A few months ago, a woman in our home for the first time saw our chore chart and started a conversation with one of our girls.
“I bet you guys are great helpers for your mom,” says woman.
Daughter responds, “Yeah, now that Mom and Dad have so many kids, they don’t have to do anything!”
That’s right, my minion. You now know your place in the family. Bon bons and Netflix, here I come!
Seriously, though, my kids are great helpers, and if I’m honest, I hardly clean a thing in my house.
Most of this is because I have older kids now. Even the little ones are old enough to take part in household chores. If your little ones are all, well, little, you obviously won’t be joining the sit-back-while-your-kids-rub-your-feet club anytime soon (I’m president), but I’ll reserve a spot for you when the time comes. I do include a few tips below, though, for how to start your little ones off.
Since I have so much time on my hands now, I’ll share how we handle this with our kids. Because I feel like I should do something useful.
We divide our kids’ chores into two categories: Daily required chores and paid extra chores.
Daily Required Chores:
These chores are general tasks that help keep our home running smoothly day to day. Our kids’ payment here is the blessing of living in our home. Praise hands! The child is in charge of a the same chore for an entire month, and then we rotate them to something different. Here’s what our children are responsible for in our home:
- Clear and wipe the table and chairs after each meal
- Sweep floors after each meal
- Dry and put away dishes from dishwasher
- Hand wash dishes that aren’t dishwasher safe
- Take out trash and recycling
- Clear and wipe kitchen counters after each meal
- Sweep kitchen after each meal
- Wash and dry laundry
- Quickly wipe down each bathroom mirror, sink area, and toilet, including swiping out the toilet bowl with a toilet brush
- Open and close blinds on main floor
- Turn on and off porch light
- Bring in the mail
- Quickly dust mop main living area
- Cooking helper (this is when that child gets to assist me and learn how to cook, eventually taking over some meals entirely)
We give each child a page with detailed instructions for each job when they get their new rotation. This is especially helpful for things like laundry, which can be very confusing.
In addition to the rotations, each child is also responsible to make their own bed each morning, to sort and stain treat their own dirty clothes at the end of the day, and to fold their own laundry each week.
This seems like a lot, and if you have fewer children, you’ll be doing more of these chores than I do. But our children often do 2-3 of these each month depending on how much time each takes, and we’ve found that kids can handle way more than we usually think. With the rotation, they tend not to grumble about their chores, and they’re happier to have something for which they’re responsible. Not to mention great life skills they’re learning.
It’s important to say here that the point is not to have a perfectly clean home. The younger your children, the sloppier the job will be done. Encouragement is so key!! Point out what they did well (“I like how you pulled your covers all the way to the top.”), and then gently work on one thing they can improve (“Next time, let’s work on tucking the sides of your blanket under the mattress.”), and then practice it with them.
Paid Extra Chores:
Each month, we post a Cleaning Checklist the kids get paid for. This is somewhat optional. Some of the chores are our weekly cleaning tasks. We do these one morning a week. The CC (Cleaning Commander, aka Liam) assigns his siblings with tasks, and they work through the assignments until they’re done.
Then four mornings out of the week, the kids set a timer for 30 minutes and choose a bi-weekly, monthly, or seasonal cleaning task. They put their initials by the chore they completed and get paid at the end of the month. The harder they work, the more they get paid. This motivates some kids more than others, but we intentionally give some freedom here so the kids can see that some things in life are simply expected (daily and weekly chores), but sometimes extra work pays off. Our kids can also choose from this list anytime they’d like some extra dough.
The monthly and seasonal tasks never get all the way done, so I sometimes have to take a break from my me-time to pick up the slack here while I grumble about how hard life is. Someday, mini-me’s, this, too, will all be on you and my day will have arrived. [maniacal laugh]
If you’d like to pay your children but are in a tighter time financially, there are other options here. We used to do what we called “Chuck E. Cheese” rewards. The kids would get stars instead of money and then would trade them in for different things. Sometimes they could choose from a box we’d filled with Target’s dollar section finds, but usually the kids would get privileges like screen time, choosing a family activity, getting a chore-free day, or a date with Mom or Dad.
With little ones, there are often small jobs they CAN do on their own, things like turning on the porch light at night. But they can learn harder ones insanely fast, too, especially when they’re immersed in it. For a long time, our littles’ job was simply to be my or an older sibling’s helper. They basically shadow an older sibling and help them by doing things like holding the broom pan while sibling sweeps, handing them dirty clothes to put in the washer, or carrying something into the kitchen to help clear the table. It doesn’t take long before those little ones are ready to take on their own chore, and they love it at that age!
The last comment I’ll make here is to inspect all you expect. The best way it’s seemed for us to train our children in this area is to simply let our kids try each job. We don’t usually give them tons of instruction beforehand, but we do make sure to inspect the jobs they’ve done. It gives them a chance to figure things out on their own, and then we only have to instruct them where they need it. As they have more experience, we raise our expectations and encourage them to rise to it.
Whew! My fingers are going to be sore from all that typing! Time for me to encourage one of my girls to give me a mani and hand massage.