I really don’t like the word ‘chores’! The mention of it makes me think of boring tasks that must be gotten out of the way before more exciting things can be done. I also don’t like the bribery component of doing chores – whether it be pocket money, or a special treat or toy, or worse… spending quality time with parents. Spending time with our children is not and should never be a reward!! It should be given freely, any time!
Ok, so parents mean well, they want to teach their children to contribute, but what if I said no reward is necessary? What we really want to instill in our children is intrinsic motivation – the desire to engage in a task because the individual finds it enjoyable or where the completion of a task is reward enough. One thing that is really important to me as a parent (and one of the benefits of homeschooling) is making sure that my children are engaged in family life and are an active part of our day to day lives. We all work together to make the family and the home run smoothly. We love spending time together and when we’re working together to complete a task, it’s to everyone’s mutual benefit and enjoyment. And guess what? When children see that they are contributing in a real way, they really do enjoy the work!
It’s so important to nurture this desire to help from early on. And I’ll be real here – in the beginning when young children are learning how to help, it often makes tasks take longer. You could get things done quicker and easier on your own. How many of you have said “don’t bother me right now, I’m trying to get dinner ready?” While it may be harder in the short-term, it’s definitely better in the long run to change your attitude and take a different approach. Next time why don’t you try “I’m making dinner, I’d love for you to come and help!” Involving children in this way with all kinds of tasks like sweeping/vacuuming, laundry, gardening, feeding pets, and washing dishes will give your child a sense of purposefulness, which is all the ‘reward’ you need!
So exactly HOW can you involve children in tasks when everything in the home is designed for adults to use? I’ll start in the kitchen – an invaluable addition is a good-quality child-friendly ‘tower’ (see picture) so that your children can work with you at bench height. Ours gets used every day. Then there are the kitchen tools of course – just look through your local kitchen supply store and find things that little hands can use. I don’t think that you need to buy pretend or kiddy-type things; we don’t use anything like that here. J (5 yrs) uses normal kitchen tools and has her own set of proper knives that she uses independently (with orange handles because that’s her favourite colour). For his 2nd birthday, T got a set of kitchen tools: a bamboo chopping board, a glass hand juicer, a wavy cutter, a fun pair of toast tongs (so he can get toast from the toaster safely), a mini press cutter, a small sieve, and his own dish sponge. He also uses J’s knives with hands-on help.
In other areas of the home there are ways your kids can help on their own but you may need to make some child-sized purchases. We own a child-sized clothes line and it’s a real hit with J. T is just getting the hang of getting the pegs on to hold the clothes with a bit of help but J can hang the washing completely on her own. Both kids love putting the washing in the machine and pressing the buttons (we have a front loader so it’s easy to reach). Both kids can use the dustpan but normal brooms are too big so we have a small straw broom and they’ll grab it and copy me when I’m sweeping. We don’t own any at present, but child-sized gardening tools are on my wish-list. At the moment we only have one trowel so more are needed for everyone to help at once, especially now our veggie patch is established. I have my eyes on a child-sized garden trugg as well – J loves going to see what veggies are ready to harvest!