Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Chores = A Clean House (Ha Ha HA)

Yesterday was a disaster. I am pretty sure that my house mirrors what is going on inside me because the messes made--before 8 am--pretty much looked like how I feel (which is to say, my emotions were a wreck).  While there are some things I cannot control, like the messiness of my house in a given minute--at least until the kids are in bed--I can get the kiddos involved with certain tasks.  So, here are the top 5 chores I allow I encourage them to help me with and how I make it easier on all of us (i.e. me).

1. Picking up their toys.  While this might seem easy, it is actually tricky.  This is one area my degree proves useful, child development research agrees that kids cannot process "cleaning their toys," they need specific direction.  Rather than saying, "pick up your toys!" I ask them to find their blocks, cars, or doll parts and put them in the appropriate bins (e.g. the one catch-all bin because I am not that organized).  To make things even more fun, we play educational games.  For example, I ask Emily to find the red block, and Andrew to pick up his green car.  Or we'll count how many toys we can fit in our hands.  Pretty soon, we have picked up all the toys and are laughing because I've made it fun (well...I might be crying but one can easily hide tears with a chuckle) (kidding).

2. Dishes.  Since I seem to be washing dishes every 10 minutes (it's my form of release), I have learned to involve the kiddos in this task in a painless manner by letting them play with bubbles.  Occasionally I might let them load the dishes, but as this generally turns into a fiasco as they alternate between throwing cups, silverware, and plates all over the floor and placing them haphazardly in the dishwasher, I avoid this.  Remember, I said painless.

3. Taking out the trash.  The kids love to put stuff in the trash can.  Emily is generally allowed to do this, but Andrew enjoys taking things out more than putting them in, so he is banned from that task.  However, something we can all agree on, is fresh air.  Our trash day happens to be Wednesday and on that day--if I am prepared and actually remember it is trash day--finds us outside, dragging the trash cans to the curb.  The kids like "pushing" the trash cans and I am just happy I remembered this particular chore before the sound of the garbage truck interrupted my reverie (read: morning coffee/cocoa) and made me run outside in a chaotic fashion wearing any form of clothes (usually on backwards and/or inside out).

4. Folding their laundry.  Okay, let's be real, folding laundry with toddlers is a very messy business.  This is why I have a system of making it less hectic.  I give them a small pile of clothes to fold and put away.  They feel "big" and I am okay with them wrecking the pile over and over again.  Whatever kids, it's a small pile and you are in charge of it (until I finally get my hands on it after bedtime and actually put it away).

5. Wiping up spills. Andrew is very adept at dumping his bowls of cereal and cups of juice (even if it has a lid) all over the table and floor.  Emily is not an innocent party in this, she finds it incredibly interesting to pour out her drinks into other objects and re-pour it into her cup.  As each of these activities--Andrew's and Emily's--lead to some big messes, the kids know to get a rag and clean up their spills.  However, I think knowing this might be an incentive to make the messes; but, whatever, they are learning something.  I think.

Have anything to add to the list?  And you are welcome to steal my ideas, in exchange for free baby-sitting.


  1. Finding chores for preschoolers can take a lot of finesse. My kids always liked gathering the laundry to wash and transferring from washing machine to dryer and from dryer to basket. Washing windows was always a big hit, too. And vacuuming the car after it is cleaned out. They like to mop, but I rarely have the time to go back and dry off the puddles, so I usually discourage it!

  2. privilegeofparentingSeptember 21, 2011 at 3:53 AM

    I've wrestled with this all the way through, trying to turn chaos into order only to have it upended again. Sometimes I just pretend I'm running a nice hotel where the customers don't even tip and I'm just trying not to get a bad Yelp review. Maybe we need someone to give us clear tasks like you give your kids, I just don't know what they would be since "Parent, pay the bills, keep a good attitude, shop, cook, clean, work, be mindful, exercise, be patient, express yourself, connect and have meaning and purpose," has a way of flooding the system and breaking down into chaos and too much info to process simultaneously. Here's to breathing deeply, nothing much works if we're not breathing. Namaste

  3. Now that I have older kids, one of their weekly chore rotations is to be the "Henry Helper" simply because Henry is too little to handle the chores on his own. It works... and it's nice having kids old enough that I can say "clean the bathroom" and they can actually do a semi-decent job. You should link this post to the joyful mothering series today... I love that you've found ways to keep your kids involved, even though preschoolers doing work is most frequently a way to create more work for you!

  4. It's so hard to find chores sometimes because it's easier to do it ourselves!!!

  5. Folding and putting away laundry is my least favorite chore. It would probably do me good to let my kids help with it. Let go of some of the control over what folded "correctly" means and just get the job done. Thanks for the inspiration!

  6. All I can say is that I can relate... I'm trying to dig out from years of mess. And still finding dirty socks everywhere... :(

  7. I have this dilemma at work. There are 5 autisitic men I work with and it is supposed to be their house. We are simply supposed to "assist" them in daily living. Technically, they are supposed to be helping with all the chores but it is really hard to get grown men with the mentality of toddlers to really be able to do anything. I try to have them wash windows. I spray the windows and they kind of wipe the glass for a while. Some will tolerate hand over hand assistance, others will let go as soon as you try to help or after 7 seconds of helping and run off to something else. I then finish the task. I have them collect the laundry, load it, transfer it to dryer, and set the clothes from the dryer on the table. I do the soap, push the right buttons if they can't, and fold. I call them back one at a time and have them carry it to their rooms and set it on their bed, then help them put it in their drawers, if they are able. It's really tricky because most of their goals is to have them engage in a task for longer than 5-10 minutes. So... its really hard to do fun stuff with them, too. Despite it all, I LOVE working with them. In short, I feel your frustration at some level and really love that you are trying to get them involved. It will go a long way when they are older.

  8. I just found your blog via Twitter and @janatude!
    - I have 2 kids (ages 3 and 5) who love to use the dust buster and broom. One sweeps and one "gets the crumbs".
    -We have a 9 mo puppy and I have recruited the kids to help out with the dog from day 1. They feed the dog and (try) to brush him.
    -I also like to have them do chores that are not on my usual to-do list like rearrange cabinets. This week, they cleaned out our baking cabinet, recycled/donated the cookbooks I did not want, got the crumbs and put everything back!

    Yes, many of these chores require a little bit of assistance, but I know we are paving the way to daily chores they can do on their own...
    Great post!

  9. Chores?! Ha indeed! Try getting a 16-year-old in on the Chore thing!
    Amber, you rock, and I love you....

  10. Just think of your toddler helping you with the laundry as practice for perfection later. My daughter did the same messy folding when she was younger. But now at age 5 1/2 she folds her laundry neatly and puts up her own clothes.
    What you are teaching them is awesome!


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