Photo from amazon.com
As a new mother, I remember reading in books and blogs about five-year-olds who were in charge of the entire family's laundry. (Okay maybe they were six, but you get my point.)
I couldn't imagine, at that stage of having two babies, that my children would ever be able to help with anything! But the happy day finally arrived a few years later, and I had to come up with ideas for chores.
Would we use a checklist? A visual reminder? What age do we start? Do we pay for chores or not pay?
How could there be so many questions involved in just wanting your kids to put away their Matchbox cars?
Here's what we did:
We started early on, just by encouraging them to pick up toys after playing. For a child up until age three or four, this is the best chore to use as you begin.
About a year ago, when our crew had all reached beyond the four year mark, we began being a tad more formal.
By this time they were pros at cleaning up their toys (with the occasional complaint, of course), so they were ready for more. We started with dinner clean up.
One child wipes the table, one child uses the dustbuster under the table, and one helps load the dishwasher. Every few months we rotate these jobs so that each child can become proficient in all three.
For after dinner clean up the children do not get paid. This is just the work that comes from living together as a family.
But the children did want a way to earn money, so we allowed them to take on a "second job."
Currently Trishna helps me make lunch--she fills the water cups, puts them on the table, grabs what we need from the fridge, and so on. Jonathan is in charge of recycling (the perfect job for a wanna-be garbage man)--he takes the recycling from our indoor container to the outdoor one. And Elijah serves our food. As I dish out meals onto plates, he takes the plates into the dining room.
For these jobs the kids get paid $1 each week. (They may get a raise soon, but we'll see!) In a future post I'll cover how we handle the allowance/spending money issue.
For me, the most difficult part of chores was figuring out what they could actually help with at their ages. If you're struggling in that area, check out this helpful chart.
And if you're looking for ideas to help you create a chore board of sorts (we don't use one but many families do), you may find inspiration in this post at SouleMama.
I see most of my purpose during these early years with the kids as modeling what it looks like to care for a house with a good attitude. As they show interest, I invite them to help me and participate.
When the kids are a few years older (around age nine or so), I plan on transitioning to more of a training role--taking the time to teach them how to do the household chores themselves, then allowing them to take ownership until they've mastered the tasks.
I consider this training a vital part of the children's educations, one that is sadly neglected in many homes these days.
In chores, as in everything other facet of our our home lives, the goal is not just about the task at hand. It is about teaching important family lessons, nurturing relationships, and the reminder that through our work we bless each other.
**All you seasoned mamas out there: please share the chore system/method you've found works best in your home. And if anyone has more specific questions about how we handle this issue in our house, feel free to ask away!**
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Jamie is founder of this little spot called Steady Mom, editor of the blog Simple Homeschool, mama to three cute kids born on three different continents, and author of Steady Days: A Journey Toward Intentional, Professional Motherhood.
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