Welcome to the first post in my Summer Sanity Series. My hope is that these posts help you get out of ruts with your kids this summer. I know sometimes all I need is an idea, not necessarily a plan, to work with. What works for one family, or what even worked for the families my husband and I grew up in, isn’t going to necessarily work for mine, but that doesn’t mean the whole idea has to be dismissed. So, take my ideas in this series as just that, ideas.
Question: What is the one thing most kids have during the summer that they don’t have during the school year? Answer: More time on their hands. Many a parent is faced with the question, “How do I fill all this time????” Hence, the reason for this series, and I have startling news… We don’t have to fill all the time with outings and activities and vacations and playdates. Summer is a great opportunity to take advantage of that extra time by instilling some good habits into our kids. Cue, chores.
Now I’ve heard many, many a parent say, “Let kids be kids!” That’s cute, and has merit, when it comes to imagining they’re riding a flying unicorn across the ocean wearing a tutu and a superhero mask, but that doesn’t mean all they should do is play. Play is important, do not misread this. But so is responsibility. I believe if you want to launch responsible adults into society one day, you need to first raise responsible kids. Chores are a fantastic way to get started.
“But, Lindz, my kid is literally two years old. Aren’t chores extreme at this point?”
A chore chart with stickers is definitely a bit much for a two year old. And chores should always be developmentally appropriate.
So, let’s get practical. What can a toddler do? And how should you frame it?
Again, you’re going to need to determine what’s appropriate for YOUR kid, but mine have started helping out around the house with these chores at age 2…
- Picking up toys and putting them away (invest in bins, chests, and baskets for toys that your kid can easily access).
- Putting their dirty clothes into the laundry hamper.
- Cleaning up small spills with a towel or picking up food that’s thrown during meal/snack time.
- Walking around with a hand vacuum to help vacuum while you use the big vacuum.
- Putting sorted laundry away, like towels. (We have a drawer for washcloths in the kids’ bathroom that they can easily reach, and we have a drawer for kitchen towels in our kitchen. It’s accessible so even our two year old can get a towel whenever he needs one, AND he can put clean towels away when it’s laundry sorting time.)
- Bringing you used cups / plates / bowls from the table when meals are over. (I also have my kids carry their sippy cups and shoes out of the car when we get home.)
- Pushing the start button on the washer / dryer / and dishwasher. (Side note to parents of older kids… If your child can operate a smartphone, they can operate a dishwasher. If your child is tall enough to load/unload the washing machine, your child is old enough to be doing their own laundry.)
My three year old does these chores in addition to what the two year old does…
- Unloading safe items from the dishwasher. (She doesn’t unload anything that has to be put into an upper cabinet, is very heavy like my glass mixing bowl, or is sharp, like a vegetable peeler.)
- Sorting socks.
- Putting her laundry away. (We have all of her clothes, aside from dresses and jackets which are hung, in drawers that she can open and close on her own. So, she usually puts all of those clothes away by herself when we’re folding laundry.)
- Wiping the table down after meals. (My three year old LOVES this job. She loves using my H2O at Home chiffonettes to clean, so this is play for her.)
- Drying pots / pans with a dish towel.
We also don’t call any of the above listed activities “chores.” It’s just stuff we do and helping out with it is just being a part of the family team. Everyone pitches in.
My husband does a great job of leading by example on this “team approach” as well, so when dinner is over, EVERYONE clears the table together. When it’s time to pick up toys before bath time, EVERYONE picks up toys. We also frequently call ourselves a team. In fact, we’re TEAM WARFORD. And we give each other high fives when we finish something together.
Summer is a great time to get your kids in the habit of helping out around the house. Make it fun. Turn on music and sing together while you sort and put away clothes (there was music playing when Little Miss was picking up those playing card in the above picture, hence the silly, happy face). If your kids are older, they may really enjoy a chore chart and incentives for completing it. (Suggestion: No video games today until you finish your chores.) You may want to include daily chores and weekly chores depending on how old they are. Or shoot, you may even have one big summer chore or project that you want completed before they go back to school, like tackling a closet or the garage or painting something. ; )
Remember what I said at the beginning of this post, take these ideas as IDEAS. This is your little spring board. Spring off of it and do what works for you and your family. But, when it comes to “chores” and helping out around the house, let me leave you with this…
Do not deprive your children of the opportunity to contribute to your family by helping out around the house. The sense of accomplishment and responsibility that comes with tackling simple, and not so simple, chores positively develops your child’s self-esteem. Begin empowering them as soon as you can. Why not start this summer?
Until next time,