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Dad Book Teaches Kids Handy Skills: 3 Signed BOOK GIVEAWAY!

The Dad Checklist: To Teach Your Kids Practical Skills

Before my neighbor Jeff renovated his house, I used to see him outside in his breezeway working with saw horses and power tools. I think he was crafting fine furniture which is an unusual skill for a Harvard man (though there is a deluxe and highly underutilized wood shop in the basement of the Science Center at Harvard). Now that the renovations are complete, I am fairly confident he could tackle everything from installing kitchen sinks to laying hardwood floor.

With two boys and a busy schedule, Jeff, an attorney, has penned a guidebook on teaching kids handyman skills that typically get passed down from father to son. Or these days, father or mother to daughter.

I asked Jeff a few questions to get the low down on his book:

1) Jeff, you’re an attorney but also a handy guy! How did you learn your stuff?

I’ve been fortunate to have chances through the years to pick up some things along the way. I wanted to be able to pass along those practical tips and skills to my children, and I wanted The Dad Checklist to be for fathers and mothers to pass along to their children.

So, these are just fun things to do or know, like tying knots, patching drywall (just did that at home this past week where we had some water damage), finding the North Star, and cooking chili. Between trying different things over the years and having some good teachers, I was able to learn a few things.

For example, we needed some furniture after we got married, and I decided that I could do that. So I taught myself how to build furniture. During some summers when I was young, I was lucky that my parents sent me to a camp where I went on a lot of canoeing and hiking trips. Another example, I saw a local blacksmithing class and just said, hey, why not. What I’ve tried to do is to put myself out there and learn.

2) If you are like me (ahem, not handy!), what are the three or five things I should focus on teaching my kids?

You know, the first thing I’d say is that everyone can learn some basics, some practical skills. To me, saying you’re not handy is like saying you can’t do math. You can do both – you may not like it all the time, and it may not be easy, but you can do it. So, what I focus on in the book are the basics, like a few strokes to paddle a canoe. If you’re local, you can go down to the Charles River and rent a canoe and paddle around – read up on the basic canoe strokes and then just go.

Same with tying a bowline, a really handy knot, where you can follow a few simple drawings in the book and will be able to tie one in no time. The main thing is not only can you, the parent, talk about why the sky is blue and why Gehrig was the best first baseman of all time, make a soap-powered boat, build an outdoor fire, and jumpstart a car, but your son or daughter can learn with you.

3) What made you decide to write this book?

I would bet a lot of your readers, parents like me, spend a lot of time thinking about what we need to teach our children. That idea really hit me one summer day standing in my backyard teaching my young sons how to throw and hit a baseball. I had been thinking about it before, and had been jotting down some notes since my first son was born, but that day I thought about pulling it all together, putting down on paper the practical things I wanted to teach my children.

(I can concur that I saw Jeff outside a LOT in his backyard throwing a baseball with his boys!)

4) Be honest now, what have you taught both your boys so far?

Well, . . . .

(By the way, the person who gets the credit for pitching batting practice to the boys nearly every day after school for years is my wife.)

(I can also concur that I see his wife Lisa driving the kids around constantly! We wave to each other and I think we see each other more through car windows than face to face!)

5) And what handy skills are you still working on teaching your kids?

We’re always working on something. When they were young, we learned a lot of baseball skills, for example. I’ve taken them camping so that they get a sense of how to live outdoors. We talk about science at the dinner table. We found a woodworking project to make a chair out of a sheet of plywood, so we did that. I have no idea what sticks, though.


Thanks Jeff … and this was the inspiration for this post:

It struck me when I went to a Harvey blogger event in Boston where the Boston Globe’s Handyman on Call was the featured speaker that Peter Hotten learned his hand skills at the side of his grandfather. His skills were further honed when he purchased a dilapidated old house. With his grandfather as his guide, Peter was able to tackle almost everything himself though he says he is terrified of electricity (smart man) and does not claim to know plumbing.

Handyman on Call, Peter Hooten, Boston Globe, Harvey event

But what if you are not handy?!! And you don’t have a relative to mentor you? Fear not, Jeff’s book is just like having a Handy Dad at your side.

Case in point: I am not handy at all. Nor was my father. This is why I skipped to the middle of the book on How to Fix Things to see if this was over my head.

  • To Fix a Running Toilet. I only know how to jiggle the toilet handle but Jeff patiently goes through the (easy) steps of how to replace the “flapper valve.”
  • To Clear Up a Stopped Drain. I only know how to pick out the hair sticking of the drain. Jeff describes “an auger” which is a much less expensive fix than calling a plumber.
  • To Patch Drywall. My son seems to punch a hole in our walls at least once a quarter. I wait patiently for my husband to patch it with Spackle. Jeff also has advice for holes that are too large for the Spackle fix.
  • To Stop a Faucet from Dripping. I try tightening the handle to the point I have to avoid using the sink. Our basement laundry sink is one such unruly faucet. He talks o-rings and washers and it really does not sound that tough to do.
What I love about The Dad Checklist is that it is meant for parents who are not handy by gently coaching you in new skills.  Consider this your own private Handyman on Call. Jeff covers other fun topics such as how to tie sailing knots, camping (my kids need this; my husband hates to camp), sports, and science.
In short, it’s the checklist for teaching “dad-like things” in a beautifully laid out and illustrated book. Use it as a reference, an idea book for weekend projects, or just read it as a fun non-fiction book with your kids. It’s versatile like that.
I’m giving away 3 signed copies that Jeff dropped off at my house. I made him sign them because that is more fun!a Rafflecopter giveaway
how to teach your kids handy things, the dad checklist, The Dad Checklist, teaching your kids to be handy, teaching kids practical skills, teach kids practical skills
The Dad Checklist: Practical Skills to Teach Your Children by Jeff Levinson.p.s. If you buy his book and get confused as to how to tie a bowline knot or your facet is still leaking even though you followed his instructions to the letter, I know where he lives if you have questions. I’m kidding. I think …

To view more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book.

Congrats to Lorraine L, Jessie F, and Kim C. You each won a signed copy of The Dad Checklist!

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. That looks like an awesome book! My son learns so much better when he can read it first, so I’d love to win it.
    Becca recently posted…The Homeschool Mother’s Journal – November 23My Profile

  2. Dee

    I want to teach my son helpful car-related things. Although things are different now that cars are so computerized, knowing how a car works and how to get it going and take care of it were lifesavers for me when I was first on my own.
    Dee recently posted…Creeping back in…My Profile

  3. Kim

    My husband and son are learning alot of things together, so this book would be PERFECT for the two of them. My son is so hands on, and I want him to be able to fix common household problems, and to be able to create simple woodworking projects. He is 8 and has his own toolbox with real tools, and he enjoys doing things like this, he just needs a little more “know how.” Thanks for the chance to win!

  4. Does it count that I am teaching them to cook:)?

  5. Maria R

    Laundry! His future wife will thank me profusely! (I’m not handy either, so that’s why we need a book like this to learn “guy” handy things!)

    • Hi Maria R,
      I so agree that laundry is important to teach kids and it’s not that easy if you have a newer machine. Ours came with our house and is probably 40 years old so there aren’t many buttons or settings. But I remember my b-school roommate shoving 3 loads into one load, all mixed up, and his laundry came out dingy and wrinkly. It’s ok as a student but not when you are meeting potential employers and you never know when you will meet someone where your first impression will count like speakers or guest professors at school.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Dad Book Teaches Kids Handy Skills: 3 Signed BOOK GIVEAWAY!My Profile

  6. Cathie

    Love your review of this book. Thanks for sharing it. Parents who take time to teach children skills are absolutely awesome!

    Cathie at
    and Etsy store fromme4you
    Cathie recently posted…Yarn Sensory BallsMy Profile

  7. I would like to teach my kids how to do basic woodworking. Mostly because I want to learn how to do that myself!

    I am teaching them how to sew, which is useful if not exactly handy…
    maryanne recently posted…Curious George Learning + Stride Rite Shoes #Giveaway!My Profile

    • Hi MaryAnne,
      Sewing is such a great skill. I learned as a kid in summer school and it helped me start a women’s golf apparel business so I would argue that it’s very handy! I never got to take shop though because it conflicted with science in Junior High. I would love to learn basic woodworking too! My husband knows a little I think. We should teach the kids. He has a room full of power tools! 🙂
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Dad Book Teaches Kids Handy Skills: 3 Signed BOOK GIVEAWAY!My Profile

  8. Asianmommy

    I’ve signed up the kids for sewing lessons, so they have a basic understanding of how to sew. Love the idea behind this book!
    Asianmommy recently posted…Holiday Greeting CardsMy Profile

    • Hi AsianMommy,
      That is so great that your kids are learning to sew. I don’t have a sewing machine anymore and I’m trying to get my kids to take a class this winter vacation just to learn the basics. I think they would like it. They talk about being a fashion designer but that also could be that we are watching Joe Zee’s It’s All On the Line reality tv show a bit obsessively. He helps struggling designers with their business. It’s been a great show to talk about business decisions and how you have to be able to change, take criticism and improve to survive.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Dad Book Teaches Kids Handy Skills: 3 Signed BOOK GIVEAWAY!My Profile

  9. Roberta Martone Pavia

    Great….I will get the book for my husband and maybe he can pick up a few pointers from Jeff! 🙂

  10. Ms Jessi

    My son just turned 2 and loves to use a broom! I’m not sure if that is “handy work”, but it sure helps me out when I need him to keep busy for a few minutes! LOL!
    This book would be so great to give to my husband for Christmas. Even if I don’t win it, I’ll be buying it on Amazon! Thanks for the great gift idea!!

  11. Maggie

    Wow, what a really neat book! I learned (but have forgotten!) so much at my father’s knee. My husband is really great with tackling house projects with our boys and teaching them along the way – he would really put a book like this to use. I hope I win! Regardless, it is a great Christmas gift idea. Thank you!

  12. Tammy

    Great idea, and a great giveaway!

  13. Karen

    What a fantastic book. Just what we could use.

  14. Diana

    I am a grandmother that would like to not only pass the information to my son, but also help him to pass the information along to his children…wonderful idea that is appropriate information for not only the boys but girls too! Thanks!!!

  15. Cheryl B.

    This past weekend I taught my 9 year old son how to fix the toilet handle when the chain fell off and it wouldn’t flush.

  16. Wow, this is a fantastic book. We could definitely make good use of it around here. I would give this book to my husband as a gift. We do a lot of mentoring with our children. Alas, we are not handy, but this book will come in handy indeed! Thanks for writing it, Jeff! If I don’t win, I’m going to put it on my Amazon wish list.
    Melanie S. recently posted…Finish Automatic Dishwashing CouponsMy Profile

  17. Ann

    What a great dad and looks like an awesome book! I think all the exceptional people live in Newton! I worked there for 10 years, does that count?! This question is great! I need to think about it. Maybe how to take care of a car.
    Ann recently posted…I’m ScaredMy Profile

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