Painting a Kitchen With Toddlers at Home: Six Tips to Get Through It Alive

For the love of all that is holy, DON”T!!!  Don’t paint any room in your house with little kids running about...there will be spills, yelling, and worse.  Just do all your house painting before having kids.  Get it out of your system before becoming a parent.  

What?  You currently HAVE little kids and really must paint something or you shall die? Oh My.  Well then, let me share a few tips to keep everyone alive during the process.

I love to cook, many of you have enjoyed my posts from “The Tiny Red Kitchen”.  It is a TINY kitchen...I can stand at the sink and reach both counters and that is IT.  I love it.  I love it so much.  Especially now after a brighter shiny coat of fresh paint!

Here is my kitchen BEFORE.  It was a nice enough dull green color with red painted switchplates. (AND fabu stainless steel appliances came with the house! )   


Kitchen BEFORE









I knew I wanted to keep the red...it is one of my favorite colors, of course!  I especially like turquoise and scarlet red together but that felt like a bit much for me.  I looked at all kinds of colors and shades of turquoise, Robin’s Egg Blue, etc.  It was tricky because it had to go with the red, black and grey counters...and the stainless appliances.  I was trying to make a certain blue fit into my perfect world.  I had lots of help from friends and hardware store employees: Menard’s, Home Depot, Ace Hardware. Susan, Katherine, Whitney, Liz....and John never really weighed in.  Poor Thing.  He knew my kitchen was really all me and I was a special kind of crazy about the process.  (I could’ve painted it scarlet red and trimmed it in black feather boas and as long as the yumminess kept coming forth he probably would have said not a word!  I LOVE this man, people.)

Melanie from Von Tobels in Valparaiso
After looking at colors and living with painted chips and swatches in the kitchen for a long time, I found Melanie at Von Tobels.  Melanie, who not only helped me find the nearest shade to perfect but also helped me carry my purchases AND DAUGHTERS out to the car.  Now that is talent AND Service with real handholding!  She also really looked out for my budget.  I had a jajillion dollar roller brush in my hand and she moved me right to the bargain section I totally missed and helped me find all the odds and ends I needed to do the job.



Little Girls with Grandpa
TIP ONE:  Tape the paint chips up and/or paint a test color ON POSTER BOARD.  This way you can move it to various parts of the room before painting or committing to buying a gallon or more of paint.  The light in my kitchen was so different throughout a day I’m glad I did this first. I painted my wall though...not getting the ‘paint on posterboard’ tip until later.  You can see two too dark colors here in the picture of my Dad cutting fruit with Portia & Libby.

TIP TWO:  Ask your friends for help. They can always say no!  My friends Katherine and Susan have a real eye for color and I do not.  I know what I like, but I do not know what I need.  I didn’t want to waste my time and energy painting and then hate the color.  As a mama with two little kids, every effort was HUGE and I wanted to be sure I got it right the first time.  Katherine clued me in to Martha Stewart colors because they often had a grey tint to them.  She and Susan both agreed I needed a grey tone to whatever blue I picked to make it work well with the counters.  BRILLIANT.  I didn’t know why some things looked too green, too dull or just right.  These two clever girls schooled me in the fine art of paint colors.

Repair work, test swatches on the wall
Then there was cracks and peeling plaster.  That was alllll Susan.  She taught me how to use the tools I already had to do what needed to be done. I had flashbacks to my teenage years doing spackle and sanding with my Dad and Stepmother Peg.  A glass of wine helped me get through that. UGH.  

TIP THREE: Let your patches be imperfect! The tips  on patch work from Susan & Katherine ...smooth the spackle like frosting a cake, and Katherine says to build the patch higher so it is easier to sand down smoothly...and try a damp scrubbie sponge to smooth it after it dries instead of sandpaper if that seems to work for you. Katherine strikes me as a perfectionist...so when she showed me the walls of my house were textured, and even a very smooth patch would show...she gave me lovely permission to let go of perfection.  AWESOME.  Thank you!

Plastering: UGH.
I had friends over hanging out in supervisory capacity...but they also kept an eye on the kids for me too.  Fabulous Whitney took Libby the second day while PK was in school so I could work unencumbered.   She made us lunch too!  FABULOUS!  

TIP FOUR:  Get up early or stay up late.  Painting with kids around, there is no getting around that as a huge challenge.  Straddling a scaffold ladder, tiptoeing across my kitchen counters and climbing across the cupboards doesn’t make me too available to get a sippy cup, wipe a fanny or intervene in sibling brawls over My Little Pony possessions.  AND I am not very nice when focused on a big stressful task either.  This doesn’t make for the best parenting moves...so if you are a night owl, paint the tricky stuff after the tots go to bed, or like me, get up early and do all the tricky gymnastics before the little kids get up and start asking for things.  Like breakfast. (I continue to be amazed the girls ask for that every day.  Geez.  How much is enough, people?)
Edging, cutting, whatchamacalit

TIP FIVE: Let the Kids HELP.  I saved the wall behind the refrigerator for the girls to ‘help’.  I taped off the floor, did the trim work, and let them at it with little kid coloring book paint brushes. I told them I gave treats to girls who were neat and careful.  More interested in a treat, Libby opted out of ever dipping a brush.  Portia only dripped one drop of paint.  I used their getting to help ‘later’ as a carrot during the day, and they weren’t as messy as I feared either.  I only wish I had taken a picture of the wall PK painted before I ‘finished’ it.

TIP SIX:  Put your edging/trim paint in a ziplock bag or container. I did this and then but the bag in a bowl for structure.  This was an accident.  I needed to be able to close up and stop a lot during the day, so the ziplock bag kept the paint wet and fresh.  I put the bag in the bowl that I used to edge the sceiling in white and it was still dirty, so out of sheet lazyness this worked out.  Putting your touch up paint in a tupperware bowl or widemouthed jar would be neater...and both ways mean you do not have to paint from the roller brush tray which would dry out during the day.  When I needed to stop, which was often, I would wrap the roller brush in a plastic bag and covered up the paint tray too.  Look up good brush care too, online.  Katherine gave me great tips on it but you should get that whole story too.

Kitchen AFTER
I did it all in two days, with help from friends and two little girls who behaved mostly because they know better.  When Mama gets cranky they get outta the way.  Lucky, yes?   (Me, I mean!)  I also made a point to give them attention and fun things to do.  Like watch TV....TWO SHOWS.  WHOOO HOOO!  Here is the finished kitchen!  I need to touch up some places but I am taking a day or two to recover and enjoy my work.  
Kitchen After


We ate breakfast in the bright new kitchen this morning....it might be a tiny kitchen, but we have LOTS of good times in it.  I think it is my favorite kitchen in any place I have ever lived.  There is a lotta love and beauty in it.  I am so blessed.

PK and Libby Hamming it Up
Have you painted with little kids around?  I would love to hear your painting with little kids experiences, dramas, and tips.  What should I call my “Tiny Red Kitchen” posts now?Please tell me in the comments!

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