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

Jan 16, 2019

Keeping Sane While Cooking with Kids: 12 Tips for Cooking with Children

Tips for Cooking with Children
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I think most moms realize it's good for kids to help in the kitchen. It teaches children about wholesome food and nutrition, gives them real life math skills, and helps them learn a skill that will serve them well their whole lives. But if you've ever tried cooking with young kids, you know it can be a real hair pulling experience. (See that adorable toddler to the right there? Yeah, my kids were definately never that well behaved cute when they helped in the kitchen!)

When my daughter was four years old, she absolutely loved to help in the kitchen - but she wanted to do
everything herself. She burned herself on the stove around that age (which quickly taught her that when mommy says "Hot!" you need to stop immedietly and back away.) After that, I found myself reassessing how to involve my kids in a chore they had clear interest in, but in a way that was safe and less frustrating for us all. Sometimes I just wanted to banish the kids to their rooms or set them in front of the television until I was done making dinner, but instead, I learned a few tricks for making cooking with my children a more pleasant experience:

1. Give your child a few of her own tools. Let's face it; for a lot of kids, just pretending to cook is as fun (if not more so) than actually cooking. My kids loved having their own aprons and a tiny rolling pin that really fit their hands. (Here's the exact one they used. I still use it myself today, I really like the size.)
My kids in the kitchen, years ago.

Use a sturdy stepping stool. Standing on chairs just isn't safe and sitting on the counter is awkward at best. A good step ladder with a rail that stands behind your child is a real must. You could also use a kids' "kitchen helper," like this one.

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, yet some kids are responsible enough at a much younger age. When you do finally let your child use the stove (or add or remove things from the oven), give him a heavy, quilted apron, good oven mitts, and a long handled spoon (wooden, so it doesn't transfer heat) for stirring. And always, always, always supervise.

Avoid teaching your child new cooking techniques or recipes when you're in a rush. Keep the stress level low by doing these things when you have more time to focus on "kid cooking."

5. Keep kitchen chores age appropriate. Children don't like it when you end up doing most of the work. In fact, it can really turn them off to cooking - and doing chores in general.  Make it clear that there are some things in the kitchen only adults should do, but make sure they feel their jobs are important, too.

6. Sometimes make it all pretend. Although most parenting magazines suggest letting toddlers and preschoolers stir things in bowls, 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. Make it easier for your children by giving them their own mixing bowl with just a little bit of the ingredients inside it.

7. 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.

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

9. 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.

10. When you finally allow your child to do some cutting, start them off with a plastic serrated knife, like this one. Leave the real knives for their teen years.
Cute mini pies my kids used to make.

11. 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 wise woman! Whenever you make pie, pizza crust, bread, or cookies, give your child a small piece of the dough and let him get creative. (Here are some how-tos on an easy way to make mini pies and decorate them with cookie cutters.)

12. Give children too young to cook a drawer in the kitchen filled with safe things like plastic cups, a wooden spoon, and a small pot you don't mind letting them bang. You can keep preschoolers on up busy by having him set the table or make butter. Toddlers on up can also "wash" plastic bowls in the sink or sit on the floor with a colander and try to stick uncooked spaghetti through the holes. All these things keep your children busy in good, learning pursuits, while also keeping them nearby and out of your hair.

A version of this post originally appear in April of 2010.

Jun 13, 2018

Why You Shouldn't Be a Servant to Your Kids

How to Help Your Kids Have a Servant's Heart
At some point, I think most modern adults look at the younger generation and are amazed by their general self-centeredness and expectations of entitlement. (Of course not all young people are this way, but these traits are certainly pervasive in our society.) Recently, I saw a video that encapsulated this problem. I don't normally watch this type of television - but I bumped into it on social media, and was prompted to watch it due to the remarks it was receiving. Oh. My.

Then the issue of being entitled and unwilling to serve others hit close to home.

The Problem with Chores

When we lived in the suburbs, I was careful to teach my kids how to do basic chores like laundry and dishes, and made sure they lent a helping hand most days. But when we moved to our rural homestead, this became more difficult. For example, we have to carry laundry to another building, which is physically more challenging. Plus, it's harder for me to supervise to make sure, say, the lint trap is properly cleaned so it doesn't start a fire. Our dishwasher is also weirdly placed, and because we have hard water, more than just ordinary dish detergent must be added. Probably the biggest problem, though, has been my health. I've been so exhausted - first with undiagnosed diabetes and then with acute anemia - that I simply didn't have it in me. It was all I could do to do chores myself; I didn't have the energy to patiently teach.

Fast forward to the weeks where I was prepping for my recent surgery. I did everything I could to make life easier for my husband and kids. Sure, I could have turned to my husband and said: "Dinner? Laundry? Dishes? All that other stuff I do? It's up to you to figure it all out." Indeed, many women in my online hysterectomy support group do just that. But that's the way of the world, isn't it? I wanted to do things God's way. So, striving toward a servant's heart, I made freezer meals that could quickly and easily be warmed in the microwave (which my kids know how to use) and took a lot of time and effort to make other chores as easy as possible.

One of those preps was making sure my oldest was comfortable running the washer and dryer (including adequately cleaning the lint trap and properly putting it back in place), that my youngest knew how to empty the dishwasher correctly, and that my oldest was reasonably proficient in putting dirty dishes in the machine. (We used a lot of paper plates, too, but the utensils, cups, and bowls added up quickly!)

The next thing I knew, though, my oldest was telling me my youngest preferred to put dirty dishes in the machine, rather than take clean ones out. She also said she preferred to put clean dishes away. Hmm...Because I have a higher than average counter and sink, I didn't think this would work well - but I told her we'd try things their way.

When I told my son what his sister said, however, he denied it.

See what was going on? Neither of my kids wanted to do any chores. Worse, they didn't have a servant's heart.

Servant? Or Master?

Neither kid wanted to do dishes. I admit, this wounded me. Not only as an individual (I confess my first thought was: "I slave for you, kids, and yet you aren't willing to do dishes when I'm physically unable to???"), but also as a parent; I realized then what unwilling servants my children were. We had a serious heart-issue going on.

It might seem counter-intuitive, but what I've observed, both in my own little family and in other families, is that the more parents serve their children, the less their children are willing to serve. Many a mommy (myself included) has hoped that serving their children well will set a great example and inspire their kids to serve others. But instead, it seems to just make kids entitled.

How to Help Your Kids Have a Servant's Heart

If you find yourself with kids who don't have servants hearts, what do you do? Here's what I did:

* Do Bible studies on how God wants us to be servants. Got Questions,, and Open Bible offer some good resources to start with. We were in the middle of reading the gospels, so it came naturally to talk about Jesus' servanthood and how he wants us to follow his example.

* Insist your children serve others. Age-appropriate chores at home is a decent place to begin. Today, I don't let anything - even school work - to get in the way of chores (because my children's spiritual health is way more important than their grades).

* Make certain your kids see you serve others - your husband, the needy, etc. Focus less on serving your kids, and make sure anything they can do, they do least most of the time. They need those life skills, anyway!

Did it Work?

I'm happy to say my kids stepped up to the plate when I came home from surgery. (It helped that a grandma was there to insist upon it. Thank you, Grandma!) And acting as a servant helped them to see a few things that are vital to their future spiritual health:

* They are capable.

* They can be more independent.

* It's good to help others. God wants us to do it!

* Mom works really hard for our benefit.

My children are still doing a lot of things around the house: Caring for critters, laundry, dishes, cleaning the floors, helping to clean the bathroom...and they will continue to do so. For their own well being.

What are you doing today to ensure your kids have a God-desired servant's heart?

Nov 30, 2017

How to Get Out From Under the Laundry Pile!

How to Get Laundry Done Easily
This post may contain affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

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, my ability to make sure everyone had clean clothes went amuck.

My husband began giving me withering looks when he discovered, in the wee hours of the morning, that he didn't have any clean shirts appropriate for work. My closet consisted of the laundry hamper, where I dug for the jeans I wore the day before - even if they were splattered with baby food. I even began making my oldest wear chocolate-milk stained jammies two nights in a row because I couldn't seem to keep up with the demand for clean laundry.

I won't say I have the laundry thing totally 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 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; when my kids were younger, I did one load of laundry 6 days a week. Nowadays, I only need to do a load 4 to 6 days a week. Make your laundry schedule a habit, and it will soon become no big deal.

* Keep one laundry basket for every bedroom, if possible. 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.

* Easier yet, keep laundry loads segregated. By that I mean do one load that is only clothes for one child (or maybe all the kids), and a separate load that's just your clothes. This means you don't have to sort the laundry before folding it.

* Get the kids involved. Even toddlers can help with the laundry by bringing you dirty clothes and pulling out all the clean 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.) By the time your child is 7 or 8, be sure he or she knows how to do a load of laundry without help.

* Treat stains before the clothes 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, those stains usually wash out. This saves me a lot of time because I don't have to soak or otherwise pre-treat stains. So, whenever clothes might come off, I keep a stick - including the bathroom and the kids' bedrooms.

* 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 follow the tips here, nobody will need as many clothes, which saves you both time and money.

* Hang any items that store on hangers as you take them off the clothesline or out of the dryer. It's a real time saver!

* Mark children's socks with their initials, using puffy fabric paint on the soles. This makes sorting so much easier.

* Don't separate darks from lights. This may seem revolutionary to some people, 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 that I think might bleed, I wash them separately, once, with a cup of white vinegar in the wash water to help set the dye.

This post was originally published in October of 2009.

Nov 17, 2017

How to Teach Toddlers and Preschoolers to Put on Their Own Jackets

Teach Little Kids to Put on Their Own Coat
It's been a while since my kids were toddlers or preschoolers (sniff!), but there was a trick I used to teach them to put on their own coats and jackets that I don't see elsewhere on the Internet or in magazines. I LOVED teaching my kids this trick because:

* It saved me time and hassle
* and it made my kids feel more independent. (What toddler or preschooler doesn't love doing it all by herself?)

When my mother saw me use this trick with my first born, she said, "Why not just teach her to put on her jacket the normal way?" Well, because toddlers and preschoolers, generally speaking, can't do it the way an adult or bigger kid does. But they absolutely can put on their own jacket by following these simple steps:

1. Place the jacket on the floor, the right side facing down. At first, you'll probably need to do this for your child, but it won't be long before he figures out how to "do it myself!"

2. Have your child stand at the head of the jacket and place his arms inside the sleeves. It will look like he's about to put on his jacket backward and upside down. (See photos.)

3. Have your child flip the jacket over his head. Viola! It's on correctly and you or your child can now zip it up.

This post is an updated version of one that originally appeared in October of 2009.

Feb 3, 2015

An Important Role in the Household - What Your Child Needs to Know

Last weekend, my 9 year old daughter's behavior was hindering me. I can't even recall what she was doing. I just know I was utterly exhausted and trying to get a little housework done. And then it hit me. We'd never talked about her role in the household. So I set aside the dishes and cuddled up beside her.

We're in the middle of reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's Farmer Boy, one of our favorite books in the series. It fit in perfectly with what I wanted to say. "Think about Almanzo [the main character in the book]. He had a very specific role in his family. What was it?"

"Chores," my daughter replied.

"Yes, but be more specific. Who was he doing chores for? Wasn't he doing chores to help his father?"

She agreed this was correct.

"What about Almanzo's sisters? What was there role in the family?" I asked.

"They work in the kitchen and stuff and help their mother," she said.

"Exactly. Their role in the family was to help their mother with her work. Now, what is your role in our family?"

She shrugged. And why wouldn't she? Nobody had ever explained to her what her role in our family is. So I clarified; her role is a helper - primarily for me, but also to help and serve others in the household. That's part of her job as a daughter in the Seleshanko household.

My daughter's face lit up. She'd never considered that she had an important role in our household - a role that really mattered. She just knew she had to do chores she didn't much like. She couldn't see the purpose behind those chose and why her involvement in them helped the whole family. Suddenly, she felt pride that she could help everyone in the family by doing very obtainable things.

I think this is something most modern day children are lacking. In Almanzo's day, children knew if they didn't perform their role for the family, it could have serious consequences. If they didn't help plant the fields, there might be no food to eat the following year. Today, children are rarely told that their role in the household is important.

As my daughter really stepped things up and not only began doing her chores more quickly and willingly, but offered to do more to help me around the house, I realized that children need to know not so much that they are Important (with a capital I) - an overstatement that's lead to a self-centered generation - but that what they do is important.

How dare I deprive her of this vital knowledge? Well, no longer.

Apr 28, 2014

How to Homestead with Children {The Ins and Outs of Homesteading with Kids}

Ma and Pa Ingalls did it. As did thousands of other pioneers in the 18th and 19th century. But just how do you homestead with young children - without driving yourself a little bonkers? It’s a question I’m still trying to answer.

Before I had children, I had endless amounts of time. I had no idea this was the case - but given how much I got accomplished then and how little I seem to get done now, this must be how it was. Now that I have little people to care for, it seems I have zero spare time. Homesteading with children can, I've learned, be utterly exhausting.

Yet my husband and I are working on the homesteading lifestyle especially because of our children. We want them to have the freshest, most nutritious food. We want them to have self sufficiency skills. We want our family to have an outdoor, down to earth lifestyle.

But again: How does one accomplish this with young children underfoot?

After our daughter was born, I planted a vegetable garden as usual, keeping our into-everything baby in her stroller. But by the following year, that wasn’t going to cut it. Our little go-getter wanted to help Mommy. With everything. Fine, I thought. All those old-timey advice books recommend getting children started with chores as soon as possible; I can start teaching her how to garden now! It'll be wonderful!

First, my daughter dumped all the carrot seeds into a single hole. Then she over-watered them, so they floated into the garden’s pathways through the swiftly moving streams she'd created. Later, when a few carrots still managed to come up, she trampled over their tender baby leaves with oblivious little feet.

Homesteading with young children isn’t as easy as Ma Ingalls made it seem.

Now our daughter is 8 – and her little brother, 5. And I’ve learned a bit more about homesteading with children. I still don’t make it look as easy as Ma Ingalls, but each year, we do seem to get more accomplished – and as a family, working together.

Ideas to Try:

* Give each child a small garden or his or her own.
I found giving my daughter a large pot worked better for us than giving her a piece of land. While your child will be in charge of his garden, help him choose seeds wisely. Offer him a selection of easy to grow plants like peas, green beans, and sunflowers. Show your child how to plant, how to water, and how to weed. Then make sure you don’t tend to the garden - even if you fear the garden will fail through lack of attention. A dead garden is an equally good lesson as a thriving one!

* Work on the family garden in short sessions, giving very young children something else to do while you work. Babies and toddlers are fine in a playpen. Slightly older kids can spend a lot of time in a sandbox, with a mud puddle, or digging holes nearby.

* When children are older, teach them simple gardening chores according to their abilities and level of maturity. My children love pulling weeds and feeding them to the chickens. Other good chores include using a watering can and helping to harvest.

* Give children animal related chores. Yes, you will have to make sure they follow through, but kids love animals - and having another creature’s life in your child's hands is a great way to grow her level of maturity. Good jobs include collecting eggs, feeding and watering, and rounding up animals into their houses.

* Keep hand sanitizer near chicken coops, animal pens, and compost bins. Teach your children to use it after touching anything that might contain manure. While you’re at it, teach them to keep their hands away from their eyes, nose, and mouth.

* Let your kids get dirty. Yes, they will track mud and dirt into the house no matter how many times you warn them not to. But getting dirty is a childhood joy and will help instill a love of homesteading in your children.

* Get children involved in the planning process. What vegetables would they like to eat next summer? What fruits? Do they want to raise rabbits? If so, what can they do to help care for them? And will they be willing to eat rabbit meat if you do raise rabbits? (Trust me; that’s an important discussion.)

* Do give children homesteading chores, or you’re likely to burn out. Besides, you want to instill these skills in your kids, anyway. Accept that they will probably not do the job as well as you. But every time they do the chore, they will get a little better at it.

* Allow your kids to eat food straight from the garden as long as they ask first. This is my children’s favorite way to eat their veggies.

* Make it easy for kids to clean up outside. An outdoor sink is a delight, but a hose with soap nearby and a place to put dirty boots is essential.

* Keep children away from potentially dangerous projects. Good examples include canning (although they can help with the prep work, like peeling fruits) or running tillers.

* Don’t neglect to keep part of the yard open as a place for kids to freely run and play. So many people today talk about how useless lawns are, and seem to want to pack their yards with gardens and adult eating areas. But lawns and open space are very useful - nay, necessary! - if you have children.

* It’s tempting to work during children’s naptimes - but don't! If you’re a super mom and really not sleep deprived (Really? How do you manage that??), go ahead. Otherwise, rest during their nap times. You’ll be a better parent – and homesteader – if you do.

* Allow time for your children (and you!) to pet the goats, blow dandelion seed heads, notice wild animals, and generally experience the homesteading life. Study how a cucumber miraculously turns into yummy food after starting out as an unassuming seed; that you must move slowly and calmly to catch a chicken; that dirt feels great between your toes…These are the things too few children get to experience these days. And that’s why you need to homestead with them.

Thanks, Ma Ingalls, for teaching me that.

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:

* 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


* 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."


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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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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