10 ways to turn household chores into family fun. When the sprinklers, bubble wands and whiffle bats are put away for the season, kids take many of their activities (and messiness) indoors. Child play and its aftermath can quickly become overwhelming, especially when you’re already preparing meals and handling daily household chores. And, as any parent who has stepped on some tiny, razor-sharp toy in bare feet can attest, it’s tempting to just do the cleaning up by yourself to get it done right. But if you take the time to teach, keep it simple and create an environment that kids can navigate easily, you can assign cleanup tasks to even your youngest children. Here are ten guidelines for integrating chores into the busy rhythm of your family life.
1 Ten minutes of teaching saves hours of correcting, nagging and failing
Never assume your kids know the best way to clean things up. Instead of generalized commands such as “pick up your room,” set a timer for ten minutes and dedicate that time to demonstrating the steps for completing the task, doing it with them as they learn.
2 Consider your child’s perspective
Take a cue from your child’s classroom or daycare, and look at your home from a child’s eye view. Classroom and daycare decor is simple, using cubbies, open baskets and boxes, with everything color-coded and accessible. Closed toy boxes, under-bed organizers and drawers are an invitation to dark, dusty and unused spaces (and toys). While looking from “kid level,” assess safety, too. Make sure a heavy item cannot be pulled down on top of a child, that outlets are secure and that no cords or rugs pose tripping hazards.
3 Work with your child’s strengths and developmental level
Even grown-ups in the household divide chores according to interests and skill sets, and the same should hold true for children. Talk to your kids about what they like to do or what’s important to them, and allow them the opportunity to grow into household chore sharing as they learn the job.
4 Accessibility encourages children without a single word
Is your home accessible to your children? In addition to creating a kid-friendly home, play, work, rest and clean-up spaces should be safe and obvious to kids. Dusting is a kid-friendly chore, for example, but the dust rag or wand should be kid-scaled and kept in an easy-access, safe spot. Use sturdy, non-skid stools to assist with hand washing or dish drying, and separate and secure any unsafe items for kids, such as household chemicals.
5 Support your children’s efforts with fun examples
The indoor months are perfect for visiting libraries and bookstores, and watching an occasional video. Pick up a few books that feature kids helping out at home, or demonstrate kid-friendly household projects.
6 Make time-management fun and easy to understand
Sometimes chores need to be done efficiently so the family can move on to the next activity or chore. You can time the completion of a chore to conclude with a favorite song or CD.
7 Allow time for mastery
Kids need time and repetition to master new skills, which include household chores. Present one new chore at a time, and wait to introduce another once children can demonstrate a week or so of success. Allow them to enjoy doing well.
8 Assign a chore buddy
Young children or those mastering a new chore will benefit from reinforcement from another adult or older child. A chore buddy can do the task with — not supervising — the child. This encourages cooperation, modeling, and safety for more complex tasks.
9 Use family times to reflect on household citizenship
Take some time during a family meal or fun activity to praise kids for helping out, get their feedback and discuss changes that can be beneficial. Keep the comments positive, especially when pointing out areas that need improvement.
10 Clean your own room!
Take a good, long look at your own bedroom. Is the hamper overflowing? The bed unmade? Is the closet a graveyard of hangers and tangled shoes? Kids internalize what they observe at home, and will have little motivation to perform above and beyond their own caregivers. Modeling safety (no more standing on chairs!), respect and completion of your own chores goes a long way to creating a truly peaceful, orderly household.
Mary Ann Hudson, RN, is a lactation consultant.