“Let kids be kids! They have to grow up so quickly these days.”
“It’s fast to just do it myself.”
“My child is too young for chores.”
These are common comments heard when someone brings up young children helping around the house. And yet, the same people who make these comments also tend to say things like, “I’m so tired of picking up the same toys over and over again.”
Kids do need to be allowed to be kids and have fun, but it’s also our job to train them to become responsible, capable adults. This includes teaching them how to manage a home. Because we won’t always be there to pick up after them.
Here are some ideas on how to teach kids to pitch in around the house without “chore time” becoming a dreaded event.
Start ‘Em Young
Yes, it starts as a game often times. But that’s OK! Having your toddler help you pick up their toys (even if they dump them out again 2 minutes later) is already getting them used to the idea that certain items belong in certain places.
Younger siblings also learn to mimic older siblings; when my 3rd child was around 18 months old, he one day finished his lunch and brought his plate to the sink. Standing on tip-toes, he could just barely push it in over the edge of the counter. We hadn’t even thought about having him do this on his own yet. He just saw his older brother and sister do it after meals.
Give them a Choice
I once asked my 5 year old son what he wanted to clean up first, and he said he wanted to vacuum! I had never even thought about teaching him to use the vacuum yet but I wasn’t about to say no. We started with vacuuming the couch cushions. I took them off the couch, he vacuumed the couch and then the cushions without a complaint!
The next time I got the vacuum out he asked if he could do the whole living room. And he did! Sometimes we will have to give our kids a job they won’t want to do and they will have to learn to do it well and without complaining, but if they can sometimes choose between 2 or 3 jobs they can pick the one they would prefer to do and it’s more likely to get better results.
Give them Specific Tasks
If you tell a young child to pick up their toys as they stand in a room full of toys all over, they won’t know where to start. Sometimes I don’t even know where to start. But if you tell them, “Pick up the balls and put them in this bin,” they will be able to follow through.
Bring it to Their Level
Invest in some smaller cleaning tools. You can often find hand-held brushes and dust pans at the dollar store. You can also find small spray bottles so that kids can spray windows or walls to wipe down.
If you put a towel on the floor, kids can also help to dry large pots and pans.
Lower Your Standards
I’m guilty of often doing a chore myself because I can do it faster and more thoroughly than the kids can. I need to remember that if I don’t let than practice, they won’t improve. I need to overlook the imperfections and let the kids do more. As they get a bit older, we can adjust our expectations accordingly.
Make it fun
“Chores” is word that no one wants to hear. How about “special job?” Another one I love is “house blessings.”
Put on some music or make tidying up into a game every now and again. Something as simple as a timer and a challenge (let’s see if we can pick up all the toys before the timer ends) can give motivation a bit of a boost.
Age Appropriate Job List
- help pick up toys
- put clothes into a laundry basket
- match socks
Preschoolers can do the above jobs and:
- learn to fold clothes
- put folded clothes into drawers
- wipe walls and baseboards with water
- bring dishes to the sink after meals
- help set the table
- sweep under the table with a hand-held brush
- tidy up coats and shoes
- wipe the table
- feed pets
- sort recycling
School-aged kids can do the above jobs and:
- vacuum a room
- wipe out the bathroom sink and counter
- vacuum stairs with a hand-held vacuum
- empty small garbage bins
- wash windows with a mild vinegar solution in a spray bottle (teach the child to never point a spray bottle at his or someone else’s face)
- dry dishes
- help load and unload the dishwasher
Pre-teens can do the above jobs and:
- empty larger garbage bins
- clean a bathroom
- sweep a room
- do their own laundry
- cook a meal each week
- wash dishes
These are just a few ideas for different age groups. Children all have different abilities at different ages so you can pick jobs that suit your child’s skill level.