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Chores Your Kids Can Totally Do, But Aren't, Because You Won't Let Them

Photograph by Twenty20

I've always said that my goal in raising little humans is to teach them how to do the jobs I've mastered, but am totally over. The job of dishwasher, vacuum-er, laundress, declutter-er … all that jazz. By the time my kids leave this house, they will be able to run their own household—grown up chores and all!

How do I know this?

Well, I don’t know 100 percent. But, right now, day in and day out, I’m training them to be grateful for the dishes we have to wash, the toys we have to pick up and the clothes we have to fold. I’m training them to see what I see. I’m training them to do their very best when given a task. And, to do it with a joyful heart.

This takes a lot from me. Not physically, but mentally. I have to release my personal expectations of a perfect house and be OK with the outcome of their efforts. My kids are capable of so many chores. Sometimes though, I find myself scurrying them off to play out of my path so I can do it “the right way." But when I don’t let my kids do things they can do, or can learn to do, I’m cheating them out of an experience that will serve them later.

That’s exactly why I’ve started giving my kids chores that some might consider above their ability. My theory is, they can grow into those chores. First, with us doing it together, and then, with them eventually striking out solo.

By the time they reach their early teen years, I have full confidence that all four of my children will be competent in laundry, dishes, cleaning and more. They will see the crumbs. They will know what comes next. They will be my teammates and they will be prepared to facilitate the care of their own home when they leave my nest someday.

Right now though, my kids aren’t teens. In fact, they’re quite young and far from heading out on their own. My oldest just turned 8 and my youngest is 1. The other two fall in the middle at almost 3 and 6. Needless to say, with two adults and four children living in our home, the chores are plentiful. And, with my husband’s busy work schedule, most of them fall on me and my crew of trainees.

Kids are capable of so much and, when us moms put a Mary Poppins spin on the work that must be done, it’s easy for our kids to enjoy it.

As much as they are kids and ought to relax and play like the children they are, they also have a lot to learn in the short window of time we have together under one roof. And that is why I dole out chores left and right. Kids are capable of so much and, when us moms put a Mary Poppins spin on the work that must be done, it’s easy for our kids to enjoy it.

Giving them responsibilities and placing value on their effort makes them feel part of something bigger. Tackling “big kid” chores makes them feel grown-up. This is exactly why the chores my kids do might not seem like kid chores, but I promise, they totally manage and I’m so proud of how they contribute to our family.

It’s good for them and it’s good for me. It stretches them. It tests my patience. It also helps me to slow down and really explain the why and the reason behind certain things. Like, this is why when we take our socks off, we don’t leave them scrunched up in a ball. And, do you see how much easier it is to wash dishes when you rinse them right after eating?

My kid’s chore charts are helping them grow and instilling the responsibilities they need to have a handle on to become well-equipped adults. It is never to early to start! Slow and steady, mamas! Here are some chores my four kids are currently helping with or managing solo.

Toddler Chores

  • Helping to pick up toys
  • Helping to unload dishwasher—kids items and silverware
  • Scrubbing the tub/shower with a wet washcloth—more for fun now, but still good practice
  • Clearing dishes from the table

Preschool Chores

  • Picking up and sorting toys into appropriate boxes/baskets
  • Learning to fold towels
  • Weeding
  • Helping to make the bed—smoothing out blankets and arranging stuffed animals
  • Wiping down the table after meals
  • Watering houseplants

Early Elementary Chore

  • Folding and putting away laundry
  • Emptying waste baskets and recycling
  • Vacuuming
  • Picking up and organizing toys
  • Younger sibling care
  • Wiping down bathroom counters (we use a natural cleaner that is safe for kids)
  • Changing bedsheets
  • Wiping down window fingerprints
  • Sweeping
  • Unloading/loading dishwasher
  • Meal prep—the best thing I ever did was purchase a small, plastic paring knife so my kids could be involved in chopping things
  • Unloading the car and putting away groceries

Whew! So much they can do!

Hand over the broom, mamas! Your kids may not sweep as well as you, but that’s not the point.

All of these chores require ongoing lessons. They take guidance and reminders. Don’t think for one minute that I’m relaxing on the couch while they buzz about tackling all our household to dos. But, day by day, I’m seeing their precision and ability grow, especially my 6- and 8-year-olds. They thrive on accomplishing things that I identify as big-kid or grown-up chores. They soak up my praise, which is always based on effort, not a job completed to perfection.

Together, we’re doing the daily work of caring for our home. And together, we’re learning how to take pride in a job well done.

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