By Brittany Carlson
It can be hard to get young children involved in housework. For starters, they usually don’t want to clean. And let’s be honest, most of us parents don’t want to do it either. It also takes more time and effort to teach them how to do chores, rather than just doing it yourself— at least, at first.
But I’m learning—through teaching my own kids and from fellow parents — that our chore routines can turn from just another task to teaching our children invaluable life skills and habits. All you need is a plan, some creativity and consistency.
Here are some examples I’ve come across this week of how parents can involve their little ones in doing chores around the house:
Make A Plan
Chose chores to teach your children that are age-appropriate and find a way to enforce that the chores are done, whether you use a chore chart, pay for some chores, or just make them a part of your daily routine. This does not need to be complicated; include them in what you normally do by finding jobs for them, and then make those jobs part of their routine.
At my house, we use a dry-erase board on the refrigerator to keep track of the chores my boys (ages 5 and 3) do each day. Some of their daily chores include feeding the dog, putting away the silverware, picking up toys in the playroom, making their beds and setting the table. My youngest son also loves to help me water flowers in our garden with his own watering can. I also give the boys wet wipes to help me clean the kitchen or bathrooms.
My friend Wendy involves her sons (ages 4 and 2) with the whole laundry process.
“They take it out of the basket and throw it in the washer, I set it to the right setting and they push start,” she said. They can also help load and empty the dryer, and they are learning to sort, fold and put away their own clothes, she added.
Another friend, Holly, said her son (5) gets paid for certain chores. “At the end of the week, I give him money, depending on how many chores he did. The max is $5 per week,” she said. “Then he feels good when he can buy his own toys.”
Chores don’t have to be done all at once, or even by room.
My mama friend Tess has a different approach when teaching her boys, ages 6, 6, and 2, to help around the house. She calls it the “10-Minute Tidy” and uses the time to give her boys simple tasks around the house, such as putting items in the laundry, pushing in chairs, or putting toys up on a shelf.
“They do it quickly and report back to me and ask ‘What can I do next?’” she said. “I have much more success with this then asking them to clean up a room.”
Tess said she started teaching her children to help with tasks at around 18 months, such as closing cupboards or carrying a towel to the hamper. “[My] 2.5-year-old can independently put away a lot of items if I give him simple instructions,” she said. “When cleaning up a toy room, I give tasks to clean up a specific item into its bin and focus on one toy at a time. Too many items is too overwhelming.”
My friend Jill has found that doing chores together at specific times of day has helped her daughters, ages 4, 3 and 15 months, adapt to doing them more easily. made chores a part of her girls’ daily routine. Her older daughters, ages 4 and 3, now make their bed each morning, fold their pajamas and load the laundry.
“We started at [age] 2 teaching them how to make a bed,” Jill said. “Consistency is key and a scheduled time to do them helps a lot.”
She also finds ways to involve her 15-month-old, such as letting her help put laundry in the dryer.
With any chore, Jill said it is important to take the time to teach them how to do what you’re asking them to do. “List the steps. Make sure you check it is done correctly and neatly for their age,” she said.
Whatever chores you choose to teach your children, just remember that there are limitless ways include your kids and complete household tasks.
My friend Sam, a father of 3 young children, sums it up well: “Start with small chores, be persistent with insisting they do it and praise [them] for a job well done.”
Brittany Carlson is a lifelong lover of words and all things chocolate. She is an Army wife and now has two sons, Adam (4) and James (18 months). She has written for several Army community newspapers, including the Stuttgart Citizen (Germany), Fort Leonard Wood Guidon (Missouri) and Fort Belvoir Eagle (Virginia). Brittany holds a Master of Arts in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She and her family live in upstate NY.
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