Source: Indys Child Parenting Magazine

Making Housework a Family Affair
Tips for getting your kids to help out around the house

by Kerrie McLoughlin

March 01, 2012

Parents, trust me here, society will not be pleased with you if you set your kid loose at age 18 with zero life skills (like how to do laundry without turning it all pink). It’s never too early to get your child to start helping out around the house. But where to start? I mean, what can a teeny 2-year-old do? Check out these ideas to turn the chore of housework into a fun family affair.

Toddlers might surprise you with their mad cleaning skills, like how they can fold napkins and towels and pick up their own toys, even if that just means tossing them into a catch-all like a toy ottoman or set of colorful bins. They can also water plants, feed animals, dry pots and pans, toss wet laundry into the dryer, throw things away, recycle and help put away groceries. “Our 2-year-old son loves helping toss clothes into the washing machine. And so far this winter, he’s even helped me shovel the driveway with his own little shovel,” said Kerri Delaney of Noblesville.

Preschoolers can do all the things a toddler can do plus empty smaller trashcans into a big one, put away silverware, match socks, dust, “mop” and “vacuum” and put away their laundry (hang a wooden rod in their closet low enough for them to be able to hang up their clothes). Set up a chart with simple pictures so your child knows the chores you would like her to do.

Kim Krangnes from Fortville said, “My 4-year-old son loves trucks, so when I bring items home from the store that need to be put away throughout the house, he’s my delivery man! He loads up his big dump truck and delivers items to the appropriate rooms. It’s a huge help!”

School-age kids can do dishes, empty the dishwasher, start a load of laundry, take out the trash, help with bathrooms, vacuum and put away their own laundry. A great way to connect with your child as he gets older (and more into his pals than his parents) is to dump the laundry out on the bed then fold it together as you chat. For harder chores, create an instruction sheet, put it in a sheet protector, then do the chore with them until they get the hang of it.

Ron Graf, owner of The Maids of Hamilton County (317-770-1320), thinks it’s key to make family cleaning more fun than a chore for any age kid. He said, “Try mixing a solution of one gallon of water with a drop of dish soap and fill a squirt gun. Then let kids squirt windows and mirrors and wipe them dry with paper towels. Also, to get kids to dust around the house, cover their hands with old socks, then squirt the socks with a solution of vinegar and water.”

Whether or not you use an incentive system is up to you. Some parents use the promise of an outing (park, pool, playdate) as incentive to clean up, or older kids may get a quarter per chore. Some, like Kim Krangnes from Fortville, set up a ticket system. She said, “I make chores rewarding by giving my 4-year-old son tickets I pick up in packs at my local dollar store in the teacher’s supply area. When he does a small chore, he gets a ticket. Once he’s saved up 10, he gets to cash them in for a Hot Wheels car.”

Remember that these are kids, and the job doesn’t have to be done perfectly. They will learn it well in their own time. The point is they are learning a life skill, so be patient. And don’t forget to put on some upbeat cleaning music!