a broken piece of decor fixed by a toddler

How to introduce your kids to repair

One of the 5 “R’s” of responsible stewardship of the planet is Repair. Repairing what you have is important, because every time you extend the life of an item through repair, you’ve delayed getting a new product to replace it with.

With today’s throw-away culture, many kids don’t even realize that repair is possible. When their ball is flat or the wheel on their R/C car has broken off, it’s time to go buy a new one. When I suggested we try to fix these things for the first time, my kids were frankly mystified.

Luckily, your kids can learn about repair with a little help from you. Here’s a few tips on how to get your kids involved in repairing things around the house.

Include them

Kids often catch on quickly. If you can include them in a repair you’re going to perform, do so. If you don’t think it’s possible, check out this dad and daughter duo fixing ride-on toys. Kids can learn to glue parts back on, diagnose problems in cars, and the mechanics of how a bicycle work all through helping you fix common household items.

If your worried your kid will do more breaking than helping, you might try asking your local Buy Nothing group or watching the side of the road for free appliances that are broken. If your child breaks it trying to fix it, that piece still got a second life as a teaching tool, and there’s no pressure to actually get it right.

Talk to them about repair

Tell your kids why you want to repair the item, especially if their first reaction is something like, “Can we get a new one??” This is also a great opportunity to talk about the 5R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Recycle and Rot.

Repairing a favorite toy may lead them to be curious about the other things you can do to be more responsible for the planet. They may want to start a compost heap, find ways to reuse their old things for something new, or help with the recycling.

Make it fun

Too often, trying to do good things for the planet can make your kids feel alienated rather than good. You can help by showing your kids that there are other people who repair too, and how much fun it can be.

Check your local area for a Maker Faire, or Repair café, and take your kids to do other people who are doing amazing things with repair.

Start them young

If your child is old enough to hand you a tool, they’re old enough to participate in small ways during a repair. You never know what they’ll pick up and when. Yesterday, I knew that the efforts I have made to include my kids in repair were paying off. My two-year-old daughter broke a fall décor display (pictured above.) Her first reaction was not to dump it in the trash, but to collect all the pieces and come to me announcing her repair strategy, “Glue!!”

I took her outside to her “Workshop” and let her put it back together in her own style. The result doesn’t necessarily resemble what the original was, but you know—I think I like it better.

I’m glad that my children understand the value of repair, and their first reaction isn’t to discard, but to fix. With a little time, your kids can adopt ‘repair’ as well.

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