Household chores and how they relate to children is an age old struggle. It’s quite common for parents, especially moms to whom the bulk of keeping house usually falls, to be frustrated with their children over picking up toys, keeping rooms clean or general day-to-day messes. I feel pretty strongly on this issue, so I thought I would type out some of my thoughts regarding household chores and how they relate to children.
Young children, up until around age 3, don’t notice if their environment is clean or dirty. They don’t care if their toys are organized or if they have to step over fifty things to cross the room. For the most part kids at this age only care about disorganization when they can’t find something they want.
As kids get older they are better equipped to understand organization. They can also do a decent job helping with some household maintenance.
Super Mom Aurelia Williams has this to say about kids chores:
Preschoolers can perform the basic chores. They can learn to pick up after themselves. Take care of their toys, make their beds and this kind of chore is ideal.
Older from 6 to 9 children can do all this plus learn to take care of the pets, fold and take care of laundry and even learn to vacuum and sweep floors.
Children for 10 to 13 can take on even more responsibility. They can do dishes, clean the bathrooms and even learn to cook simple meals with supervision.
Once they have reached the age of 14 consider more responsibility. Laundry can be done by older children as well as car care, preparing meals or any other chore that parents feel they are capable of doing.
This gives you some great ideas of where to start with your children, but I want to be very clear about this next point. Children should not be expected to complete chores on their own. They need guidance, especially in the first years, and mom standing and barking orders is a surefire way to set yourselves up for a power struggle.
Instead, suggest to your children that the kitchen should be cleaned, or toys should be put away, or laundry should be done. Invite your child to help you. Unless you are already dealing with years of chore wars, likely they will want to help. They will love learning how to run the washing machine, pushing the buttons, measuring the soap.
Work with their short attention spans. Don’t expect children to stick with you and clean a room top to bottom. Break it up into little chunks. Maybe set a goal to clean the room top to bottom during the day, but take 10 minutes out of each hour to do the work, play with the kids for the other 50 minutes. Or change chores every 10 minutes. We have cleaned our whole house by moving to a new room every 10 or 15 minutes, coming back to the rooms that needed it for another 10 or 15 minutes.
Make keeping house fun. Turn on music. Play a game. We have let the kids roll dice and the number showing on the dice is the number of items the child must pick up and put away. Of course the parents participate as well.
Make staying organized easy. One of my favorite sayings is “Set kids up for success.” This means do what you can to make succeeding easy, without doing it for them. And this is a great thing to note when it comes to kids staying organized, make it easy for them. Use open containers or bins to store their things. Find what works for keeping their clothes organized, some might like to hang things in a closet, others may prefer drawers, or even a set of baskets. When it comes time to clean, it’s much easier and faster to toss items into open baskets instead of needing to open drawers and cupboards.
Along with chores many parents (and kids!) start to think allowance. How chores and allowance work together is something that will be unique to each family. Be careful not to make money the motivation for all chores and household jobs, children need to find their own need and level off organization and cleanliness that will carry through to the time when they won’t get paid for making their bed. Should you decide that money is a good motivating factor for getting work done around your house, the Chore Time Cards on the Happy to Be @ Home website are an interesting idea to try. You may be stuck having to pay the kids to do every little chore from now on.
Hopefully you now have some ideas on how you and your children can work together to get chores done!