For the most part, when our kids were little, my husband and I took care of the household chores, while our kids just picked up their toys.
As they got older, we expected more from them. They were now old enough to take on more responsibility.
We needed to decide what was realistic to expect from them at what age.
Decide why you want your kids to help around the house.
Alex and I want our kids to help around the house so they learn to be responsible for their things and learn how to do household chores and cook.
We do not want them to expect us to take care of everything and clean up after them.
We want them to grow up knowing that, as part of our family, they have a share in taking care of our home and in doing what is needed to keep it clean and running on a daily and weekly basis.
We also want for them to know how to clean and cook so that when they are on their own they have the skills they need to take care of their own home and cook meals for themselves.
Decide what you want for your kids to do.
We wanted our kids to have more responsibilities, but what was realistic for us to expect of them? Having specific chores around the house was a start.
Based on their ages, we looked at what they could do. They could do simple chores by themselves or help with more difficult chores.
- Pick up toys and books and put them away. (This means that we have specific places where the toys and books belong.)
- Take their dishes to the kitchen counter after a meal.
- Help fold their laundry and put it away.
- Put their dirty clothes in the laundry basket.
- Help with sweeping and vacuuming.
As our kids got older, we added more responsibilities to the list:
- Help with cooking meals.
- Wash dishes.
- Feed pets.
- Sweep, vacuum, and clean rooms in the house.
Decide when chores will be done.
- Toys and books will be put away when our child is done using them. If they are in use all day, then they are put away before dinner or bedtime.
- Put dirty clothes in the laundry basket after changing into pajamas.
- Help with chores as needed.
We have chore breaks in our day to take care of things like laundry or picking up toys and books that were left out. Our chore breaks are at breakfast time, before lunch, and before dinner. These chore breaks are (usually!) not too long-about 10-15 minutes.
Yes, toddlers can help!
Toddlers want to be a part of what is going on in the family.
“Me help,” is a common phrase we hear at this age. They can help by working alongside of us to know what to do and how to do it. Having a toddler working with us usually takes more time than working alone, but they are happy and feel appreciated and valuable. They are learning how to do the chore and they enjoy spending time with us.
We can be patient and allow them to help. It’s best to get them working with us on chores now, for soon enough they will be trying to avoid them!
Set the example.
A cheerful example from us goes a long way.
When we grumble about doing chores around the house, that attitude rubs off on our kids (and our spouse!). When we smile while we work and make positive comments about completing chores, our kids notice.
I may not enjoy moping the floor or cleaning the toilet, but I am happy when I see the clean floor. When we have surprise visitors or a stomach bug, we are all happy that we have a clean toilet!
If we find it difficult to be positive with the process of cleaning, focusing on being happy with the results is helpful in setting a positive example.
Having an attitude of greatfulness* in the tasks we need to do at home is good for us, too. All we have is from God. It could all be gone in an instant, in a natural disaster or catastrophe. We show God our appreciation for His gifts when we have a good attitude in taking care of what He has entrusted to us.
(For an explanation of why I use this spelling for greatfulness, see “Learning to be Greatful.”)
Putting on music or having a treat after chores are done can be helpful motivation to get our chores done and help us to have a good attitude. Treats after chores can be as simple as dancing for a few minutes with your kids, playing a game together, or reading a book.
Setting a timer can also be motivating. Our kids like to race a timer to see how quickly they can get their work done.
Work in time blocks. Take breaks. We can work for 15 minutes, take a short break, then work another 15 minutes, etc. I am always amazed at how much I get done when I do this.
For a related post, see “Seven Steps to Sanity Saving Routines.”