Thursday, June 22, 2017

Anchoring Kid's Chores Into Your Day

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Maybe this will sound familiar to you fellow mamas?

You want work to be a daily part of your young children's lives- to teach them a good work ethic, self-discipline, and to help contribute to the family.

So you find an adorable printable chore chart on Pinterest, or buy that sweet Melissa and Doug magnetic one on Amazon. You fill it out and hang it up on the wall. You explain it to the little people.


The next day you are eager to get started! You direct your non-readers, explaining each item to them again, and helping them tackle bed-making or putting away utensils or setting the table for what is perhaps the first time. Because they are so young, it is actually more of a chore chart for you.

Day 2, everyone is a little less excited, but still eager, and you repeat the same experience over again.

Day 3 all enthusiasm is dead, kid's are complaining, and you are wondering if the magical day when your kids are actually helpful around the house will ever come.

Day 4 you decided you are a little too busy and behind schedule to mess with the chore chart this once, but you will get back to it tomorrow....

...and one month later you are staring at a dusty chore chart and wondering what went wrong. Why is it so hard to keep on track?!?

Then two months later, you find another new shiny chore chart promise online, and repeat the process all over again. And on and on, ad nauseaum.

At least this is the experience I've had trying to make chores a regular part of my toddlers and preschoolers lives.

Until recently I'd just figured that chore charts won't work until my kids are reading and way more self-sufficient {which at 5, 3, and 1 feels a looooonnnngg way off, if you know what I mean}.


Sure, teaching hard work and training them in household chores is still important enough that I would try to incorporate it into our days... but it was inconsistent at best, and a real struggle of blood, sweat, and tears at worst.

Until recently.

Don't worry- I don't have a magical, shiny new chore chart with unrealistic promises to offer you.

Because in my experience that has yet to work! Though I'm not giving up on my future older children...

One morning on a whim I decided to have the kids help me unload the dishwasher before we ate breakfast. "No breakfast until it's done!" At first there was some feet dragging, but we sang a song and worked together, and in no time at all we were sitting down to eat. Even more beautiful, it was a cinch to clean breakfast dishes up right away since the dishwasher was empty.

Usually I wait until after breakfast to do this. I intend to have my kids help, but by this stage they are off playing and it is way more difficult rounding them up, back into the kitchen. So I just do it myself.

Then lunch time rolled around. There was a pile of toys on the living room floor, and I asked them to pick it up. Much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Two minutes later, nothing was done, and I said that they could not eat their lunch until they had finished.

"But we are SOOOO HUUUNNNGGRRYYY...."

"Then clean up fast!"

Still nothing.

Finally, "Kids- it is 12:30. We eat lunch during the noon hour. If the clock says one and you haven't put away your toys, it will be too late and lunch will be over for the day." Oh my did this get a big reaction! But much to my delight, the dreaded task was finished in two minutes and the kids were happily seated at the table.

Later that day, a further happy providence occurred when I stumbled onto this article. Stacy at Humorous Homemaking makes her kids do their chores before every meal. Something clicked in my head as I read. I had just happened to try the method that day, before reading the article, and it had worked. I also love the Biblical injunction "if you don't work, you don't eat."

We've been doing this for several weeks now, and it is fantastic!


Before breakfast: the kids make their beds, get dressed, and empty the dishwasher.

Before lunch: they pick up any toys, craft projects, and school work that are left out from the morning.

Before snack: they put away whatever toys and books they played with during their daily quiet time/rest period.

Before dinner: since the before breakfast and lunch routines have been such a success, we've just started having them pick up toys again and set the table.

The daily work is now part of our rhythm. It works! I don't have to think about it. I don't have to nag and beg, because they know it is our routine and they won't eat until they finish. There are no boxes to check, or stickers to apply, or complicated symbols for them to decipher.

Knowing that the kids will plan on emptying the dishwasher first thing every morning is also excellent accountability for me to run it after dinner every night- if I don't take care of my end of the bargain, they can't take care of theirs.

Our kitchen is much cleaner, the house is much more picked up, and my kids are actually helpful. They even load their own dishes into the dishwasher after most meals 😉.

Kind of a dream come true.

How do you handle chores in your home? Do you think this system could work for you?

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