Saturday, October 31, 2009

Putting Kids to Work

This whole concept was birthed a few years ago when I found myself very run down, out of energy, unhealthy and sick with shingles. The nutritionist I was seeing suggested that I was not the only one living in the house therefore I could expect a little more of my children. At the time they were 5, 4 and 3 years of age. I am a naturally untidy person, (I could do with a whole lot more personal discipline in that area), but I was working hard at keeping a tidy house along with a multitude of other tasks I included in my very full life. I also realized I wasn’t my mother, perfection isn’t my thing but I do like to be able to walk around without tripping over toys.

I started with their toys and the bath room. Children can learn from a very young age that what they play with is their responsibility to pick up.

Rules we introduced…
1. If you play with it you put it away
2. Hang your own towels and if you can’t make it stay ask for help
3. Pack up bath toys and pull the plug

Stage 2…
Then we began to home school, which meant the kids were at home everyday, giving them more playtime which lead to more mess. I started to pick up toys if they were in the way a placed them on one designated chair.

In addition to the rules above we added…
1. Your room is your responsibility (which we have to be a little lenient on when two share and one takes after her mum!)
2. We start school at 8am so before we start – make bed, brush teeth, tidy room, do morning job and brush hair. (So the hair doesn’t always get done but we are working on it!)
3. Put away your things from the designated chair or will we give them away.
4. I made a roster where each child does one morning job twice a week sweep, wipe the table, and unpack dishwasher.

Stage 3…
Our second year into home schooling and I began to study, the kids’ dad was working long hours so I thought we could introduce an afternoon job.

Now the kids include these jobs once a week …
1. Tidy outside. (pickup up rubbish and putting toys away)
2. Clean pool (scoop out leaves and tidy pool toys)
3. Vacuum lounge and bedroom
4. Cook dinner (my 9 year old is learning – the 7 & 6 year olds help when they feel like it)
5. Tidy and vacuum car
6. Tidy and sweep around their desk
7. Put your clothes away (I leave their clean, folded clothes on the table)

Stage 4…
Just recently I started hearing my voice ‘Do this, pickup that, fix this’. Our rule 3 years ago of ‘if you play with it you put it away’, has almost become obsolete as they all play together and we now have a 2 year old in the mix. Our roster system has worked very well so I added to it.

Each child is now expected to include twice a week…
1. Tidy Lounge room
2. Tidy Rumpus room
3. Tidy toys

Stage 5…
This week I thought I would step it up another level. When I left home I’d never cleaned a toilet or bathroom – I’d never been shown how and although I’d watched I’d never actually done it.

Included on my 9 year old’s roster once a week is…
1. Clean the bathroom and toilet

Included on my 7 year old’s roster once a week is…
3. Clean the bathroom

Over the past three years I believe more and more in the importance to train our children in some of the basics. Several months ago I began teaching my 9 year old son to cook and this week I took the time to show the two eldest how to clean the bathroom and toilet. I expect as they get older I will continue adding more responsibility.

If we are out or they are tired I am pretty flexible, maybe even a little soft. What I like about this system is that all I say is, ‘Have you done your jobs?’ I like it when there’s less of my nagging voice and more of them taking responsibility.

Does this mean our house is a show room? Definitely not! Do I still have to do the house work? Yes, I do at times do the above jobs when they need a little extra care.

Please leave a comment on how you introduce responsibilities around the house with your children. What jobs you think are appropriate for each age group. We all learn so much from each other, and there is so much to learn.


  1. We just got sick of the mess and with our move to Australia, introduced the concept of formal chores. (We've always asked them to care for their room and toys, they were just not great at it)
    Besides those things, we are working on making them responsible for the dishes. Here, with no dish washer, it's a trial by fire. My Husband, who's the dish boy, runs the process, for now doing the bigger part, 9 and 7 year olds take turns washing and drying and the 5 year old puts dishes away with help.
    We pay them allowance- a small sum for each thing completed during the week, including school and self care, and that seems to work, especially when a new toy is beconing from the toystore shelf. The keep tally themselves, present their chore sheet and get paid.
    It's been working in this house that doesn't contain the massive toy stash. I'm very nervous about what will happen when we return to ClutterHouse in Pittsburgh.
    (BTW massive de-cluttering is going to happen when we get back. I'm still working on how they will participate, since more will need to go than they will ever voluntarily part with)

  2. I hate having to say this but..."Back in my day we were simply expected to do certain things"...goodness that made me feel OLD!!!

    I grew up on a farm and our parents had certain expectations of us. You were NOT excluded from chores because of your age, your chores were simply modified to suit your age. My sister at 3 was expected to go from room to room and pick up clothes from the floors and place them in the baskets for laundry, as were all of us when we were that age. Since we didn't have running water in the winter, we were all expected to help out by hauling in water from the manual pump for laundry, bathing, dishes, drinking, cooking, etc. Even the youngest had a small pail to haul when it came time to fill the barrel.

    Harvest and seeding were no different, and everyone had certain animals they were required to feed all year long - I loved feeding the cows, but hated feeding the geese (they are mean critters!!!).

    Today, my son moans and groans and you would think I was in the process of chopping off his left foot when I ask him to pick up his dirty clothes on laundry days. And pick up toys? Even his father and grandmother step in and says "But he's too young to be expected to do so much!"

    Hey, I wasn't the one playing with the mega blox pirate ships...all FIVE of them!

    Chores are part of being a family. And this family is going to start working together.

    So if you hear crying and moaning and groaning, it is likely coming from central Canada - from Hubby and Little Man...

  3. Yes, yes, yes! Chores are win-win. Great for our home (stays neater). Great for me (not crabby). Great for kids (not crabbed at). Great for society (not falling deeper into mediocrity). I started having my son unload the dishwasher and both boys know how to put laundry away in their bedrooms. They feed the cat and do a daily toy pickup. It is a huge timesaver for me and gives them a sense of accomplishment... thanks for the post!

  4. I've referenced this post in my blog. Thanks. xx


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