Monday, September 16, 2013


We had dinner with friends the other night and inevitably we started talking about the balance between spending time with our kids and keeping our houses looking somewhat civilized. For my friend, it seemed to be an either/or approach. Either you're playing with your kids, or you're cleaning your house. I take a slightly different approach.While I think it's very important to take the time to sit on the floor and play with your children, I also think it's important to involve them in the day-to-day tasks of keeping the home in order. I want my children to be contributing members of society, and that starts in the home. Also, I want them to know how to clean and keep things orderly. It's a learned skill. :)

As often as possible, I find something that my three-year-old can do to help and contribute. He puts his dishes in the sink, throws his trash away in the garbage can, and has to pick up his own toys. Those are the basics. But, when I'm doing daily household chores, I involve him. When I empty the dishwasher, he sorts and puts away the silverware. When I do dishes, I fill up one of the sinks with his plastic cups and plates to "wash". Admittedly, this is messy. But it's a good excuse for me to mop the floor when he's done! When I'm wiping down the counters, I give him a spray bottle with vinegar and water in it and he wipes the cabinets for me. Again, this can get messy, but it's not as if he's getting the cabinets any dirtier than they were when he started. At age three, my goal is not for him to be a tiny slave who does all my cleaning for me. My goal is for him to understand that cleaning is necessary and for him to experience the sense of satisfaction you get from doing a job well. This is also a great way for us to spend time together while being productive.

Sorting silverware. This has been his job since he was 2.
Here's a quick list of chores that kids can do. Keep in mind that you will probably have to do at least some of these over again, but the idea here isn't perfection. The idea is to help your little one be an involved, contributing member of the household and provide learning opportunities.

Dishes: Give them a sponge, a sink full of water and dish soap, and some dishes they can't break. Also, grab a huge stack of towels, because you will need them. Side note, I always make the Eskimo help me with cleanup at the end.

Dishwasher: Let them help you load and unload things that are not breakable. Sorting silverware is a great activity.

Dusting: Give them a duster and set them loose! The Eskimo loves this!

Laundry: Put the clothes in the washer, throw them into the drier, add the soap. The Eskimo also likes to "help" fold. I also let him put his own clothes in his drawers.

Wiping baseboards: Give them a damp rag and let them get to work. This can keep the Eskimo occupied while I'm trying to do something like cook dinner.

Wiping cabinets: Give them a spray bottle with a vinegar/water mixture and a rag. I provide some guidance with this; ie, there are spots on that cabinet, can you get them off? Look at all those spots on the dishwasher! Anytime there is a spray bottle involved, there's the potential that your child may end up having a little too much fun, so I recommend supervision.

Sweeping: Will he get all of the dirt off the floor? No. Will he get some of it? Maybe. But if he's learning, it's a win. We have a child sized broom that we picked up for about $10 at a toy store. You can also make your own by cutting down the handle on an adult size one.

General cleanup: We have a rule at our house: any toys left out overnight are going to Goodwill. So, whenever the Eskimo protests picking up his toys at the end of the day, I tell him, that's his choice, but anything left out will be gone the next day. Works like a charm.

Wiping the baseboards.
A final note: this should be FUN. At age three, the Eskimo wants to help. He loves it. I'm encouraging it as much as possible because I figure it will only get worse as he gets older. But, if he is busy playing a game and doesn't want to do the dishes, that's fine. At some point, I will likely introduce a proper chore chart and allowance, but we're not there yet. My goal is for him to gain life skills and to look back and remember having fun cleaning with Mama. :)

Do your kids help out around the house? At what age did you start paying them for their work? What are their jobs?

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