With three kids age five and under and a dog, there are plenty of chores to do at home. Dishes, laundry, getting dressed, brushing teeth, feeding the dog, cleaning up toys, making beds, clearing the table, the list goes on and on…
One day, my wife and I looked at each other and said, “Shouldn’t our kids be helping us with all of this?” That’s when she began giving our children the opportunity to help around the house. After she did a little bit of research, we came across a few ideas that helped get us started.
- Be a role model. Good news: We were already modeling behaviors. My wife and I split chores evenly, and we do them every day. Our kids saw us keeping the house clean and organized every day, so they knew that chores were just part of life.
- Assign chores that are age appropriate. A three-year-old shouldn’t mop the floor. A five-year-old shouldn’t walk the dog. Think about the small chores that are age-appropriate.
- Tell them that they are a good helper. We like to say, “Thank you for being a good helper,” rather than, “Thank you for helping.” We want the “being a helper” to be part of their identity rather than just being a good action. “Helping” is momentary, but “being a helper” can be lifelong.
So how do chores work in our home? We focus on the transitions, which can be the most stressful and chaotic.
When it’s time to leave home for school, our son and daughter take care of their own backpacks, coats, and shoes. They check their bags for what they need (lunch, folders, books to return, etc.). Their shoes and coats have a specific, special place that’s easy to reach and use. With some practice, my wife has our two oldest leaving in the morning with independence.
After school, both come home, take off their shoes and coats, and put them in their respective bins. They head upstairs and give their folders to my wife. Then my kindergartener feeds the dog. The chores are simple, but they give our kids a sense of purpose during a transition and they help ease the transition for us.
At bedtime, both pick out their pajamas for the night and their clothes for the next day. They put dirty clothes in the hamper, and they do a little cleanup in their room (not much, though…).
While it’s not much, it’s a start. And it’s especially helpful since the chores are all transitional. Do we wish they’d clean up their toys? YES. We certainly model what it’s like to clean up toys…! But I guess we’re happy with baby steps.
Perhaps this summer we’ll start with a little board with chores, and we’ll work on toys and making beds. For now, we’re happy with the progress we’ve made. We started small, we made sure to give them accessible spaces and places for their stuff, and we stayed consistent and practiced. Think of the times of day and the small ways your kids could begin to help. Chores help keep a home feeling like a home. Your kids can be proud of making a home.
For more information on how to get started, click here.