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Monday, May 7, 2018

Making Chores Work: The Realities of Starting Young

I've talked several times before about how I got my daughters started doing chores at a young age. If I'm being honest, I love seeing people's reactions when I tell them my 6-year-old's cook dinner once a week (and have been for years)! I usually get some questions as well, especially from parents of young children who want to know how to get their own kids started helping out around the house.

The truth is, my kids aren't more industrious or talented than other kids. And I'm not a stricter parent. I think the only thing that holds some families back from having young children more involved with household chores is understanding the reality of what that actually looks like as they learn new skills and take on more responsibility. Today I want to highlight some of those realities and hopefully give parents more realistic expectations, and the realization of everything their kids can actually do!

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1. Let them mess up

I'll be the first to say that it is VERY hard for me to do this, but I learned very quickly that if I really want my young kids to help, I need to let them do it their way- and that means letting them mess up. It may mean some broken dishes, inedible meals, or things that are cleaned without actually getting clean, but they have to live with the consequences just as much as you do! Sure, I teach them how to vacuum, how to sweep, how to load the dishwasher, and how to make pancakes. But I also have to remind myself constantly that this is like one big science experience- the more I let them mess up when they're young, the more independence they'll gain and the faster they'll learn how to do it right without getting into a power struggle!

2. Be prepared for it to be more work/ take more time at first

The idea of having kids do chores sounds great in theory. Less work for us, right? Well, in the long run yes, but in the beginning? It is WAY more work. And that can get frustrating. It would have been a lot less work for me if I had just done everything myself when my girls were 3, but by putting in the time and effort then to explain and show and wait for them to do it ten times slower than you and clean up after their mess and then do it all over again, I now have 6 year old's who do actually make my life easier ;) Remember this is a marathon, not a sprint, and it will eventually get easier!

3. Set them up with the right tools

One thing that will make the whole experience a lot easier for you and for the kids is to set them up with the right tools to make it easier for them to do more themselves. These knives are easier for kids to use without cutting themselves, or you can get them these gloves to keep little hands even safer. Plastic dishes like these from IKEA mean you don't have to worry about broken dishes. Stick vacuums are much easier for kids to push around. Keep things they'll need in accessible cabinets so they don't have to ask you to get everything for them.

4. Give them as much input as possible

The more initiative and agency they have in the process, the less it will feel like they're doing something for you and more like they're contributing to the household. If they're cooking, let them choose the menu. If they're cleaning, let them decide when/ which room to clean, or let them pick out their own dustpan in their favorite color from the store. If they're setting the table, let them pick out the dishes. If they're making their bed, let them choose their own bedding.

I hope this encourages you to give your children a chance to contribute more around the house! If you want to read more about how I do chores, here are a few previous posts to get you started:

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