I like to work…in fact, I may even love to work…and always have. I gain an incredible sense of satisfaction from hard work, (which actually falls right in line with the self-reward system I’ve created!) and I attribute this to all those family work days growing up.
Every Saturday we did “chores”, accompanied by whatever music (Beatles mostly) my parents blasted throughout the house. Somehow it made everything more fun–even cleaning that messy, messy room I waded through every day as a teenager. While I’m sure I dreaded it at the time and probably gave my parents some flack, I am wholly grateful now as I try to instill the same sense of satisfaction in my own kids. “Try” being the key word here :)
So on Saturday, as the kids and I cleaned the playroom and rocked out to Santana & the Beach Boys, I was very happy reflecting on this childhood tradition. Watching Farmer Brown (with some help from E.) dance on top of the toy bin to “Soul Sacrifice”, while little brother ran around the room with glee, was absolutely priceless. I think the only way to help children learn to work and gain responsibility is to make it an enjoyable process along the way. The classic line from Snow White, “whistle while you work” comes to mind…
It’s taken me awhile to figure out simple jobs that are appropriate for young children. Basically it’s been a lot of trial and error, but I think I have a few nailed down. I found these small tasks are far less daunting for my little kids to undertake than say ‘cleaning their rooms’. Oh the whining that ensues!
1. tidy up the playroom
Just about every kid knows the “clean up” song…wasn’t it Barney that made it famous? And cleaning one’s toys is at least a weekly occurrence for any child. I once read an ingenious suggestion about making playroom “clean up” time super easy for kids: Using a polaroid or digital camera, take pictures of a sampling of the toys that belong in each bin. Then place the pictures on the appropriate bins indicating what is inside. Not only will your littlest ones understand what goes where, but visiting friends will also know exactly how to help out too. For example, if you have a “doll bin”, take a picture of the doll and one outfit. If you have a “train” bin, take a picture of a few trains and tracks. Keep the pictures simple and uncluttered so the younger children are able to comprehend the idea. The photo I included above shows the same system, but with clothing instead.
2. dust baseboards
Wow, those fluffy, white, feather dusters are loads of fun to play with…I mean dust with…on a rainy day! If you have wood blinds or shutters, allow the taller kids to dust these as well. It’s so easy and truly, they think it’s fun. No joke :)
3. sort laundry
I bought a large, easy-to-carry, laundry bag at IKEA for $5 and I store this next to my kids’ dirty laundry bin. When the small basket is full, the kids can load up the laundry bag and easily tote (or drag) it to the laundry room, where they sort the clothes. They put the “colors” in one bin and the “whites” in another. They get such a kick out of themselves when they successfully discern what goes where.
4. empty the dishwasher
The kids put away the dishes within reach and then I put away breakables and such that are stored in higher places. Often the silverware drawer is a mess (because little people can’t exactly see where silverware is being placed!), but I don’t mind because I think it’s fantastic that they are trying. Building them up along the way and telling them they are doing a great job (versus “fixing” their work) increases their self-confidence and makes them more likely to enjoy contributing in their own way.
In my experience there are many a clever blogger out there so please feel free to share any ideas you may have in the comment section…