I often struggle with how to teach my children responsibility around the house. It seems like I’m always working the fine line between helping them to be cheerful workers and fighting battles over the tasks I ask them to complete. (It’s surprising the amount of fireworks that go off upon requesting to fold a few towels!) I want to give them jobs to do, but I also want to allow them to be kids and play. I think a reasonable balance is possible- I’m just not sure that I’ve found it yet. 😉
For me, a chore has to be three things: One, not miserable. I want to teach my kids to fulfill their responsibilities without it turning into a blowout for either of us. I know there will always be times that they complain, but if I can exchange a doable chore for one that is constantly frustrating, then why wouldn’t I? (For me, this means having my son look for matching socks in the laundry instead of having him fold flats. For some reason, the folding always becomes a war zone, but the socks are fun for him. I don’t mind making a change as long as he is still helping me.)
Second, I want to teach my kids to value hard work. I’m okay with taking time to teach them things that may require some practice to get it right. There is a time when children are very young that it’s just good to teach them to value helping, even if they aren’t really being helpful yet. To this day, my son always wants to help me knead bread. This usually means him poking it and making knuckle holes in the lump of dough. So what? I let him take a turn, then I take a turn and actually knead it. Your kids may “wash dishes” but still leave tons of soap on them. That’s okay. It’s good practice and it instills in them the idea that helping Mom and Dad is both expected and appreciated.
Third, I like it to be a legitimate help when possible. While it is definitely good to practice new skills (even when the child cannot properly execute them yet), I do like to pick at least some chores that will actually benefit me and save me time. If you have older kids, this is more feasible. But even very young children can help in a real sense! My 15 month old throws out her own wet diapers (wrapped neatly), and my almost-four-year-old can crack eggs for me without spilling (usually).
While we have some regular chores that I have my kiddos do, every family is going to be a little bit different. Since I’m always looking for ways to develop my kids’ work ethic without creating contention, I polled my personal Facebook page for more ideas to compile. I decided that these ideas should be shared so that we can bounce ideas off each other and see what works best for our families. Here’s 25 ideas so far!
- Holding the dust pan while mom sweeps.
- Folding wash cloths and other small flats.
- Sorting laundry.
- Wiping spills.
- Putting toys in bins.
- Peeling blanched tomatoes.
- Mixing ingredients for baked goods.
- Cracking eggs.
- Vacuuming with a mini vacuum (like this one that we have).
- Put in/take out clothes from dryer.
- Throw out their own diapers (wet ones only, of course!).
- Washing plastic dishes.
- Empty non-breakables from a dishwasher.
- Put recyclables in the bin.
- Wipe down cabinets/walls.
- Feed a pet.
- Help wash the floor.
- Make their beds.
- Empty little trash cans into big trash cans.
- Set the table.
- Clear their dinner dishes.
- Putting away what they take out as soon as they are done.
- Roll out dough.
- Strap Swiffer dusters on their feet. (Kind of kidding. Only kind of. This idea is courtesy of my sister.)
You can also check out this fun little chore chart for more ideas:
What’s your favorite task for your little ones? Add a comment and I’ll add it to my list. The more, the merrier. Hey, we can all learn from each other!
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