As parents, one job we have of extreme importance is teaching kids to help out around the house. I want them to learn how to be responsible and how to pitch in, and most importantly, for them to know that Mom isn’t a magic genie who makes messes go away.
My oldest is almost 9 years old, which means he’s half way (half way!) done with childhood and he won’t be living with this magic genie indefinitely.
Here is how we handle chores in our house. In general, everyone is responsible for picking up after themselves. The kids need to have their rooms and playroom clean before they get electronics time. And they usually help get the table set for dinner. That’s about it- we keep it simple.
Then, about once a week (or so), I break out what we call “chore cards.”
For 30-60 minutes after school, I pull out a stack of index cards and cut-up construction paper squares. Individual tasks are written on the cards. The kids take one at a time, do the task, then bring the card back and trade it in for the next one. I set the timer for a certain amount of time- depending on how bad the house has gotten- that I think it should take to complete the stack.
If they hurry and finish before the timer, then they can enjoy the extra time to play. If they don’t finish in time, we keep going until the cards are complete. It turns into a blitz and by the end of the stack of cards, the house is clean! While they’re doing their jobs, I do the harder stuff like wiping down kitchen cabinets or running the heavy vacuum.
I have an almost-9-year-old boy and a 6-½-year-old girl. Here is a list of what is on our cards; They are able to complete any of the following chores at their ages:
Clear dishes from table
Clear off table
Wipe off table
Pick up couch cushions in playroom
Take toys upstairs
Put away art supplies
Clean little brother’s room
Put away DVD’s and video games
Put shoes in boot tray
Put dirty laundry in your hamper
Put books on playroom shelf
Put library books in library bin
Fold clean laundry
Put away clean laundry
Hang up bags in closet
Hang up coats in closet
Put dog toys in dog bin
Clean out lunch bag with soap and water
Make sure upstairs hallway is clear
Put electronics behind brown chair and plug in chargers
Pick up toys in your room
Make sure no clothes are on bathroom floor
Clean off stairs and landing
I also have a 3-year old who is able to do many of them along side us. If he were my oldest, I wouldn’t try this method. But since he’s all too happy trying to keep up with the big kids, it works for his age.
I keep some blank index cards to add any extra, non-routine tasks. (Some of my cards have said super weird stuff like “Take pool noodle to Mom’s closet.” Apparently that was a necessary thing one day).
It’s important to break chores up into small easy chunks that can be completed in 5 minutes or less. For instance, instead of saying “clean the playroom” the card will say “pick up couch cushions in playroom.” The rooms that are the messiest are broken into smaller tasks and the kids don’t get distracted or discouraged as they go along.
Chores are a funny thing, because you start out doing everything for your babies, and then all of a sudden they turn into capable kids and it’s hard to know when to transition them into taking on more responsibility. This has become a good way for us to have dedicated time to clean, but time that moves quickly and accomplishes a lot in a short span.
With all four of us knocking out the jobs, the house is in shape in no time. Also, the kids know that the cleaner we keep the house on a daily basis, the faster and easier the chore cards are.