Make Housework a Family Affair
Parents, trust me here. Society will frown on you if you set your kid loose at age 18 with zero life skills (like how to do laundry without turning it all pink or how to take out an overflowing bag of trash without being asked). It’s never too early to start your child helping out around the house. But where to begin? What can a teeny 2-year-old do? Check out these ideas to turn housework into a fun family affair.
Toddlers might surprise you with their mad cleaning skills. They can fold napkins and towels or pick up their own toys, even if that just means tossing them into a catch-all like a toy ottoman or set of colorful bins. They also can water plants, feed animals, dry pots and pans, toss wet laundry into the dryer, throw things away, recycle and help put away groceries.
Preschoolers can do all the things a toddler can do—plus empty smaller trashcans into a big one, put away silverware, match socks, dust, “mop” and “vacuum,” and even put away their laundry (hang a wooden rod in their closet low enough for them to be able to hang up their clothes). Set up a chart with simple pictures so your child knows the chores you want her to do.
Jayna Ely, mom of a 7-year-old son, says, “When my son was a preschooler, we started a game called ‘clean up hide and go seek.’ While one person counts, the other people go hide. Once a person is found, we pick up two, three, four or five (depending on how messy the house is) things in the room they hid in.”
School-age kids can do dishes, empty the dishwasher, start a load of laundry, take out the trash, help with bathrooms, vacuum (for real!) and put away their own laundry. A great way to connect with your child as he gets older is to dump the laundry out on the bed then fold it together as you chat.
When things get really messy, I like to write tasks on pieces of paper, fold them up and put them in a bowl. I have one kid pick a task and then choose a helper. For harder tasks, create an instruction sheet, put it in a sheet protector and then do the task with the child until he gets the hang of it.
Whether or not you use an incentive system is up to you. Some parents pay out cash per chore to older kids, while some may pay with a sticker or the promise of a small toy for a preschooler. Some parents simply use the promise of an outing (park, pool, playdate) as incentive to clean up.
Remember these helpers are kids, and the job doesn’t have to be done perfectly. They will learn it well in their own time. The point is they are learning a life skill, so be patient. And don’t forget to put on some upbeat cleaning music!
Kerrie McLoughlin, of TheKerrieShow.com, lives in Peculiar and is the mom of five. She still can’t get used to the fact that her 17-year-old son does his own laundry without being asked!