more you do it", etc. I'm big on not letting my kids miss out on experiences in life just because they were too afraid or because it was "too hard" (or let's be honest, because it was too hard for me to deal with at the time). Jon jokes that I sort of lean towards a "China Mom" parenting philosophy in this respect. I'm definitely not all China Mom but I strongly agree with the last statement from this article: "the Chinese believe that the best way to protect their children is by preparing them for the future, letting them see what they're capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits and inner confidence that no one can ever take away."   And hey, if I ever get too intense I think my mom's influence of laid back California parenting kicks in and helps to balance things out a bit - or at least I tell myself this to feel a bit better when I lean too far to one side or the other...

So what about you? Any tips you've come up with to help your kids learn to work and to love it? Do you increase the "at home work load" once school is out or do you just let them lazily dream in fields of green grass? Or both? How do you find the balance? I'd really LOVE to hear what your thoughts are on this!



  1. I love the painted beds! and your parenting mantras... must remember both in a few years!

  2. Love that they painted the beds, I don't think I'm ready for that. Once summer hits, responsibilities definitely go up. It's not like I'm asking them to do chores, etc the entire time they would have been at school so they still get in lazy time. And they can sleep in :)

  3. I have to say, you are a wise wise woman. I especially love your guideline #5 about letting them run with their enthusiasm. It is a lot more work for us parents, but it makes me feel SO good when I do it. Oh, and the peach is fab. The room looks amazing!

  4. such a great post. and so true, it is hard to let them have the free reign to make mistakes on their own and learn from them. and most mistakes are not that big a deal (I have a really hard time letting go, so thanks for this reminder).

  5. I was always an interfering nagger. Especially with the eldest. She is now a 20yo creative soul who suffers from anxiety. Wish I'd bitten my tongue a little more often...

  6. Mine aren't at big school yet but I agree with getting children to help out and be involved - ours love grown up jobs! Just last week I had mine (4 & 2) helping me clean out the linen cupboard... music with a beat always helps. I struggle with micro managing and have to chill out when we do cooking/baking together. If I adjust my expectations then I do much better. I love seeing them thrive when learning new things (that I haven't meddled in!)

  7. LOVE the peach beds. And grey bedspreads will be perfection with them! I agree with all your tips - I also like to let mine get involved to a degree. It's a bit more hard work when the paint is spraypaint though!!! They get to help taping up the spraybooth! and moving the item to reveal the clean space under the painted mess. they love that! I've always found that if you give them a tiny bit of freedom doing a big person's job, they will do it for ages or they will do it for a while then get bored and do something else. If you DON'T let them, they will BUG YOU FOREVER!!!
    I also always try to make work fun - it takes longer to do things, but if it's somehow turned into a game, then they forget it IS work and just do it. And it's not such a chore next time. A good reward to work towards helps too!!!!

    1. Oh Belinda to have a spraybooth! it's my dream to have one of those electric spray paint machines. Love all of your ideas for little helpers too!

  8. charcoal grey or gun metal grey would work also and might stave off the 'bit girly' comments. :)

  9. love this post and the finished project! I especially love the things you learned in the process. I have learned a lot with Jane during Annie's art classes, and I love seeing how we both have grown, her in creativity, and I in patience and understanding how to nurture that creativity (at least I hope so!)

    I keep wanting to text you or something, to say hello. I will send an email instead :)

  10. I love this post. And the quote from the article. It all rings true. My Littles are still tiny so I hope to keep reminding myself to let them lead the way and I'll encourage them.

    And the end result of their room is so colourful! Outside the box for boys, fantastic.

  11. I love this post. I also love the the kids bed frames, they are exactly what Ive been looking for- for my kids rooms. Who makes them?

    1. Hi D.D Edge!

      I actually got the beds at IKEA. They are the the least expensive ones they have. I believe they are called Fjellse and are only 39.99. Great for painting!

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  13. I would love to write and say what a great job you did on this, as you have put a lot of work into it.
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