In our house, we have found that our littles can rise to just about any realistic expectation we set in place. We approach chores with the same mindset, and our toddlers/pre-schoolers are very much involved in the daily routines that keep our house up and running.
Yes, our little ones have chores, and I have included some practical tips and ideas that have worked well in our house:
Chores for Pre-Schoolers - Practical Tips & Ideas that Work
Chores for Pre-Schoolers - Practical Tips & Ideas that Work
Before meal times, Caleb is in charge of gathering the forks and napkins. These are easily accessible to him, and this is a huge help to me as I finish preparing the food/table. Before I sit down at the table, I scan the kitchen to see that everyone has everything they need at the table. I make sure plates have plenty of food on them, sippy cups are full, extra napkins are nearby, etc. because my goal is to sit down and actually eat my meal. Several months ago, I realized that - during meal time - I was up and down 435 times. I had to do something, so I challenged myself to think ahead - and this challenged my family, too. My new approach was quite a shock to my crew, but they eventually caught on - Mommy is sitting down to eat and she is not getting back up from the table - unless someone starts bleeding.
During meal times (whether we are at home or eating out), if there are any messes (and we all know that little ones make lots and lots of messes), our kiddos are responsible for helping us clean it up. Yes, this complicates things. Yes, this makes clean up a whole lot more difficult. Yes, it requires more time than if I cleaned it up myself. But we want them to be involved in the cleanup - even if it was an accident. In my mind, this teaches and reinforces 19 different important things I want my child to understand. *When eating out, we all pitch in to straighten the table and clean up the floor - yes, the floor. Waitresses everywhere will thank you.
After meal times, My kids are in charge of throwing their trash away, taking their plates to the sink, and pushing their chairs in under the table. I realize that some moms prefer to clear the table themselves, but not me. I want everyone involved and doing their part. It's important to me - and it saves this mama loads of time....usually.
Check out Leslie's thoughts on involving your children in meal preparation! She even includes some great recipes!
My mom always used shopping trips as a great time to teach me about money - We are starting to venture into this area with our oldest- coin recognition, how to use coupons, scanning items at the self-checkout lane, paying the cashier, etc. - and if you have older children, the opportunities here are endless.
When returning from a grocery run, our kids help with carrying in the groceries. We give them lightweight bags that they are able to carry from our vehicle to the kitchen. I then like to have them help me empty the bags - unless it involves pickle jars...or glass containers of Alfredo sauce...you get the idea. They love naming each item that we purchased, and if I'm feeling really energetic, we talk about where the food comes from/how it is made, how the produce grows, what we're going to use the items to make, etc. I realize that oftentimes the goal is to get your groceries put away quickly, but what a great teaching opportunity.
At night - before our kids get in the bath - they are responsible for putting their dirty clothes in their laundry hampers.
On Monday morning (Monday is "Laundry Day" around here.), I sort the laundry, and then I involve my kids in loading the washer as well as transferring washed items to the dryer. They love helping with this. Yes, it slows down my laundry process - but my goal is to train.
After clothes come out of the dryer, I give each of my kids a little pile to "fold". No, these items do not really get folded, but the point is to include them and help them learn the process. I praise them and then I may or may not refold the items later. No big deal.
When it comes to my boys' clothes, I'm not too picky about how they are folded, because as they help me put them away in drawers...well, I'm sure you can imagine. Letting my little ones help me put laundry away? My goodness how I have relaxed...
Before heading upstairs for bath time/bedtime, the whole family works together to clean up the downstairs. I'm usually in the kitchen area - while David and the boys tackle the family room/playroom areas. From the time our boys are able to place even a single item in a container, we start training them to clean up their toys. Baskets are my best friend - We have book baskets, block baskets, Lego baskets, a container for play food, etc. We train our kiddos on what goes where, and it makes it easy for them to play a huge part in the cleanup process. After playing at someone else's house, I strongly encourage Caleb to help with cleanup there. That is a little more complicated - based on that family's rules, approach with toys, etc. - but I think it is so important for him to take ownership over his messes - even at a young age.
You may also enjoy reading about how we keep our toys organized and rotated:
After bath time, our whole crew plays together in one of our common areas. This is when we read our Bible story, listen to music, and play. At the end of this time - before we tuck in our little fellas - we all pitch in to clean up the toys. I do not keep many toys in the boys' bedroom. I realize that this may change in the future, but for now, I'm able to keep most toys in the playroom area. Having a small number of toys in their bedroom makes nighttime cleanup super easy!
A Few Final Thoughts:
I will admit - Encouraging little ones in the area of chores takes a lot of time and patience - emphasis on A LOT! There are times when I would much rather get on with bathtime/bedtime than go through the process of end-of-day clean-up. There are moments when I think, This would be so much faster/easier if I just did it myself! But I absolutely can not view these opportunities with that perspective. I have to remember that my job is to train - and this takes places in the moment-by-moment choices I make throughout the days with my kiddos. I loved Mia's guest post on this topic and Ashley's thoughts on training her children in this area. My kids are still at the age when they typically enjoy helping us with chores and projects - Watering the plants, helping their sibling, etc. is still fun for them, but for the times when they challenges us on this, we remind them of our obedience motto: ...Right away, all the way, and with a happy heart. This was a great reminder to use in the classroom, and I have not forgotten it. Occasionally, we tangibly reward our little ones for a job well done, but sometimes we don't - we simply offer verbal praise as reinforcement. As our children get older and we enter different stages/seasons of life, we will adjust our approach to fit the needs at the time.
I have seen some great ideas like these:
Keep it simple! Find what works for your style, child's age/personality, your family's routine, and get everyone up and moving. If you realize something isn't working, start over...try again...tomorrow is a new day! Mom's have plenty to do without everyone in the family thinking she is running a Holiday Inn Express. By taking the extra time to train littles [from the start], you save time in the long-run. You are making an incredible investment. You are training your children to be responsible, to show initiative, to be productive, to work as a member of a team, and on and on and on I could go...and it's never too late to start.
You may also enjoy: Four Qualities I Want to Instill in my Little Ones