Just to start off I am not at all affiliated with Home Depot. I do buy most of my building materials and tools there primarily because of geographical convenience. If you are close to one or just want to stop by and smell the new lumber I recommend going on the first Saturday of every month (you may have to check in with your Home Depot for schedule). Every month prior to the pandemic, Home Depot would have a free DIY workshop for kids. The kids get a free mini Home Depot apron, building kit, and pin once completed.
It was a great way to spend a Saturday morning with the family, as long as you can tolerate the constant sound of hammering and children crying. Oh the good old days when a bunch of kids and adults would cram around a large table sharing materials without disinfecting them and coughing and sneezing on each other without the dirty looks.
The times have changed and with that change Home Depot has stopped doing the workshop. Wouldn’t have been so bad, but I can’t sleep in on those Saturdays, because my kids are too young to make themselves breakfast without burning themselves. Can a 4 year old learn how to make a sunny side up egg without breaking the yolk? I think not.
Now I don’t want to be a buzz kill and tell you about an awesome free activity that you can do with your kids and/or students to work on fine motor, executive functioning, visual perceptual skills, and most importantly emotional regulation and frustration tolerance (yours not the kids) and then tell you it doesn’t exist anymore. The group doesn’t but the activity still does. How do I know? Because one day I decided to follow that mantra of “doesn’t hurt to ask” and went up to the customer service and asked them. You can also purchase them on the Home Depot website but free is better.
I was given two activities kits from a pleasant elderly worker who smelled like a mixture of prunes, cedar, and Old Spice. After thoroughly disinfecting them, we were ready to build and work on those wonderful fine motor, visual perceptual, visual motor integration, bilateral coordination and executive functioning skills. The kits require the child to use a variety of skills that can be easily graded to their skill level. I have a 4 year old boy and 7 year old girl whose skill level and safety awareness vary. Most kits involve the use of a hammer, screw driver, glue, paint, and peel off stickers. Prior to the actual process of building, I like to have the kids make sure they have all the pieces by matching them to the instructions.
Since my son likes to swing hammers around wildly as if he was fighting some poorly dressed intergalactic creatures from Power Rangers, I decided to start the nails for him. My daughter is more cautious, so she is able to hold the pieces together while hammering (you can also glue the pieces together prior to hammering).
Home Depot was smart enough to realize that there are some children out there who have hands of a snake, and included extra nails and screws. So if you drop one, no worries. It will be a good figure ground activity during clean up.
For the painting part, I just let the kids go wild. It helps me work on my control issues and also I am too tired of asking “are you really going to use that color?” or “you need to clean your brush before using another color.” This was a good time to work on tactile defensiveness and later hand washing skills.
The sticker application is a good time to work on the pincer grasp, dexterity, and a good time to notice if your kids’ nails need to be cut or cleaned which can also lead to another sensory activity. You can work on visual perceptual skills and the ability to rotate items in space and identify where the sticker goes. You can also work on prepositions such as front, back, under, etc. When the sticker rips you can work on frustration tolerance and emotional regulation.
The Home Depot DIY kits are great for any age, even kids in high school. If these activities are too easy for them, you can move on to putting together Ikea furniture and then taking them apart. At least they will be learning functional skills. Once the project is completed, work on imaginary play. Teach them physics and see if the item floats in water or how much weight it can carry. Or better yet do what I did when I was a kid and set it on fire or blow it up with firecrackers (if legal in your state). At least the student can get one of these cool pins.