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5 Steps to Get Kids Helping with Chores

5 Steps to Get Kids Helping with Chores

You’re in the middle of cleaning up the kitchen, you pull out the broom to sweep breakfast up off the floor, and like sharks attracted to blood in the water, the sound of the broom hitting the floor has your toddler running into the kitchen. Honestly, the last thing you want is your toddler helping with chores.  You can do it so much faster (and better) without their help.

But fast forward to middle school.  For some crazy reason, the sound of the broom no longer calls to them.  In fact, the sound of your voice calling to them doesn’t always get a response!  But now you want them helping with chores around the house – they just don’t want to do it.

 

Why is helping with chores important?

Doing chores is a life skill that our kids need. 

More than just a task, doing chores can be highly relational.  When your kids are helping with chores, they’re engaged in an activity that impacts someone else.  Picking up their toys helps with getting ready for Grandma’s visit.  Cleaning up the dinner dishes provides the time and space for the family game night.  Doing chores together provides opportunity to learn negotiating skills and hone cooperation, things that I want my kids to be able to do well with anyone.

More than that, the countries longest running longitudinal study, the Grant and Glueck Study out of Harvard has found a correlation between helping with chores as a kid and being successful as an adult.

When it feels easier to just “do it myself”, it’s important to remember the long view impact that helping with chores can have on kids.

What can they help with?

It’s important to keep chores age appropriate.  Google chores for kids and you will find an endless array of lists of chores broken out by age.  As you use these lists, remember that you can scale chores up and down.  Don’t expect your three-year old to be able to move furniture around for vacuuming, but expect them to learn to vacuum.  As they get older, you can scale this chore to include steps for a more thorough cleaning.

Learning to do Chores

While all these things are true, helpful, and important, there is often a huge disconnect between assigning a chore and the chore being completed.  Why?  Because too often we do a poor job of teaching how to do chores.  We go straight from telling them to do something to expecting them to do it.

Think about when someone gives you an instruction.  At some point you needed to be taught how to do it.  As adults we don’t notice the process as much because we have greater life experience from which to draw from.  We’ve also learned how to ask clarifying questions.  So when someone asks us to vacuum the living room, we might need to ask where the vacuum is kept but we don’t need to ask them what a vacuum cleaner is and how to use it – we’ve already been taught that.

5 Steps for Teaching How to do Chores

Teaching our kids how to do the chores we assign them does take a bit of effort, but it isn’t difficult.  And the good news is that this process can work for children of all ages.

1.     Tell them

 

 You always want to start by telling them what it is you want.  This is an important step to laying out expectations.  Be specific while remembering their age.  Remember that toddler who wants to help sweep?  Maybe you tell them they can sweep the middle of the kitchen while you do the edges and under the table.  Telling them what you expect keeps you from tripping over each other and let’s your child help in a meaningful way.

Laying out the expectations not only helps our kid know what we want, it helps us not to expect things we didn’t ask them to do.  You want your 4-year old to be putting their toys away, so you tell them to put their toys away in the bins on the shelves.  This provides the expectation of what they should do, and what they shouldn’t do.  So when they pick up their toys but don’t shelve their books on the bookcase, go back to what you told them to do to make sure they met the stated expectations.

2.     Show them

This is where you can help them understand exactly what you want.

If you just want toys in bins and don’t care about keeping sets together, then show them that it doesn’t matter.  But if you want like items together, show them how to do that.  Side note: If you want to keep like items together, it can be helpful to print out pictures of container contents and tape those to the bin so that they know what goes where.

While you’re showing, talk about what you’re doing.  “Oh, this is a car, so I’m going to put it in the car bin.”  “These are blocks, so they go over here.”

Depending on the age, you may need to do this several days in a row.  It might feel like you’re doing it for them, but you’re not.  Showing them what to do is foundational to their ability to do the job on their own.

3.     Help them

 Now trade spots.  Have your child take the lead on the pick-up process with you helping them.  If they miss or forget something, you can gently remind them.  This is your opportunity to make sure that they fully understand what is expected of them.

4.     Watch them

After a few days and once you are comfortable that they “get it”, sit back and put your feet up in the same room as your kids.  For a few days to watch them handle this chore doling out very little direction and tons of praise and affirmation while you do it.  (Just remember to be commenting on their efforts and not their character.  Things like “Nice Job!” or “I love how you remembered to look under the couch” and not things like “Good boy” or “You’re so smart”.  Why, you ask?  Because it encourages kids to focus externally on process and outcome rather than internally on their self-worth.)

5.     Empower them

Once they have it down, you can officially make this their responsibility.  They now have the skills to be helping with chores so you can do something else.  Trust them to do their job, but verify that they are doing it well.  This means following through by checking that they did their chore.  Depending on the chore and the age, you might find it helpful to have a checklist of pictures or words to help your child remember the steps.  In either case, have them let you know when it’s done so that you can not only verify, but positively affirm their job.

When should your kids be helping with chores?

We’ve talked about being observers in our homes to see patterns of how things are done (see 7 Secrets of a Well Organized Home).  So far we’ve talked about this with regard to structuring space and storage, but it’s also true of time and schedule.  When chores should be done will depend on how your family functions.  If mom and dad both work full-time, then the weekends might be when chores are tackled, but if mom is home with the kids, then these chores might fit in best after breakfast or before dinner.

Regardless of how chores are structured into your home life, they are an important part of growing up.  Putting the effort into teaching kids to do chores well is giving them a life skill that will carry them far into adulthood.

Laundry Tips and Tools (That Might Even Make Doing Laundry Fun!)

Laundry Tips and Tools (That Might Even Make Doing Laundry Fun!)

Doing laundry is a never-ending reality of life, so why not make it as simple and enjoyable as possible?  These laundry tips and tools will help you trick your family into thinking laundry is easy and fun.

Sorting

This laundry tip might be a new way of looking at things, but if you are doing laundry for the whole family, sorting actually happens at two stages of the game: before you wash and after the clean load comes out of the dryer.  Before I had this revelation, I had only thought of sorting in terms of dirty clothes, not clean clothes.

Hampers

The sorting that happens when we separate the clothes into distinct loads can occur in a variety of ways.  It can be into a single hamper for everyone, separate hampers for each room, or even sorting hampers.

As you choose a hamper to sort your laundry, tips as you make your choice would be to consider:

  • Open top or closed top? Lids might make things look neat, but only if they are used. Lids also make it harder to use something.  When it comes to encouraging our kids to keep dirty clothes in the hamper, open topped is often a better choice.
  • Removable sections, yay or nay? If you choose a sorting hamper, I recommend one where each individual section can be removed. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but trust me, it will be.  The option to just grab a section and dump it directly into the washing machine is a significantly time saving option.
  • Mobile or stationary? Many hamper styles come with wheels or handles so you can move them around.  Think about your laundry process and this may make a difference.  Two of our hampers stay put during laundry while another one is rolled out of the room where it lives.  Wheels may be an important choice.

Hampers could live in closets if the closet door doesn’t become a hinderance to it being used or accessed, but in general I encourage you to invest in something that is sturdy and aesthetically pleasing.

Here are some of my favorite options:

Baskets

Traditional laundry baskets are a great way to sort the clean clothes for easy distribution to the various family members or rooms where they belong. But where do you store them? This can become especially challenging if you have limited space to work with.  Nesting the empty laundry baskets on top of the dryer is one simple solution.  You can quickly see who put away their laundry and who didn’t based on the number of baskets stacked.  Or you can go the collapsible route.  Bonus: we found that the collapsible basket stores nicely underneath the laundry hamper, so it doesn’t take up any extra space at all.

Folding

This laundry tip for folding your clothes might even get your toddlers excited to help.  For many, many years my absolute favorite laundry tool has been a flip ‘n fold.

There are several variations of this on the market, but what this tool offers is consistency and speed.  I primarily use it on shirts and tops, and they come out uniform and neat in no time at all.  It’s so fun that each of our kids at various times have begged to fold the shirts.  It even comes in a kids size, if you want your kiddos to have their own.

Recently I have started using the KonMari method of folding clothes for some of our drawers.  It is very similar in principle to the Flip ‘n Fold.  I have had to tweak the folding based on the depth of the drawer that holds each item.  The benefit to this method has been how easy it is to match up clothing and find items without disheveling the rest of the drawer.  You could adapt the the KonMari folding method to utilize the flip ‘n fold for the beginning steps.

Simple Meal Planning - Plan to Eat

Hanging

Do you hang your clothes instead of putting them in drawers?  This works well, but the right hanger makes all the difference!

Over the years I have moved several times and as my closet space has increased or decreased it has determined how many items I hang.  I started out with wire hangers but my shirt ended up with puckers on the shoulders – stretched out spots that made it look like I was wearing a shirt that had been on a hanger.  Not good!  So I switched

to the thick, plastic hangers and discovered that not only did they take up a lot of space, but often my clothes slipped right off of them.  And then I landed on the velvet hangers.  It has truly been a perfect solution.  No more shoulders puckers, no more clothes falling off, and they are thin and compact.

If you are hanging kids clothing, be sure to use smaller kids hangers.  You can even get these in the velvet hanger style now as well.

Dryer Balls

My husband has skin sensitivities so we had to stop using dryer sheets years ago.  But we didn’t like how the clothes dried without them…until we discovered dryer balls.  They add the fluff back to the clothes and help reduce the time needed to dry clothes.  And if you want a scent, just add a drop or two of your favorite essential oil.

Make your own detergent

This is an interesting laundry tip that can really save you a lot of money and be better for your family.  Google “homemade laundry detergent” and you’ll find lots of options.  My favorite is a solid detergent from Budget 101. This recipe does require a blender to make it (I found one at a garage sale that I use exclusively for this) and to make this even easier, I pre-measured the ingredients into Ziploc baggies so that making a new batch was almost effortless. 

There are powder options as well, but I haven’t personally used any of those, so can’t speak to their cost or effectiveness.

Lint Brush

No, not the one for your clothes, the one for your dryer.  My kids argue over who gets to use it, it’s apparently just that fun!

Ironing

There are certain occasions when something just must be ironed, but frankly, keeping an ironing board around the house just isn’t practical.  This caught my eye as something that might make that ironing task a bit easier than wrestling with an ironing board.

At the end of your laundry day, you just want your family to have the clean clothes they need, so you may as well make it as simple as possible!

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L-A-U-N-D-R-Y: A Laundry Routine That Works!

L-A-U-N-D-R-Y: A Laundry Routine That Works!

L.A.U.N.D.R.Y!  (Sing it to the tune of R.E.S.P.E.C.T. — it’s catchy!)

Everyone has it and almost everyone is doing it.  It is one of life’s common denominators.  But somehow, it seems like there is always more laundry to do.

Each week I enjoy about 6 minutes of accomplishment where there is no laundry to be found.  For those brief moments, I know that nothing more needs washing, folding, or putting away.  If this sounds like you’re dreaming, that’s ok.  Stick with me I’ll show you how creating a simple laundry routine can help you make this a dream come true.

A few years ago our family found ourselves unexpectedly adopting a sibling set of babies.  It turned our worlds upside down (for the better) in more ways than we could have imagined, but one thing I wasn’t prepared for was the volume of laundry that was plopped into our lives.  Friends and neighbors were extremely generous showing up on our doorstep bringing meals and other baby items.  It didn’t take long before our garage was filling up with bags and bags of baby clothes.  Clothes that needed sorting, washing, and putting away.  Some to be stored for when they were bigger, and some to be used for now.  And did I mention they were babies?  So we had our fair share of spit-up and diaper mishaps adding to that laundry pile – their clothes and ours!

Plus we still had our original 3 children and all their clothes.

We were on track to become one of those stories on the evening news were a neighbor is found buried under a piles of junk they had hoarded, only ours would be the massive mountains of laundry under which we had suffocated.

And actually, it was suffocating.  It felt like the sheer volume had squeezed the oxygen out of the room and I couldn’t breathe.  Something had to change.  We no longer had any semblence of a regular laundry routine, but using the L.A.U.N.D.R.Y. method I began tackling this problem.

Look around

This takes only a few minutes, but walk through your house and look around.  I don’t mean glance through the rooms or give them a once over.  I mean look at everything.  Pretend that you are a potential buyer or a new visitor.  What do you see?  You might see well-lived in rooms with good organizational “bones” or you might see piles that move around like nomads trying to find a permanent home.  When I looked around, I saw laundry piling everywhere.

 Assess and Understand

Next you want to assess and understand those spaces.  What are they intended to do?  What are they actually doing?  For example, is your dining room intended to be the place where the family sits down to dinner every night but is actually where everything gets dumped and shoved out of sight?  Is your living room intended to be a quiet place to sit and have conversation or read, but it is actually the de facto play room filled with toys?  Take the time to assess and understand our space will help with the next step.

 Notice

This one takes a bit more time and patience, but watch you family and notice their habits and patterns.  Do they get ready for bed in the bathroom or the bedroom?  Where are they leaving dirty kitchen linens?  Where are they getting dressed?  When you are noticing their natural patterns you have framework for the next step in creating a laundry routine.

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Design your laundry routine, and Do it!

Taking all of the information that you gleaned from Looking around, Assessing and Understanding, and Noticing, you can now work on Designing a laundry routine.  Two main factors of this plan will center around gathering the laundry and actually doing the laundry.

Gathering to prepare for your laundry routine

Maybe you are noticing that everyone changes in the bathroom.  If so, then that may be the best place for a hamper to live.  Or if they are changing in their bedrooms, hampers should live there.  A community hamper might be easiest on your patterns and space or individual hampers in different rooms might be part of your laundry solution.  Adding a stair basket on the stairs between the main floor and the upstairs bedrooms was part of our solution because we were noticing that most often we were dressing the babies on the main floor.  Our hampers are upstairs, so the basket began providing a place for their laundry to go as it was migrating upstairs.

Doing the new laundry routine

Choosing your hamper is important.  The hamper you choose will have an impact on your laundry routine.  If all clothes are going into a single hamper style (one communal hamper or several singel style hampers in multiple rooms) then sorting the laundry into loads is part of your process.  If you use sorting hampers and separating loads is happening as you add items to the hamper, then this step is built in to your process.  Because we realized we were washing the babies bedding frequently, we chose to use sorting hampers because it made gathering enough laundry to do a full load of laundry easy.  We were’t wasting an opportunity (or water!) by only washing two things.

Noticing how your time flows is also helpful in determining when you should be doing your laundry.  Is it better to have a laundry day and do it all at once?  Or to do a load a day?  If you are doing a laundry day, then sorting the loads from multiple hampers into piles is no issues, but if you are doing a load a day then having them presorted will make that an easier process.

Wondering what works?

Not sure if a sorting hamper would be a good solution?  Give it a test run by placing 3 boxes or baskets together and sort for awhile. If you find that this is working well, then go ahead and invest in a sturdy sorting hamper.  If you’re not crazy about it, buying a large capacity hamper might be better for you.  The important thing is that you are getting the tools that support your laundry routine. (Need ideas?  Check out some of my favorites in this post.)

Rework your laundry routine

Once you’ve decided where you are keeping your hamper, which style hampers you are using, and when you are doing your laundry, give it a go.  Trying out your laundry routine for a few weeks and taking note of what is working well and what is not is a helpful step.  You will find that many of these need a slight Reworking.  Nothing significant, but just enough to address these hiccups and keep going.  Chances are that making a few minor adjustments are all you need to finish creating a laundry routine that works well for you.

You-tilize your laundry routine

Ok, that was a stretch.  But I needed a Y word and had to get creative. 😊

Keep working your new system.  The more you use it, the more natural it will feel and before you know it your laundry routine will become a simple anchor that supports the rhythm of life in your home.

5 Things Every Mom Needs

5 Things Every Mom Needs

The laundry is piling up.  You forgot to change the loads and are re-washing it.  Again.  Dinner didn’t get pulled out of the freezer so it isn’t thawing but it doesn’t matter because the dishwasher isn’t running so there aren’t clean dishes anyway!  The finger-painting keeping the kids occupied so nicely while you were talking on the phone was holding their interest because they were creating a mural on your living room wall.  It’s a swirl of chaos.

Suddenly you feel a hug on your legs and hear these words.

“I’m going to be just like you when I grow up, mommy.”

Melt my heart!  You can be in the middle of the worst day ever, and when sweet, innocent eyes look up at you and that little voice says those words time stops and everything melts away.  It makes it all worth it.

In that moment, being a mom is The. Best!

Unfortunately, those moments can be more like cameos than they are leading roles.  But what if I told you that we can lay a foundation that would make the joy of those moments become something that becomes a more regular part of being a mom?

Then, read on…

Thinking about my kids wanting to be just like me when they grew up, made me panic.  What if they did grow up to be just like me?  It struck me that I was creating a childhood for them full of the importance of cleaning and cooking but I wasn’t really building into them relationally.  I want my kids memories of their childhoods filled with doing things together and enjoying each other.  I want my kids rememberng these “mommy moments” and I knew I needed to be creating more of them than I was currently giving.

If you know my story, you know that I was deep in the depths of overwhelm.  Enjoying each other was not something that was happening.  My kiddos had a stressed out, burned out, checked out mama.

As I tried to climbing my way out of overwhelm I was assuming that I was the problem.  ‘What’s wrong with me?’ I asked myself. Often.

Imagine my surprise when I realized that nothing was wrong with me.  The problem wasn’t me or my desire to do all the things of being a mom.  The problem was that I didn’t have the right structure in place tomake doing the things moms need to do run smoothly.  The things that would let me simply be mom.  Wanting to be a mom who rocks at being a mom, I knew I was needing to make some changes.

What do moms need? Here are 5 things:

1. Relationship

Relationship is what being a mom is all about.  This includes relationships like those with our spouse, our friends, and our own moms, but when it comes to our kids, intentionally nurturing a relationship isn’t always on our radar.

When it came to parenting my kids, intentional relationship wasn’t something that I had ever consciously thought about until we adopted our youngest kids.  As we were learning about the steps that we needed to be taking to intentionally develop and nurture attachment, frankly it added to my overwhelm.  But the more I was learning, the more I began realizing that this was actually the heart of being a mom.

Simple Meal Planning - Plan to Eat

It was all about the relationship.  A lot of effort during the toddler years is what would be providing the framework to better navigate the teen years.  Why? Because of a deep-rooted relationship.

I began applying this to my older kids, and the changes, though slow (have you ever tried to redirect an ocean liner?) are noticeable.  Things like focusing on what they did right rather than what they were doing wrong, learning to say yes more and saying no less, listening to understand and not just for responding, and stopping to look them in the eye when they were talking to me.

When relationship is the goal, it puts everything else into perspective.

2. Operations

When we were moving into our house almost six years ago, our move was “squeezed in” between a lot of life that couldn’t be slowed down or postponed.  The day after our move I had a fundraising gala that I was organizing.  The kids still had six more weeks of school in 2 different buildings with 3 different schedules, so my days were spent driving and in the car rather than unpacking.  

And then we left on a 2-week trip just days after school ended.  It was literally months before I was able to start to settle our family into our home.

Settling in is more than unpacking and hanging pictures.  It’s just as much about learning patterns and rhythms that work in your space and with your people.  Noticing where coats are dumped, where the mail is naturally being set down, and how convenient it is put clean dishes away in a cupboard are all part of settling in.  Settling is is about operations.

When the operations of the home are running smoothly, the things that build relationship (and memories!) begin happening without becoming major productions themselves.  Last minute invite to the beach?  No problem.  The gear is where it needs to be, and the tasks of the day can be quickly assessed.

3. Cleaning

Everyone loves a clean space.  But cleaning that space is not always very fun.

Why?  High expectations and low appreciation.

When I was in High School, I was hired to clean someone’s home. While I was learning a lot, but I didn’t enjoy it at all.  The list of things needing to be done was lengthy (who dusts their baseboards every week?) and after I was done cleaning, I was told everything I did wrong or missed.  Even though I was rewarded with cash, it was still discouraging.

Whether you hire someone to do this, delegate to your kids, or do it yourself, cleaning is simply part of life.  So why is it overwhelming?

Most likely for the same reasons I dreaded my job – high expectations and low appreciation.  (High expectations are not the same as high standards; Expectations are about quantity and standards are about quality.)  Most often it is literally expecting too much.  There are too many steps.  One job could be broken down into 3 jobs.  Then once it’s done, no one notices when it’s done right, just what was missed. And if no one is going to appreciate your effort, why try?  That’s when standards slip and the whole thing falls apart.

After battling with our kids about dinner clean-up, we finally took that one large task that was taking them 90-minutes or more to do, and broke it into 3 smaller tasks, none of which typically should take more than 15 minutes.  It cut the time in half!

And by using a simple checklist [link to checklist] to outline the expectations, when it’s done, we can focus on what is done well and work on improving specific steps.  Our kids begin to take pride in their work.  And the cleaning becomes a natural part of life.

4. Kitchen

Have you ever seen the meme that says something like “If you could choose to never do one of these things again for the rest of your life, what would you choose?” Following it is a list of things like cooking, cleaning, yard work, and other tedious chores.

I always choose cooking.

Similar to cleaning, cooking just has to happen.  Eating is something people like doing.  And while we have choices about ordering in, eating out, or cooking from scratch, whatever we choose has an impact on our time, money, and long-term health.  No pressure, right?

But similar to cleaning, there are too many things wrapped up in cooking.  It should really be called “Kitchen” because it involves planning meals, shopping for meals, managing food inventory, prepping for meals, and then the actual cooking.

It’s a lot to process at 4:00 in the afternoon.  And that’s why I always chose cooking.  It was too overwhelming to wing it.

Breaking this down into the smaller parts and learning to make those part of your family’s rhythms can flip this on its head and make the kitchen run effortlessly.  (I’ll even let you in on my secret weapon: Plan to Eat.)

5. Simplicity

This feels like a no-brainer, right?  But it’s not as simple as it seems (see what I did there?).  When something is simple, it works.  Most of the time something doesn’t work because it’s too complicated.  And, funny enough, most of the time it just requires a simple tweak to make it less complicated.

Simplicity is the key to success. And success is the desired outcome pretty much across the board. So, don’t overcomplicate things.

Want to be a mom who ROCKS?  Join me on this journey.  Start by downloading your 9 Things You Can Do To Raise a Confident Kid.

 

 

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