When I was a child I absolutely hated doing chores and I constantly fought with my mother about doing them. Due to my loathing of childhood chores, I have shielded my own children from doing them. My thinking was that is was more important for them to play, read, study, socialize etc… I was wrong!
Research analysis from the Univerisity of Minnesota concludes that “involving children in household tasks at an early age can have a positive impact later in life. By involving children in tasks, parents teach their children a sense of responsibility, competence, self-reliance, and self-worth that stays with them throughout their lives. ”
As parents, we all want to raise successful, joyful, loving, and responsible human beings. At the very least we don’t want to raise a serial killer.
A famous Harvard study finds that kids who engage in chores from an early age were more likely to become happy, healthy, independent adults.
Great, so now what? How do I get my kids to do chores and not get into an argument everytime I ask them to clean up?
I have scoured the internet for ideas and have tried these with my own children ages 8 and 6. This is what has worked for us.
My children are always asking to help out in the kitchen and until recently I almost always said no. I don’t want them to char their little fingers on the stove, or cut themselves while chopping vegetables. I am being too overprotective. When I was a child, one of my favorite things to do was help my grandmother prepare dinner for when grandpa got home. She let me use the stove, get things out of the oven, chop vegetables and fry the potatoes in a cast iron skillet. Ahh, the 1980’s, when no one cared if you nearly died preparing dinner with grandma. I started helping her when I was 6 or 7 and to my recollection, nothing bad ever happened. She was better at this than me and much more patient.
There are several things that you can ask your child to do in the kitchen that will help you prepare food and teach them a bit of self-reliance. Aprons on, here we go.
Mise En Place– Have your child get all of the ingredients set up before the preparation begins. Get them familiar with where everything in the kitchen is located, such as spice racks, flour and sugar storage, vegetable drawers, and crispers. Show your child how to use measuring cups, teaspoons etc…
Chop, Peel, Grate, Juice– If you have an older child have them chop the vegetables and show them how to correctly hold a knife while doing so. Older children also have strong enough hands to squeeze the juice from citrus fruit. I am still too overprotective and am not ready to give a knife to my children. So, they peel potatoes and cucumbers. I also have them grate cheese and carrots. Not the safest activities, but they have to learn sometime. A little knick on the grater is not going to kill them.
Set the Table– Have your children set the kitchen table for dinner. Teach them where the utensils go and in what order. My kids love to make official seating place cards with fancy designs. We all sit in a different place at the table when my son places them. It is never too early to teach etiquette.
Get the drinks– This has been our biggest disaster to date, but most of the time it works out. My son Charlie needs to get on a chair to reach the cabinet with the glasses. He has dropped a few. The first time I was so frustrated, I ordered everyone out of the kitchen, cleaned the mess up and abandoned kitchen chores for several days. We are back at it now. Have the children fill the drinking glasses with everyone’s preferred drink. Have them refill and replace the ice cube trays in the freezer.
Clear The Table– This has been the second biggest disaster. Our children are responsible for clearing the plates and silverware from the table, scraping the uneaten food scraps into the trash can, rinsing the dishes and placing them in the dishwasher. After several days I noticed that we only had three spoons left. WTF!!! My son, Charlie, was using a fork to scrape the food scraps into the trash, he also scraped his spoon in every night. Anyway, we have mismatching spoons now, and my wife will not let me make soup for guests because of the shame of mismatched spoons.
With the exception of using a vacuum cleaner, my children enjoy meal prep the most. Speaking of vacuum cleaners…
This is the one I always fought my mother on and I was convinced my children wouldn’t do it, so I never tried. I don’t want you to think that my children were being fanned by servants while being fed skinless grapes. I made them pick up their toys and take their water/milk cups to the sink after use, I just really did not involve them with weekend cleaning. We have so much to do on the weekends, it seemed like more of a hassle then it was worth to show the kids how to clean. Here is what worked for us.
Vacuuming– My kids love it. Wanna know why? Recently, we watched the 90s Halloween movie Hocus Pocus (it is about silly witches). The witches lose their brooms and have to fly on different cleaning implements. One of the witches has to ride a vacuum cleaner. My kids like to pretend they are the vacuum witch when they move the vacuum from one room to another. They don’t do a great job, but they are getting better.
If you have a smaller child, give them a dust buster and have them work the corners of the room or the stairs. Trust me, kids love dust busters.
Mopping– Well, the mop is too big for my children to use on the kitchen floor. Since they are closer to the ground they are easily able to get on their hands and knees to scrub the kitchen floor. They love Disney movies and I showed them Cinderella scrubbing her kitchen floor while singing. I tell them that Cinderella had to clean and she became a Princess! So now they too get on their hands and knees with a bucket of water and scrub with microfiber cloths any of the noticeable stains on the kitchen floor. I don’t let them use actual cleaning chemicals, because I am ridiculously overprotective and fear they will get some horrible sickness. I remember using Lysol and Pinesol on everything as a child and I lived!
Pick Up Game– After other kids from the neighborhood come over to play, our house is a complete disaster. Toys, dolls, play-doh, legos, and books are EVERYWHERE! I have implemented a pickup game. Set your smartphone timer for 5 minutes. Put each child in a different room and press start. Tell them that whoever has the cleanest room after five minutes gets a treat. A little competition is good for these kids. I always end up breaking down and giving both kids a treat.
Making the Bed (Mission Impossible)– I prefer hospital corners, but I will take what I can get. It only takes a couple of minutes each day to make the bed and it is the one chore I make my children do every day. It teaches your child to get his day off to a good start. Since it doesn’t take much time or effort it can be fun to play the Mission Impossible theme music while they make the bed. Turn it into a game to see if they can finish before the song ends.
Bathroom Captains– My neighbors have teenagers and their allowance is tied to their chores. Each child is responsible for their bedrooms, but my neighbor told me that he also wants them to be responsible for an area that everyone uses. So his 15-year-old son is responsible for the upstairs bathroom and his 13-year-old daughter is responsible for the downstairs bathroom. Because they are responsible for similar rooms, they are competitive. It is another way to turn cleaning into a competitive game. Also, my neighbor just flat-out won’t give them the allowance if the bathrooms aren’t clean. His bathrooms are spotless.
Since Christmas is coming up, I asked my son what he wanted. Please say a baseball glove, please say a baseball glove, please say a baseball glove. Nope, honest to God he asked for the Melissa and Doug Let’s Play House Cleaning Set. I haven’t bought it yet, but providing your child with cleaning tools that are their size might get them to be more helpful when cleaning the house.
Mowing– I started mowing the lawn when I was eight. My grandfather wanted me to play football and he said I should run with the lawn mower and pretend to hit it like a tackling sled. I think that this is a great idea for older kids. If you can provide them with a secondary benefit to mowing the lawn like getting a tan or building muscle then they may be more amenable to the idea.
I still think my kids are too small to mow and so I have been having them do other things to help outside.
Tend the Garden– My daughter loves to pick vegetables from the garden. Now I tell her that she has to pick out a weed for every vegetable that she harvests. It is working out great. She loves being in the dirt and enjoys helping the plants grow.
Water The Garden– My kids love the garden hose. More specifically, they like to spray each other and me with the hose. I have them get into their bathing suits and water the garden and our trees and when everything is properly watered they get to turn the hoses on each other. This is the best outdoor summertime chore.
Washing the Car– Another great way to spray each other with the hose. My kids are embarrassed when I pick them up from school or a friend’s house in a dirty car. They are always willing to help me clean the outside. They really disliked cleaning the inside of the car until recently. Give them the Dirt Devil and the inside of your car will be fairly clean. The Dirt Devil is really a children’s toy. My kids love it.
Rake The Leaves– We are coming to the end of the fall and my kids have enjoyed raking the leaves into piles and jumping into them. They know that if they work hard at raking that there will be a self-created benefit at the end. They get to jump into the leaves and have a great deal of fun pushing each other into the piles.
Paint– Kids love to paint. They love to be creative and get messy. One way to use that to your advantage is to have them paint things outside that need a fresh coat. Picnic tables, lawn chairs, the bottom part of the deck etc… One of the biggest feelings of accomplishment is seeing the transformation of a worn picnic table to a freshly painted picnic table that looks new.
These are the tips that I have used personally or have seen in action with friends. I really do believe that the studies are correct and that we will make our children better adults if we teach them responsibility and work ethic at an early age. Please comment and tell us what you do to make chores fun for your kids.