Showing posts with label Chores for Kids. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chores for Kids. Show all posts

Jul 10, 2013

Teaching Kids Not to Covet

Coveting, or wanting what others have, is a huge problem in our society. It's what fuels occupy protestors. It's behind the cry for higher taxes. It's the basis of most television commercials. 

I think we all fall into the trap of coveting at least once in a while. Have you ever thoughtL "I wish my husband helped with the kids like her's does" or "It must be great to have a husband who helps with the housework. Wish mine did." Oops. That's coveting. And how many times have I heard other mothers say things like, "I wish we were able to take a yearly vacation like the Smith family." Or, given the right tone of voice, "It must be nice to have a grandma who watches the kids for you once a week." Oops again; that's coveting.

But as mothers, we are concerned not just with our personal sin, but about modeling correct thinking and behavior for our children. I feel pretty certain none of us wants our kids to grow up thinking everything should be given to them, or that if they want something somebody else has to get it for them. But with coveting being such a major feeling these days, how can we prevent them from growing up this way?

* Model good work ethic. 

* Avoid speaking covetous thoughts aloud. But if you slip, by all means, let your kids hear you ask God for forgiveness. You might also use such an occasion as a way to start a conversation about what coveting is and how the Ten Commandments show us it's wrong.

* Give your kids chores to do - no matter their age. Even toddlers can learn to work to make the home run more smoothly. (For ideas for age-appropriate chores, click here.)

* Let your kids work for stuff. For example, if your daughter really wants a new toy, suggest that she earn money to buy it herself. Not only does this help improve a child's work ethic, but it helps her learn not to be wasteful by not taking proper care of things. (And no, she doesn't have to go get a job at a local business, or even with a neighbor. It's just fine to give her extra chores around the house and then pay her for them.)

* Encourage your children to give to those in need. Help them to see that it's their personal responsibility to help the needy.

* Volunteer at a shelter or travel to a third world country (even if only via the Internet). Help your kids see how much they truly have.

* Encourage thankfulness. Every day, have your child thank God for at least one thing. Once in a while, have each child write (in words or pictures) things they are thankful for. When times are tough for your child and he is struggling with covetness, ask him to name a few things he is especially grateful for.

* Read 1 Kings 21. In this story, a king's covetness leads to murder. It's an extreme example, but see if you and your child can think of other stories where jealousy and covetness lead to bad things.

* Help your child think things through. If she is upset because she doesn't have the latest video game, ask, "If you had it, would you really be any happier? What if your friend got 10 new games - would you still feel as happy?" Encourage your child to come to the conclusion that things you can't buy are what truly make us happy.


"A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed." Proverbs 11:25

"No matter how much you want, laziness won’t help a bit, but hard work will reward you with more than enough." Proverbs 13:4

"You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” Exodus 20:17

"...make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody." I Thessalonians 4:11-12

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters..." Colossians 3:23

" For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” II Thessalonians 3:10 

"Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." 1 Timothy 5:8 

"[Let them do] something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need." Ephesians 4:28

May 2, 2012

Another Reason to do Chores with Kids

I've written a number of posts about why giving children chores is important. But this spring, as I push myself to spring clean (as well as do "fun work" like making dandelion jelly), I'm reminded that working with our children isn't just about teaching them life skills. It's also about being with them and leading them closer to God.

Sure, it takes longer to include the children in my chores. And some days I just don't have the patience. But whenever I exclude them, they loose out - and so do I. Because spending time working with my kids offers untold possibilities.

I get to hear their jokes that make me laugh not because they are actually funny, but because they make no sense. I suddenly notice how my three year old is starting to express himself more - and that he has a wicked sense of humor. I get a chance to discuss everything from why the sky is blue to how worms are good for the garden with my six year old. In short, I get to know them as people far better when we work side by side.

I also try to seize these times to discuss spiritual matters. These are not forced conversations; they fit in with whatever we are doing. For example, if we are picking dandelion flowers together in order to make tea or cookies, we talk about the amazing plants God put on this earth - to beautify our surroundings, to clean the air, to heal us, and to feed us. If we bump into some bugs while picking the dandelions, we talk about how God created these bugs for a purpose - which segues nicely into a conversation about the purpose God gave us here on earth.

If we're vacuuming and moping, we can talk about what it would be like if we never did those things - or we can discuss germs: Why did God make them?

If we're doing a chore somebody (or everybody) doesn't like, we can talk about why we need to do them, and how the Bible tells us to do everything as if we were working for the Lord. (Col. 3:23)

And that, my friends, is what it comes down to for we mothers. Our work of mothering and homemaking must be done as if we were working for the Lord. Because we are. We have precious souls God entrusted to us to help shape. One vital way we can accomplish this is to work alongside our children and point them toward God.


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Mar 23, 2012

Age Appropriate Chores for Kids

Those who are familiar with this blog probably know I'm a big believer in having kids do chores.* Yet even so, I often forget to reconsider what chores I should give to the kids. Children grow and mature rapidly. As parents, we must remember this, offering new chores to challenge our kids and give them more responsibility.

Today, I marked my calendar with a large star every other month. That star is there to remind me to consider whether or not my children should be doing more - or more complicated - chores.

Not only is this best for them (kids love hearing, "You're getting so big! I think you're big enough to..."), but it's good for me, too! Letting the children be responsible for a few additional chores really lightens my burden - which makes the whole family happier.

To help you decide what your child might be capable of doing, consider these ideas:

Toddlers:
* Pick up small amounts of toys
* Put books away
* Sort the socks out of the laundry
* Wash their own hands and face
* Brush their teeth (a parent should brush them afterward, too)
* Put dirty clothes into the hamper
* Wipe up their own spills
* Help make bed
* Straighten throw pillows
* Bring his or her own dirty dishes to the kitchen counter
Link
Preschoolers/Kindergarteners:
* All of the above (except they should be able to pick up more toys)
* Dust
* Set the table
* Help put away groceries
* Help clean windows and mirrors
* Feed pet
* Vacuum and mop
* Get dressed with little or no assistance

6 to 8:
* All of the above, except he or she should be able to dress without any assistance (with the exception of zippers and buttons in the back, and perhaps shoe strings)
* Tidy his or her own room
* Put his or her own laundry away (after it's been folded by parent)
* Sort all the laundry
* Wipe down the sink and counters
* Put utensils and dishes in the dish washer
* Put utensils and dishes away
* Help prepare food
* Make simple foods (like a peanut butter sandwich) on his or her own
* Take out smaller trash bags
* Put laundry in the washer
* By 8, fold and put away laundry

9 -12:
* Do the dishes
* Clean the bathroom
* Do their own laundry
* Get up on his or her own, using an alarm clock
* Make bed without assistance

13 and up:
* Clean the refrigerator
* Make meals alone
* Create grocery lists
* Clean any room in the house

This is the age when most kids should finish learning how to take care of a home. By the time they are 18, your child should have the skills to start running his or her own household.


* Here's why: It gives them a sense of accomplishment and belonging, helps with self esteem, lets them learn life skills, teaches them responsibility, and helps them learn a biblical sense of servanthood.

Jun 29, 2011

Learning Servanthood

As I think about the most important things I can help my children learn, right near the top - just under learning to love and obey God - is servanthood. Servanthood isn't easy to learn in a world that's increasingly self-centered, but I'm working hard to make serving others a priority in our home - because, without a true heart for servanthood, we can never serve God.

"Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many." Mark 10:42-45

"After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, 'Do you understand what I was doing? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them." John 13:12-17

But just how can we help our children learn this important lesson? Here are some ideas:

* Read stories of Jesus' servanthood. Point out that his mission here on earth was to be the ultimate servant - sacrificing himself for others.

* Be a servant yourself. If you grumble while doing for others, your kids will learn to grumble while serving others, too. So next time you're tempted to grump because (for example) your child wants something from you when you're busy doing something else, bite your tongue.

* Whenever you help friends, family, or strangers, say "Off we go to be God's hands!" Young children will enjoy tracing their hands on paper, cutting the shapes out, and decorating them as a reminder. Ask your children to think about times they've seen God's hands when others served them.

* Encourage your children to think about how others feel. Empathy is an important step toward true servant-hood.

* Encourage a good work ethic in your children. When we're lazy, we don't want to lift a hand to help others. Make sure each child has a list of family chores they must accomplish each day.

* Be sure your kids understand where money comes from: God. Then give (or make) each child a piggy bank that makes visualizing money for charity easier. When your children are moved by images of a disaster or people living in poverty, encourage them to give. There's also no reason they shouldn't give in church.

* Be an example of discerning servanthood. Is it better to give the man begging on the street cash or food? Read more on this topic over at Focus on the Family.

* Teach your kids to pray for others. Finger prayers are a good way for young children to learn this (more info here), or teach your children to pray through the alphabet. (For each letter, the child thinks of a person's name starting with that letter, and prays for that person's needs as specifically as possible.)

How do you help your children learn a love for serving others?

Jun 15, 2011

Time for a Cleaning Vacation

Is your house out of control? Clutter, dirty floors, too-small clothes and too many toys? Just not enough of you to go around and housekeeping keeps getting put at the bottom of the list? I think it happens to most moms at some point. That's when I know it's time for a cleaning vacation. No, not a vacation from cleaning, but a vacation from other stuff in order to clean.

So I've decided that once school is officially over, I'm taking a one week cleaning vacation. I will do no work (for pay), but will focus on decluttering and deep cleaning the house. Even though I could really use a week off just to rest, I'm looking forward to getting my house under better control. Here's my plan:

* Get the kids onboard. I'm already prepping their minds for this week of cleaning. I'm encouraging them to be my helpers, getting them thinking about other children who could benefit from some of their books, toys, and clothes, and generally preparing them for a week of work. I'm also making a list of age-appropriate chores my kids can do - including some "make work" so I can get "real work" done.

* Use kid propaganda. To get my kids (2 and 5) in the proper mindset, we are reading fun books about cleaning up. Their favorite is Too Many Toys by David Shannon, which is a funny way to approach decluttering and getting rid of toys. Their second and third favorites are The Berenstain Bears and the Messy Room (about reorganizing to make clean up easier) and The Berenstain Bears Think of Those in Need (about decluttering and giving away to those who could use it).

* Prepare meals ahead of time, if possible. My goal is to have a week's worth of breakfasts (pancakes and waffles) and dinners in the freezer. (Our lunches usually whip together very quickly.) This will mean more time can be spent cleaning, instead of cooking.

* Pray about it. To some, the thought of praying about housework seems ridiculous. But the Bible tells us God cares about the details of our lives - and he certainly cares if those details are stressful or difficult for us. So pray take a week to pray about your cleaning vacation before it happens. If there are parts of it (like giving stuff away) that might be stressful for your children, be sure to have group prayers, too.

* Keep a (realistic) basic schedule and stick to it. For each day, I have a certain portion of the house I will work on. I'm trying to be realistic about this by allowing more time than I think is necessary for each room. My list is already posted on the fridge.

* Work the worst rooms first. This way, if I run out of time or steam, at least I've gotten the worst of it cleaned up.

* Declutter first. Once this happens, it's much easier to clean.

* At the end of the week, haul off anything we don't want or need anymore. It's tempting to set it aside to sell, but that would take time I simply don't have. Instead, I will give what I can to a favorite charity organization.

How you do manage to deep clean with little children in the house?

May 9, 2011

Caring for Others is a Habit to Start Now

Modern society is full of people for whom serving others is, at best, an after thought. Yet as Christians, we are told that serving others is akin to serving God. (See for example Mark 9:35, John 13:12 - 14, Mark 10:44 - 45, and Matt. 23:11.) So how can we raise our children so they naturally think to serve others first?

I've been pondering this a lot lately, and thinking about how earlier generations accomplished this goal. Certainly, we should discuss servitude with children from the time they are toddlers. We can also help kids focus on being helpers by reading appropriate books to them - the Bible, in addition to storybooks focusing on the care of others. And seeing Mom and Dad being servants - and not just to their children - is vital.

But there's one important area I think a lot of parents overlook: Getting kids started with Christian servitude through family chores.

I've talked about the importance of chores for kids before, but until recently I never connected chores to the issue of godliness. Yet if we start giving children chores when they are very young and really want to help, they start learning from that tender age the importance and joy of helping and serving others. That lesson will stick with them.

So remember this the next time your child begs to help. Whenever the chore is something he or she can do without the probability of getting hurt, resist the urge to say "no," thereby discouraging him from serving others. Instead, take a few moments to teach them how to do the chore. By doing so, you may bring your child a few steps closer to living a godly life.

Nov 11, 2010

Delegating this Holiday Season

If you're like me, you're already beginning to feel the pressure of Thanksgiving and Christmas "must do's." In addition to trying to pare our holiday "musts" to a more manageable size, this season I'm going to start to delegating to my kids more.

Not only does giving your children more tasks lower your stress level, but it does kids so much good! Kids need to feel they're an important part of the household. Chores are the best way for them to develop this sense. Plus, chores teach them helpfulness and charity - as well as give them important life skills.

"But they won't get it done right!" some of you are thinking. If this is what keeps you from giving your kids more responsibility around the house, it's time to prioritize. Sure, a kindergartener isn't going to do a perfect job sweeping the kitchen. But the job will be good enough - if you patiently teach her the right way to do it (and never do her work over because "it's not right"). By letting go of your own perfectionism, you'll allow your children to grow and thrive in your home.

It's a win-win situation. Your children gain experience, a Christian attitude, and a sense of belonging, and you'll feel more rested and less stressed this season - which helps everyone focus more on the meaning of the holidays.







Sep 22, 2010

Labels: Making Toy Pick Up Easier

I'm forever looking for ways to teach my children to be more organized and less messy than I am. So today I made labels for all our toy bins.

This may seem obvious to those of you who are not messies. But me? I never label anything.

What inspired me to label the toys is that my mom has been watching my toddler once a week for me, when I take my kindergartener to her charter school. One day I came home and discovered she'd picked up all the toys that were scattered about the floor. How nice! Then I realized the toys were all jumbled together.

You see, despite my messy tendencies, I do have the toys somewhat organized. The wood blocks all go in one bin, the Little People stuff in another, the dinosaurs in another, and so on. But, not knowing my system, my mom lumped everything together. This made it much more difficult for my kids to find the toys they wanted.

But the labels I made aren't just for my mom. I think they're going to help my kids, too. Whenever it's toy pick up time, my kindergartener constantly asks: "Where should I put this?" and "Where does this go?" Yes, she should know by now. But with labels, she no longer has an excuse to pester me.

To make my labels, I simply opened a Word document and typed the contents of the bin: "Animals," "Cars & Trucks," "Train Stuff,""Puppets," etc. I used bold type and a large font. Then I used Google's image search to find appropriate images to go with the labels. (For example, I searched for "dinosaur clip art.") I downloaded one or two images per label, and inserted them below the text I'd just typed. Then I printed the Word document, cut out the labels, and used packing tape to adhere them to our toy bins.

A low tech way to do this is to print and draw labels on plain paper. Or, if you want to be more fancy, you could purchase plain sticky labels or label paper in the office supply store.

The important thing is to include on every label not just the printed name of the toys - but also a picture of the type of toy. This way, at a glance, your kids know which toys go where, making toy pick-up as easy as possible.



Aug 26, 2010

Canning with Kids

Canning season is in high gear right now, and if your kids are anything like mine, they are intrigued. My 5 year old is constantly begging to help me, and even my 22 month old is eager to handle my canning gear.

Not every project is suitable for kids, especially young ones. There's a lot of boiling hot water involved, after all. But here are a few ideas for getting kids as young as preschool age involved in canning:

* Invest in an apple peeler/corer. They aren't expensive, they save a ton of time, and kids love using them. Children as young as 3 can crank the handle if you put the apple in place first. Once apples are peeled and cored, can applesauce, apple butter, or apple slices suitable for pies and cobblers.

* Let kids snap green beans before you can them.

* Children love to squish things, so let them mash the berries for jam.

* Beginning at about age 4 or 5, give children a plastic knife and let them cut some foods for canning.

* When the kids aren't in the kitchen, pre-measure all the ingredients for salsa or soup, then let your children dump the ingredients in a cool pan. Older kids can do the measuring themselves, but be sure to supervise. Altering the amount of any ingredient can lead to canned food that spoils.

* Let children pit cherries before canning. (Just double check their work, or someone might chip a tooth later!)

* Kids with an artistic bent will love making labels for home canned food. Purchase sticky-backed paper at an office supply store for this purpose.

Only you know when your child is ready to be more involved in the canning process. I'd say 6th graders are ready to start working on the stove - but do bear in mind your child's individual maturity level and ability to focus on tasks. At this age, most kids can stir a hot pot on the stove (as when making applesauce or jam), but do make sure they understand the safety rules before they begin. Then give the child a long handled spoon for stirring, as well as a good oven mitt for the stirring hand. A quilted apron is also a great idea, and if your child needs a stepping stool, make sure its sturdy.

The business of putting hot jars in the canner and removing jars from the canner after processing is best left to tweens and teens.




Apr 30, 2010

Kids and Good Work Ethic

Lately at my house, I've heard a lot of "But that's too much work for me," "But cleaning up is boring," "But work is too hard," and similar phrases - all from my 4 year old. This has come as a surprise to me, since having my kids do chores even at a young age is a big part of our lives. Then I heard myself say, "I'd like to come play with you, honey. But unfortunately, I have to work."

Ooops.

So, whether you need to adjust your work ethic, or you need to adjust your kids' too, here are some thoughts to ponder:

* Paul tells us those who work too little not only become idle, they are more apt to sin (I Timothy 5:13). On the other hand, the Bible is quite clear that working too much is a bad thing (Proverbs 23:4). Balance is what it's all about.

* God designed work not just for our own independence and freedom, but so we can help others. (Ephesians 4:28) In other words, by working hard, we can serve other people - thereby serving God.

* God wants us to find satisfaction in our work (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13). Which is much easier to do if you remember my next point...

* Whether we particularly like our work or not, the Bible tells us "Whatever you do, work heartily as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward You are serving the Lord Christ." (Colossians 3:23 - 24) That kind of says it all. Don't rush, don't skimp. Do your best.

So here's my plan. I'm going to make a concerted effort to only speak of my work in positive ways. I'm going to approach my work as if it's a privilege and a great opportunity... Because it is! Whether I'm writing an article to inspire others to seek God or I'm scrubbing the toilet, the God says my work is good. My work is powerful. My work is holy.

How's that for a message to pass on to your children?

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Apr 8, 2010

Keeping Sane While Cooking with Kids

I think most moms realize it's good for kids to help in the kitchen. Not only does it teach children about wholesome food and nutrition, but it teaches math skills in a fun way - and helps them learn a skill that will serve them well their whole lives. But if you've ever tried cooking with your kids, you know it can be a hair pulling experience

My 4 year old absolutely loves to help in the kitchen, but she wants to do
everything herself. She's already burned herself once (so at least now she knows - deep down knows - that when mommy says "Hot!" she stops and backs away.) But there are still plenty of kitchen chores I need to do myself if I want to create an edible meal. Sometimes I want to banish her to her room until I'm done. Instead, I've learned a few tricks for making cooking with my daughter a more pleasant experience:

* Give your child
a few of her own tools. Let's face it; for a lot of kids, just pretending to cook is as neat as actually cooking. My daughter loves having her own apron and recently I purchased a rolling pin just for her. (Mine was too heavy and big for her to use.)

*
Use a sturdy stepping stool. Standing on chairs just isn't safe and sitting on the counter is awkward. A good stepping stool with a rail you can put behind your child is a real must.

*
Don't let your child cook on the stove until he is truly ready. Some kids won't be responsible enough for this chore until they are teens; most experts suggest waiting until at least age 10. And when you do finally let your child use the stove (or add or remove things from the oven), give him a heavy, quilted apron, a good oven mitt, and a long handled spoon for stirring.

*
Avoid teaching your child new cooking techniques when you're in a rush or trying a new recipe. Keep the stress level low by choosing periods when you have more time to focus on "kid cooking."

*
Keep kitchen chores age appropriate. Kids don't like it when you end up doing most of the work. Besides, it frustrates you and slows the cooking process to a crawl.

*
Although most parenting magazines suggest letting toddlers and preschoolers to stir in the kitchen, the stirring motion isn't especially easy for young kids and if there's much in the bowl, it may take more strength than they have. So make it easier for them, keep your sanity, and help them learn, by giving your child her own mixing bowl and with just a little bit of the ingredients inside it.

* Let 'em wash. Most preschoolers can learn to thoroughly wash veggies. If you have a salad spinner, this tool will keep kids even toddlers happy.

* Let' 'em throw it away. Young children like to throw things in the trash (or kitchen composter). Again, it's an easy job that makes them feel useful.

* Let 'em grab it. Young children can usually grab items from the fridge or cupboards - which keeps them busy while you attend to tasks (like chopping) they can't yet do.

* When you finally allow your child to do some cutting, start them off with a plastic serrated knife. Leave the real knives for teens.

* Give 'em their own dough. Remember how Ma, in Little House in the Big Woods, gives Laura and Mary their own bits of dough to make their own funny cookies? What a smart woman! Whenever you make pie or pizza crust, bread, or cookies, give your child a small piece of the dough and let them get creative.

* For children really too young to cook, give them a drawer in the kitchen filled with safe tools like plastic stacking cups, a wooden spoon, and a small pot you don't mind letting her bang. You can keep preschoolers on up busy by having him set the table or make butter. Toddlers on up can "wash" plastic bowls in the sink or sit on the floor with a colander and try to stick spaghetti through the holes.

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Jan 29, 2010

The Toy Pick Up Miracle

I can't tell you exactly how many times I've Googled "toy pickup tips," but I'm guessing it's between one thousand and one million times. It seemed no matter what I tried, nothing worked - at least not more than a few times.

I thought I was doing all the right things. I started teaching my daughter to pick up her toys when she was a toddler and I had her toys organized according to type, each bin, basket, or drawer labeled with a picture of what should go inside. But it still seemed I was constantly tripping over toys. My husband, not usually one to complain about a messy house, started complaining, too.

I tried using a timer. "Honey, I'm setting this timer for five minutes. Let's see how many toys we can pick up before the timer rings." My daughter still dawdled and had barely picked up anything in five minutes' time.

I tried making it a game. For example, "Miss, let's see how many red toys you can find and put in the toy bin." She always ended up getting distracted by a certain toy, sitting down to play with it instead of picking up.

I tried helping her with pick up. I tried making her do it all herself. I even resorted to "The Pickup Fairy." I told her, "The pick up fairy is visiting tonight, and she'll check to see if all your toys are put away. If they aren't, she'll take them away." This worked initially, but I felt so guilty about lying to my daughter, I stopped using this technique (even after a friend said, "It's not a lie. You are the pickup fairy.").

I found a cute pick up song online and played it. "Let's see if we can get all the toys picked up before the song ends." This worked for a few weeks, then my daughter began to scream, "No, not the pickup song!" and every pickup session became a battle again.

Soon I found myself yelling at my preschooler, nagging, threatening, cajoling. Ugh. That's not the kind of mom I want to be.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, so one day I said, "Miss, I'm going to turn on the pickup song. When it's over, any toys you haven't put away in the living room are going to be mine. I'll put them in a bag and keep them for a week." My daughter didn't much like this idea. She kept trying to turn off the song, even when I told her if she succeeded, I would take all the toys. I stayed passive - almost nonchalant - through this, keeping myself busy with a chore of my own, and soon she was putting toys away as fast as she could.

When the song was over, I silently picked up toys off the floor and put them in a bag. She screamed and tried to take some toys back, but I quickly herded them into my bedroom.

"Okay, honey," I said, "now it's time to pick up the toys in the kitchen. Remember, when the song is over if there are any toys not put away, they are mine for a week." She protested and said, "Play that song all day, Mommy!" but this time she moved quickly, putting away her favorite toys first, and finally finishing long before the song was over.

"I knew you could do it!" I said, giving her a big hug. She was very proud. And I was a whole lot less stressed.

What I learned from this experiment is that if you truly expect something age-appropriate from your kids, they will live up to your expectations.

There's a bonus to this method, too. If you pay attention, you'll see that favorite toys get put away first - which gives you plenty of ideas on toys that can be donated to charity.

How do you manage toy pickup at your house?

UPDATE 08/15/11: For all you exasperated moms out there, please note: While this method worked really well for several months, it then made our lives more exasperating. My daughter now cries and begs when I even mention picking up toys. In fact, she's so busy doing this, she doesn't pick up any toys at all. Toy pick up time is dramatic and awful at our house. Any tips??

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Jan 22, 2010

A Child's Self Worth

Do you remember what it felt like to try to climb into and sit in an adult's chair? To constantly be standing on your tip-toes trying to reach things? To be unable to do almost anything for yourself? If you have young children, one of the most loving things you can do for them is to make it possible for them to do whatever they can by themselves. This not only lowers your child's frustration level, but it also teaches her life skills and builds up her feelings of competency and self worth.

In my house, we have a number of child-sized chairs, a child-sized table (for doing puzzles, art work, and such), and three easy-to-access stepping stools. Just this weekend, I finally found a suitable coat hook for my preschooler. (It was in the craft section of Wal-mart.) Now, instead of having to wait for me to take her coat from her so I can hang it up (which usually resulted in her tossing the coat on the floor), she can hang up her own coat, hat, book bag, and scarf. She's thrilled, and I've saved myself a little work, too.

I admit that sometimes I fall into the trap of doing things for my children because it seems similier or less messy to do so, but I try to evaluate my children's skills from time to time and think of new ways they can do for themselves. For example, tomorrow I'm going to show my four year old how to pour her own juice. Sure, she may make some messes at first, but then again, I sometimes slop the juice, too. The important thing is what she will learn from making those mistakes - and what she will gain from finally conquering the task.

What can your child learn to do for himself today?

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Nov 12, 2009

Swiffer Magic for Children

I've never had a Swiffer mop before; I like sponge mops, and I've always thought the disposable nature of the pads used on the bottom of the Swiffer wasteful. However, my four year old has been begging to mop the floor.

Don't laugh! It's true!

She loves to help around the house, and often vacuums, dusts, and cleans windows with me. There were several things that concerned me about her mopping, however. I always put my cleanser in the kitchen sink, but she can't reach the kitchen sink. I considered getting a bucket for her, but know her well enough to realize she'd spill cleaning fluid everywhere. I also wasn't super-keen on her dealing with a bucket or sink of disinfecting cleaner; she tends to put her hands in her mouth and eyes a lot. Finally, I knew the mop was too tall for her. I considered cutting down a handle for her, then padding it with cotton and covering it with duct tape or something, but I really wasn't satisfied this was a good answer.

Enter the Swiffer with wet pads. It's super-lightweight and the handle actually comes in several parts that easily snap together. This made it simple to adjust just to my daughter's height. Since I, the parent, can place already-damp, thick, textured paper on the bottom (in place of a sponge), there was no worry about liquids spilling or about her touching cleansers. It seemed a great solution.

So I spent about $9 on the mop itself, plus about half that for 12 pre-moistened pads you throw away after each mopping. (Please note, we are not using the Swiffer Wet Jet, which squirts liquid onto the floor. We are using the traditional Swiffer with wet refills.) When my daughter saw her mop, at first she was disappointed. She said, "Oh. It's a toy."

I explained that no, it was a real mop for grown ups - it was just a little different from the one mommy usually uses. This cheered her. Then I showed her how to use it, and off she went! I could hardly get her to stop mopping, and she kept checking the disposible pad and saying, "Look at all the dirt I'm cleaning up!" She asked to mop about five more times that day. (I replied, "No, once a day is enough. You can do it again tomorrow.")

I have to admit the pads are expensive. I make them last longer by rinsing them with water from time to time, during the same mopping. This doesn't seem to reduce it's cleaning abilities (which are surprisingly good). Yet while I still wouldn't use a Swiffer for myself, I consider it a good investment for the children in my life - at least until they can handle an ordinary mop.

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Nov 4, 2009

Chores Teach Helpfulness

I do understand that in our modern world of many school hours, lots of after-school activities, and busy work schedules, it can be hard to ask your kids to work when all you want to do is relax or play with them. But what is this teaching children? It's not teaching them good work ethic or life skills. And perhaps it is teaching kids that work is something boring or awful, to be avoided at all costs. If this is the case, what kind of adults will these children grow up to be?

The Bible says "All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty." (Proverbs 14:23, NIV). I believe the poverty spoken of here is not just monetary, but spiritual. The Bible abounds with praise for hard workers - which you know if you've read Proverbs 31.

Recently, as I perused an old household manual from 1907, I was struck by a section on children and chores. There are so many wonderful secrets in the text. Here are a few:

* Children love to work, as long as they can do so with their parents.
* Allowing children to do chores, starting at a young age, helps them feel useful and helpful - qualities you'll want them to pursue as they grow older. Chores helps kids understand the importance of helping others.
* Chores can be as fun as play - if parents have the right attitude.
* Children don't need to do chores all day long, or even for hours a day, in order to benefit from them.
* Idleness invites sinfulness.

Read the passage from Home and Health yourself and see what you think:
"Children, when very young, should be taught the A B C of common work as an index to lives of usefulness. There are few sights more pitiful than that of boys and girls growing up to the strength of manhood and womanhood without a practical knowledge of the most necessary employments...

It is a shameful thing, which is altogether too commonly seen, for parents who have toiled for their children from their earliest infancy, not to receive any help from them as they grow to maturity. Boys spend their entire time in school and on the playground. Father can work from morning till night to give them food and clothing and all the comforts of home, and provide them with bats, and balls, and bicycles, and they go on with their play without a thought of how they might help father, even with the lightest of his burdens...

Parents are chiefly to blame for this condition of things. They labor hard, and bear almost any expense that the children may be well educated in book knowledge; but why neglect instruction in these fundamentals of daily duties, thus permitting the children to grow up...wholly unfitted for the stern realities of life, which they must soon meet? By this neglect, parents are doing their children a serious injustice, which prepares the way for failures, sorrows, and regrets in after years.

Children should be taught early to bear responsibilities. At first very little tasks can be given them. They will need much instruction and help; and here is where most fathers and mothers make a mistake; they find that they can do the world better and quicker than if they 'bother' with the children; and so the education of the little ones in neglected, just when they most need patient instruction.

But it will pay, oh, so richly, to take time to teach the boys and girls how to do little duties, and to do them well...Tasks should be assigned which will require daily attention at a definite time, and they should be held responsible for doing even the smallest things carefully and well...

With wise direction the child will come to enjoy the work more than his play, and will gladly leave his romping if he can work with papa or mama. Let some of his playthings be articles with which he can learn to do useful things...It is surprising how they will watch mother, and learn to imitate her...Their work will be imperfect at first, but it will rapidly improve under patient instruction.

If at all possible, provide a little shop for the boys, and give them a saw, hammer, and hatchet...There is nothing finer to interweave into a boy's education than the use of tools. They teach him to think, to persevere, and to plan; and, as he works, you will see that his mind is being drawn out and developed along the line of work at which he may be the most successful in after years...

Such work will soon become the children's delightful play, and you will discover to your great joy that, little by little, they are dropping the notion that they must be all the time with their playmates...

Through the door of idleness the devil finds the most ready entrance to children's hearts. 'The devil finds work for idle hand to do,' and 'an idle brain is the devil's workshop,' are sayings as true as they are old...To relieve the children from healthful, useful employment is the very worst course parents can pursue. They will not long remain inactive and natural tendencies to stray into sin will soon lead them to indulge in thoughts that are not pure and beautiful...To an alarming extent the solitary vice is sapping the morals and yourself strength of our little ones, and parents with their own hands open the door, and let the despoiler in, when they permit their children to grow up in idleness.

A successful man once said that he believed that his enjoyment in work was largely due to the fact that his father nearly always said, 'Come, boys,' instead of, 'Go, boys...'
Father should say, 'Come, boys,' when he has work to do that they can help him with. In a positive, joyful way, show them just what to do and how to do it right. Then let them try. Do not find fault nor scold. They are learning, and the little hands are not yet as skillful as yours are and as theirs will be soon, if you are kind and patient and preserving...Keep showing, and soon they will do it better, and will be proud of their first achievements, particularly if you give them a few words of praise.

What opportunities mother has for this kind of teaching! The little girls can help with all she does. Teach them that they are to be their mother's companions and helpers in all the work, and keep up the idea and practice all through the years while they are at home...

The tasks set for children should be moderate. Over-excretion is hurtful both physically and intellectually, and even morally, But it is of the utmost importance that they should be made to fulfill all their tasks correctly and punctually. This will train them for an exact and conscientious discharge of their duties in after life."

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Oct 26, 2009

Get Out From Under the Laundry Pile

Before I had kids, keeping up with the laundry was no big deal. When our first child came along, I still managed pretty well. But when our youngest child entered the household? Somehow things went amuck.

My husband began giving me withering looks when he discovered, in the wee hours of the morning, he didn't have any shirts appropriate for work. I started digging through the hamper for the jeans I wore the day before (you know, the ones with baby food splattered on them) because I couldn't find any clean clothes. And I began making my oldest wear her chocolate milk stained jammies two nights in a row because I couldn't otherwise seem to keep up with demand.

I won't say I have the laundry thing mastered. However, I have learned a few tricks that make the laundry pile easier to get through. Maybe some of my ideas will work for you, too:

* My best laundry tip is this: Instead of reserving one (or two or three) days a week for doing laundry, do laundry every day except the Sabbath. This keeps the laundry pile under control and makes the chore of cleaning clothes a lot easier. Through trial and error, figure out how many loads you must do each day; in my house, I only need to do one load of laundry, six days a week. Make it a habit, and it will soon become no big deal. Try hard not to skip a day, but if you do, make up for it the very next day.

* If you have room to store them in the laundry or bedroom areas, keep one laundry basket for every bedroom. As you pull things from the dryer or clothes line, sort them room by room into the laundry baskets. If you have time, fold as you sort. Then place the basket in the appropriate bedroom. Put the clothes away later, if necessary, or have the kids put away their own clothes.

* Get the kids involved. Even toddlers can help with the laundry by bringing you dirty clothes and pulling out all the socks, or all of daddy's shirts, or all their own undies, for folding by you. Preschoolers can begin to help with folding and putting clothes away so that by the time they are in grade school they can do this chore easily. (No, they won't fold everything - or perhaps anything - perfectly, but a few wrinkles never hurt anyone.)

* Treat stains before they go into the hamper. If I put Spray N Wash Stain Stick on clothes as they go into the hamper, by the time I do laundry, they usually wash out and I don't have to spend time soaking or otherwise pre-treating. This means I keep a stick wherever clothes might come off, including the bathroom and the kids' rooms.

* Wear clothes more than once. Truly, many clothes can be worn more than once without washing in between. Unless it's smelly or shows dirt, hang it up to wear another day.

* Buy fewer clothes. I know some women who literally buy their kids several wardrobes of clothes because they are always behind on laundry. If you do laundry every day, you don't need as many clothes, which saves you time and money.

* Save time and effort by hanging any items that go on hangers as you take them out of the dryer or off the clothesline. This means you'll need a stash of hangers nearby.

* Mark children's socks with the appropriate child's initials, using puffy fabric paint on the soles. This makes sorting a lot easier.

* Don't separate darks from lights. This may seem revolutionary to some, but I stopped doing separating darks from lights several years ago, and my family's clothes look just fine. If I'm washing new, dark clothes I think might bleed, I wash them separately once, with a cup of vinegar or salt in the wash water.


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Oct 9, 2009

Kids & Chores

Some parents are reluctant to give their children chores. Childhood, they feel, should be a carefree time without responsibility. As I see it, there are two problems with this. One is that children naturally want to help around the house. What mother hasn't been begged by her toddler or preschooler to help cook dinner or dust the house? What young child hasn't used household chores as part of his or her pretend play?

Too, children gain skill and self esteem by helping to make the household run.

If you think it's easier to just do the chores yourself, you're right (especially if you have small children). But it cheats your children, who need practice learning how to do common tasks and will loose interest in being helpers if you deny them the privilege for too long. Setting aside your own pride and desire to control everything in your household (trust me, I've been there!) will, in the long, serve your family well.

The first rule of thumb is to never redo what your child has done, since this quickly discourages children and dissipates their joy in doing chores. It's more important that your child develop pride in his work than it is for the windows to be entirely streak-free. The second rule of thumb is to find chores your child can easily handle so success comes without too much frustration.

My four year old daughter began doing chores as soon as she could walk. Every day, she helped me pick up her toys. When she was about two, I bought pre-moistened window cleaning towelettes (more expensive, but easier for her to handle than a spray bottle and roll of paper towels) and let her clean the lower part of our living room windows. Around this time, I also let her wash her play dishes in my kitchen sink, and wipe down the counters afterward. She also helped match socks while I folded the laundry.

Soon, she was able to help me cook. She could empty the measuring cup into a bowl, stir a little bit, wipe up my spills, and similar tasks. Once or twice she saw her daddy moving and stacking wood, begged to help, and worked for a few hours carrying one log at a time to the wheelbarrow. Recently, she's taken to vacuuming with a small, light weight vacuum my in-laws had laying around but never used. She also sets the table, helps me remove dishes from the dishwasher, and puts her own dirty dishes in the sink.

She's always been so pleased she can help us, and we've been careful to always thank her and tell her what a good helper she is. She remains ever-eager to help with chores (although picking up her toys is a battle I'll have to write about some other time.)

Chores even made introducing a new sibling easier for her. Instead of allowing her to stew and grow jealous as I cared for her new baby brother, I asked for her help. "Would you help mommy by getting a diaper from brother's room?" I'd ask. I also had her throw away urine-only diapers; fetch blankets, burp cloths, and bibs; and even let her help by holding her brother's bottle for him when I needed to quickly grab an item she couldn't fetch for me. She's never expressed jealousy toward the baby, and was usually pleased to be help me care for him.

Just recently, we've used chores that are above and beyond what we expect of her to help teach her about money. For example, she might earn 10 cents for vacuuming her and her brother's room, or 3 cents for helping her daddy wash his truck. The amounts are always small, she's always delighted, and now she's saving money in her piggy bank for a snow globe she wants that's at the Dollar Tree and for Christmas presents for her brother and daddy.

If you're unsure what chores are appropriate for your kids, check out Chores-Help-Kids.com for ideas and free chore clip art, as featured here.

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