If you don’t already have a fence and have been talking about putting one in, this is the perfect year to do it. After all, spiraling gas prices are as good an excuse as any to cut down on travel this year, and to find a way to promote some family togetherness before your kids are all grown and you are left wondering how it happened so quickly.
Even if you do already have a fence, you may have some relatives who would love the idea of having you and your crew come in to build them a fence without them having to pay for anything beyond the materials. (They might even want to join in with their own kids and you could have a family potluck or picnic each day to reward everyone for their hard work.)
If your kids are middle school age or older, you’ll be surprised at how much help they will be. If they are smaller, you will probably be doing the lion’s share of the work, but remember, the purpose isn’t just getting a new fence, but is doing something fun together with the family. Of course you could go to Disneyland, but I’m talking about ending up with a worthwhile project that the whole family can point to with pride and say, “We built this together.”
1. Start with a thorough discussion of the project.
Look at fence books checked out of the library and talk about what kind of fence would be the best for your particular piece of property. How many sides of the property will it cover? Are there any irregularities on your land that might cause problems with the construction? How do you put in a post anyway? If we decide to use wood for our fence, what kind of wood shall it be? Will we stain the finished fence or paint it? Is this project something we can really do ourselves?
2. Do the actual planning for your project.
Let the kids put their math lessons to work. Have them measure the exact footage your fence will cover. How many fence posts will be needed and how far apart will they be? If the posts are to be set in concrete, how much concrete will be needed?
Once the posts are set, how many 2 x 4s will you need to attach to the posts as backing for your fence boards? How many fence boards will it take to cover the number of feet you plan to make your fence? Where can we get the best price on the lumber? (Let them make some phone calls to find out.) How much paint will it take to cover the fence? And what about nails and paint supplies like brushes or paint rollers? Have them make a detailed list of everything that will be needed to complete your project and arrange the list in the order that the supplies will be needed. That way, if some other family activities or financial limitations interrupt your progress, you will not be lacking supplies you need while having those you are not ready for laying around to get in the way.
3. Purchasing the supplies.
A trip to the lumber store is a great educational activity for kids of most ages. Start down the list, picking up the supplies that will be used first and, if necessary, saving others for a future trip.
At this point the kids should all be anxious to get started since they have invested so much time in getting ready.
4. Set a goal for each day.
You know what your kids are capable of doing, but don’t expect them to spend every waking moment on it until it is done. A reasonable time might be two or three hours a day on the project with a couple of breaks where they get soda and treats supplied by Mom.
Smaller children can be a big help running after supplies, painting (if someone follows up after them,) clearing small pebbles and weeds out of the fence path, etc.
You might also want to assign Mom to camera duty. After all, what good is a family project without pictures to show its progress? And be sure to get every person into the pictures. Nothing is sadder than to show a video of a birthday party and realize that you left someone out completely. Dad will be plenty busy acting as the foreman of the group, making sure the holes for the posts are deep enough, the boards are nailed on straight, and that the paint doesn’t run and leave big globs all over the place.
5. Celebrate the completion of the project.
Maybe dinner out, a family night at the local swimming pool, or even a campout and fishing trip to a nearby lake might be typical celebrations. Whatever you choose to celebrate the completion of your project, reinforce the idea that building the fence was not just an ordinary chore; it was a project that only got done because the whole family was worked willingly together as a team—which is what all families should strive to be.