I’ll never forget my friend Priscilla’s sage advice. She explained the importance of chores to her children (and to me). It went something like this…
In today’s modern world, life is pretty easy. We don’t have acres of farmland to care for. We don’t have large animals to herd or feed. We don’t have to grow and harvest our own food until our hands are sore.
Farm life is beautiful in books but in real life it’s back-breaking work that makes every muscle tired. In our suburban home, we can be grateful that other people work the land so we can have easy access to food.
But of course we still have work to do to take care of our family. The floor in our house and the grounds in our yards may not produce food but they do produce comfort and shelter. A tidy home is the perfect place to recharge and prepare for the work done outside the home (like learning in school).
So we vacuum the rug, sweep the floor and rake the leaves. If we have a garden, we care for it and pick some food but we will also buy food at the market and wash it and put it in the right place for us to enjoy when we are ready. We will chop and cook and clean up our meals just like they do on the farm. Instead of caring for livestock, we care for our pets, our tables, our sofas, our toys, our beds.
Think of our house as our farm. If everybody does a little bit every day, we will always have a comfortable home.
Here are my tips for involving preschoolers in chores:
1. Model an attitude of gratitude. Kids are watching you to know if chores are negative. While you don’t have to be fake and act like chores are positive, you can shoot for neutral. This is just what we do to care for our belonging. The language we choose matters too. Practice saying, “I GET to wash these dishes” rather than “I HAVE to wash these dishes.” Your attitude will be contagious.
2. Assign Age Appropriate Chores. And by assign, I mean do along side your child until they get comfortable about the chore. Here’s one list to get you started. Got any to add?
- Clear their plate from the table to the kitchen
- Bring out snack plates (if stored within reach)
- Put dirty laundry in the hamper/washer
- Put toys in the toy box
- Put books on the bookshelf
- Help feed the family pet
- Fold kitchen towels and washcloths
- Throw diapers into trash
- Brush the pet (if gentle)
- Fetch diapers and wipes
- Unload the dishwasher of kid dishes & tupperware
- Dress themselves
- Restock toilet paper to the bathrooms
- Pour glass of water from small jug
- Scoop cereal into a bowl
- Wipe spills with a towel
- Drink from a glass
- Turn off light switch
- Pack and carry backpack
- Fetch products in grocery store
- Put leash on dog
- Help set the table
- Make their bed
- Scrub veggies
- Feed pets
- Match clean socks
- Make salad
- Replace the toilet role
- Put away toys
- Prepare simple snacks
- Use hand held vacuum
- Disinfect door knobs
- Hang wet clothes/towels to dry
- Brush teeth
- Put away folded laundry
- Dump inside waste baskets into bag (held by an adult)
- Water plants/the garden
- Help put away groceries
- Put non-breakable (and not sharp) items in the dishwasher
- Switch laundry from the washer to dryer
- Help clear the dinner table
- Pack up their backpack for school
- Sort silverware
- Sweep floors
3. Simplify your Home & Schedule. It’s so hard to keep a home tidy when there is too much stuff in it. Same goes for the kids room. Children don’t need more than 3-5 toys available to them at once. So start a toy library where you store most of the toys in an opaque (not see-through) box. You will notice when the toys in their room begin to be less played with and that's when you rotate.
4. Keep it Light. Celebrate Effort! Young kids love language is play. That doesn’t end when they start working. A great book on how to talk to (and motivate kids) is How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen by Joanna Faber.
5. Any chore worth doing is worth teaching. Sometimes we forget that kids don’t naturally know how to do the things we are asking of them. One smart momma created a system where her children work to get certified in each household chore. You have to watch the video of her son learning to clean the sink and getting his job certification.
Want some help teaching kids how to use a knife in the kitchen? Check out this awesome class.
Need some inspiration for staying consistent with your preschoolers chores? Check out this days of the week color wheel that you can download, color with your child and use to set a chore for each day. Like they did on Little House on the Prairie. Green day has to be gardening day, right?
If you need help in the chore department, please contact me to set up a complimentary coaching call. You can do this!