Like moms everywhere, I struggle to get tasks done while keeping kids engaged with something creative or constructive. I could just turn on the TV and let it babysit them completely while I’m working from home. Or I could get their passive TV-watching butts off the couch and onto the runway.

My daughter loves Project Runway. She sneaks episodes anytime she can. It’s a great show as far as I’m concerned, but at the same time, a little TV goes a long way.

Last time her cousin was over and their eyes were glazing over and the bickering was about to start, I came up with the idea of a DIY Project Runway in the hallway of our house. But neither kid is a great seamstress, so I did the next best thing. The thrift store was having a $3 bag sale. I gave each girl 6 bucks to buy material and outfits to cut apart and mix. Of course, the girls got to be both the models and the designers but it gave them the best of both worlds in their playtime.

Here's how your kids can get in on the fun.

Ground Rules for DIY Project Runway

  • Each kid has to come up with three looks (the more looks, the longer they are occupied).
  • Each look has to have one item from the thrift store that they changed in some way from its original form.
  • Each look had to have at least one part of it completely made.
  • The three looks had to appear as a complete collection.
  • Use mom’s shoe collection and accessory box "thoughtfully," a la Tim Gunn.

The girls were so excited that after a day of bickering, they were quiet and turning the dining room table into the Project Runway workroom.

Judging of DIY Project Runway

This is the part that gets tricky.

  • We enlisted a brother who was equally annoyed by both his sister and cousin (impartiality), mom, and both cats to help out with the judging. But ideally, if you can find three people, there’s a tie breaker.
  • You'll need prizes! We gave out prizes for Best Crafted Part, Best Overall Look, and Best Sewing. 

The girls (after a bit of fighting over both wanting to use the same fabric) had a great time and said that they could see themselves doing this project anytime they’re bored.

Options for Variations

Since my daughter is learning how to sew, sewing tiny parts of the garment and not the whole thing is a good step in making her feel successful in her sewing, but not overwhelmed.

We decided that the next time we do this project, we’ll go for three hours longer and two sewn designs. And we'll keep increasing the sewing elements as her sewing skills get stronger.

What would a fashion show be like without styling? I also set up the bathroom with all sorts of eye shadows and other cosmetics for the tweens to try on.

And while readers might think this is cheesy, trust me, the girls loved it. All told, for $6 bucks, I got three hours of solid me time, with the girls working in other parts of the house. My son actually enjoyed doing an impersonation of Tim Gunn. The only uncooperativeness came from the cats, who, more than once, blocked the runway.

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