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Ron Derhacopian
"Over Your Head" host Eric Stromer

Want to do something meaningful with your children this summer?

Build something together. It's a great way to create memories, says Eric Stromer, the hunky host of HGTV's popular show "Over Your Head."

As a child, he used to work side-by-side with his dad on projects. They didn't talk much, but Stromer said he captured the essence of his dad while working together.

Now as a parent, he tries to build with his own young children. It takes patience and a flexible schedule, but Stromer said he has learned a few tricks to keep his children engaged in a project.

Here are three suggestions (and then a bit more advice for do-it-yourself adults):

Tip one: Don't micromanage. Allow kids to fail.

"If you don't give in to being a control freak, you leave yourself a wide canvas in which kids can function," said Stromer, who has worked as a general contractor for 20 years. "It takes a willingness to let them find their own way and try and fail."

Tip two: Provide nourishment as often as every three hours. Kids get grumpy when their bellies are empty.

"Peanut butter and jelly works wonders," he said. "As long as they're fed, they're good."

Tip three: Devise age-specific projects. Children as young as age 2 or 3 can pick up the washers you drop on the floor, Stromer said. They also can used water-based paint.

Meanwhile, older kids should be able to use certain tools with supervision, he said.

"It's very easy to teach your kid to use that stuff," Stromer said. "It demystifies it, too, so it doesn't become dangerous."

Some other general advice is to give kids ownership of a project. If your preteen wants to redo his or her room, work to create a schedule and then help him or her "do their thing." More than likely, that child will take better care of his or her room because he or she created it, Stromer said.

"It really does teach them to keep things together," he said.

As for large-scale projects such as remodeling a living space, Stromer said he has seen countless homes fall into disorder because adults don't plan correctly or have enough knowledge to finish a project.

The goal of his show, "Over Your Head," is to help people who have become stymied by a project to finish it up. In one episode, he helped a father re-sod his backyard. Another episode showed a couple who got help finishing a sunroom they had torn apart.

Stromer said the most common mistake he sees is a lack of research and planning. Many adults also set inadequate timetables for their project, he said. "Many times you get this general idea of what you want, and then you take the hammer and knock a hole in the kitchen wall, and then three years later there's a whole nest of woodland animals in the kitchen," he said. "I think the biggest mistake is there is no preparation or thought in the beginning as to what you want to accomplish."

For more information about easy building projects for the family, you can reference Stromer's book, "Do-It-Yourself Family," (Bantam, $20).


E-MAIL: nwarburton@desnews.com