Do you ever find yourself in this scenario: you have many things to get done around the house, the kids are restless, and you feel overwhelmed? You feel like you have to be in two places at once. You need to get the kids occupied and do all the household chores. Then there’s the guilt of letting the TV be the babysitter. And to top it off, at the end of the day, when it’s bedtime for the kids you feel bad because you didn’t really spend any time with them. Well there’s a solution.
Involve the Kids!
If you involve your children in some household chores you and your children will reap many benefits:
- spending time together
- learning life skills
- learning that work can be fun
- training to be lifelong helpers around the house
- work builds character, self-confidence, and self-esteem
- laugh and talk time
- housework completed
- everyone will feel good at the end of the day
Ideas for Involving the Kids
1) Start Young. It’s never too early to start. And it’s never too late either. Just start small. Don’t expect perfection. Don’t expect speed. Expect to take your time and enjoy the time together. Add some music. Foster an fun environment. Let the goal be small successes and then build on them.
2) Cooking. Kids really love to help with cooking. It’s good to do a lot of talking and explaining. Even young babies and toddlers understand a lot more than we give them credit for. Ask them questions to let them show you how much they are learning. And give lots of praise. You’re looking for effort not perfection. Bonus: Kids who cook, will eat more healthy and varied foods!
Toddlers: You can stand them on a chair next to you. (Don’t leave unattended) Give them small finite age appropriate tasks they can handle. Examples: washing fruits/vegetables in a bowl of water in the sink, drying off the produce, holding things, handing you things, pouring (with assistance if needed), and stirring. Keep in mind that the tasks you give them may be small for you, but for them, it is very exciting to be a part of this important grown-up task!
Older Kids: If needed, bring over a chair or have them work at the kitchen table. With older children, they’ll be doing a lot of the same things, but the difference is they can be more helpful. You can teach more complex ideas like measuring, temperature, timing and so on.
3) Cleaning, Tidying, and Gardening.
Toddlers: Once a child can walk they can: carry things from one place to another, throw things in the garbage (way fun for them!), hold a dust pan for you, sweep or push a Swiffer/dustmop (let the goal be “good enough” not perfection), wiping dust with damp cloth, pulling bed covers up, putting toys in toyboxes, pulling up weeds, etc. Safety tip: It’s a good idea to keep kids away from harsh cleaning chemicals.
Older Kids: Again, they can do the same things as toddlers, but you can expect a little better job. Praise for effort and give even more praise for improvements. Add music to make things fun. Make up silly songs, rhymes or raps along the way.
Toddlers: Give small tasks such as: hand me the next piece to fold, or show them how to do basic folding and piling. They may only fold 3 things while you fold all the rest, but that’s OK!
Older Kids: The key with older kids, especially if this is new for them, is to make it fun. Let it be a time to talk about things. Let them guide the conversation by asking them open ended questions. Ask them about things that interest them. Then show enthusiastic and genuine interest in the topics they like and they’ll open up. Singing and music can make it fun too. (Try to keep the TV off. Let this be together time!)
5) Groceries and Errands
When you get home, let them help you put things away. Toddlers and bigger kids can carry things into the bathroom or other parts of the house. They can carry light bags in and they can help unload the bags. Then they can organize things into categories – cans, produce, cold things, boxes, etc. All the while, talk about the things, where they go, and your plans for cooking them! Be excited and the kids will be excited too. Instead of framing the task as a chore, frame it as how important they are to the household and to you, and how much you appreciate all their help!
Should you pay children for helping? That’s up to you and you may choose different methods for different circumstances. This is what I do and it works for me. I try to develop a desire in my child to be “mommy’s helper” by encouraging and praising for this. I reinforce this a lot. The reward is the praise.
For other tasks that are harder to get my child to do, I put together a reward chart where he’ll get stars or stickers for completing the task. He gets very excited about that. Once he has gotten a certain amount of stars then he’ll get a reward. I leave the “reward” open and vague. Rewards can be going to the park, going to the library, going to a favorite place, maybe a special treat from the grocery store or whatever fits in easily with what we’re doing. The main idea is that it doesn’t have to be a toy, cost money, or be big.
End of the Day
Rest together and talk about the all the great things you accomplished together. Tell them how proud you are, how grateful you are, and ask them how they feel? Are they proud of themselves? Did they have fun? Are they glad they helped mommy and/or daddy who works so hard for them all week? How about you? Be proud of yourself and smile!
Please share how you involve your kids around the house! All comments big and small are very welcomed!
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