We are big on chores for kids around here. I’ve mentioned before that the kids do chores as a form of discipline, and they do chores as part of their daily routine as well. Now that school has started, helping around the house is part of their education as well. They also are expected to help out with little random things around the house each day, and, over the last year, they have come to be a really big help for me! I can honestly say that in the last year my house has been easier to clean because I now have a few little extra hands helping out with all of their big messes.
When our kids want to play with their toys, which are nearly all stored in baskets on shelves out of their reach, they have to ask for one of the adults to get them down. Once they have finished playing with the toys from that basket and are ready to move on to other toys, we make sure they pick up the first set before playing with something else. This keeps up on toy clutter throughout the day, and it also helps me to not feel overwhelmed all the time over toy messes.
Here are a few ways we keep things tidy throughout the day with the kids’ help.
1.) First of all, find an organization system for toys that works for you. Whether this means rotating toys, keeping them up out of their reach, organizing by type into baskets, or something else entirely, organization is your friend. When our toys were not organized, and I sent the kids into their room to clean up, they would whine, cry, and basically sit and do nothing. They would walk in, assess the disaster, and immediately become overwhelmed by the mixture of all of their toys, which incapacitated them. Just like I feel when every room of our house has been left in disarray, kids don’t know where to start if things get too far out of control. So by keeping things organized, you will cut down on messes. Take a day and figure out how you want to organize your children’s things. You’ll be thankful later on that you took the time to do so.
2.) Keep a close eye on your kids. On the one hand, this sounds like silly advice, right? Who doesn’t keep an eye on young children?! But once your kids reach a certain age, which probably varies with each child, you start to loosen your grip a little. You’re not worried about them shoving tiny fingers into outlets or strangling themselves on the cord from your mini-blinds, so they are allowed to play out of your sight. In fact, most moms I know relish those instances where their children are playing independently out of their sight! You use that time to prepare dinner, tidy up, maybe sit and enjoy a cup of coffee, or–my favorite–go to the bathroom ALONE. Yup, there are perks to your kids being mature enough to handle a bit of independence. But the drawback is that they still need adult supervision. If you check on your kids, you can remind them to tidy up here and there to keep things from getting totally out of hand.
3.) Give them a few set chores each day. My kids have to make their beds, get dressed, and put their pajamas in the hamper or pajama basket before they can have any toys to play with. They know that this is part of their morning routine. When they start their day with a tidy room, they seem to keep it tidier throughout the day. They also just do it, knowing that they aren’t going to do anything fun until they complete those basic tasks, which seems to take the desire to whine about it away.
4.) Use a Chore Chart. We have a chore chart I picked up at the store and we just write in their names, chores, and if they complete them each day. I notice that, when we use this (I often forget), they are much more eager to help out. They love to see checks in the boxes showing they’ve completed a task. They will check it throughout the day and remind me if they’ve done a chore that I forgot to check off!
5.) Use a reward system. We have varied this over the years we’ve used the chart, but if the kids complete a certain number of chores at the end of the day or week, they usually get some sort of reward. At times it’s been an outing with Mom or Dad, maybe to the ice cream parlor or coffee shop. Sometimes it’s a new book or new art supplies. Every now and then we fill a “treasure box” with small toys or treats and they get to choose one thing from the treasure box at the end of the week. We have even done an allowance, which we add to their banks (mason jars with their names on them) so they can save up for something they may really want.
6.) Be encouraging! I have noticed that yelling at my kids doesn’t give me the results I hope for. When they are being disobedient or dragging their feet about cleaning up, and I raise my voice to try to get them to move faster (or out of frustration), they usually become sullen or discouraged and move even slower. When I check on their progress while cleaning up and tell them they’re doing a great job or to keep it up, because they’re almost done, they smile and the encouragement seems to make them move faster. Plus, they feel good about themselves and their efforts and not like they are helping out a mother who is never pleased.
7.) Let go of your expectations. Now, this one has been hard for me. I like things done well, and usually done a certain way. It’s taken me a while to adjust to taking the time out of my day to show my children how to complete a task, and then being patient enough to allow them the time they need to complete it. After that, it also takes a lot for me to not go behind them and re-do their hard work. My girls can now fold an entire load of laundry, and then I put it away. They all can dry a sinkful of dishes after I wash them, scrub the floor when I mop, and tidy up the living room for me. They also have learned to scrub doors, cabinets, and door frames to get rid of dirty fingerprints.
Each of these things are small, but I find that when I’m cleaning the whole house it’s nice to have a few small tasks completed without having to take the time to do them myself. More than that, though, I love that my kids are learning to be helpful. They are learning that taking care of a house is a lot of work, but also that it’s just part of life. They are quick to do the little things I ask, and are generally very compliant as well. They are learning that people are very appreciative of help and even more appreciative of cheerful attitudes. I want them to be a joy to live with and a joy to be around, and I want them to be aware of all it takes to live a comfortable life. It is literally a weight off of my shoulders to have helpers that respond happily when I ask them to do something.
How do you handle chores at your house? I’d love to hear any advice you may have in the comments!