Summer Time Fun: #6: CHORES

Helping with Summer Chores!

Have a “summer chores” day, and enlist the kids help, or just toss in a little indoor chore time every day, and give everyone a task. No matter what their ages, you can find a way to include children in a fun way, practice some “teamwork” and life skills, and instill in them the value of a helping hand. Be intentional about saying, “In our family, we help each other” and “In our house, we help clean up”, as one of our Kindermusik songs goes.  This catchy tune ends with a spoken chant: “dust, dust, dust…dust, dust, dust.” (Or “scrub, scrub, scrub…scrub, scrub, scrub” or “wipe…”: perfect for symbolic play with scarves in class, or with real rags or paper towels at home.) The key with this little chant is the repetition and pattern – combined  with the action, this guarantees a brain connection in little ones, and makes the cleaning more fun. Other favorite cleaning songs: “Whistle While you Work” and “Clean Up, Clean Up, Everybody Everywhere“.  Remember my family’s little mantra? “Chores done, have some fun” and let them participate in choosing the “fun” activity for after the “work” to strengthen that sense of self, belonging, and accomplishment.

Laundry: Even babies can “slaaaam-dunk” dirty clothes into the hampers, and help gather up the loads by pushing the baskets down the hall, or riding in them. Babies and toddlers can help you sort clean clothes: “Let’s put all the socks in a pile. Is this a sock? Nooo- these are pants!” …”Let’s put all of baby’s clothes over here. Is this baby’s shirt? Nooo, this is Daddy’s shirt – It’s too BIG for baby.” For babies,  all of this labeling combined with the “show and tell” pays off big-time in language acquisition and comprehension. Toddlers and pre-schoolers can be more involved in a hands-on way, matching socks or delivering clean clothes to people’s rooms via wagon or plastic car trunk, even putting something in their own drawers.  Ellie (2) proudly brought her small basket of laundry and favorite Blankey to the washing machine today, climbing the step stool to drop them in, add the soap, and watch it fill up with water. A little while later she was excited to pull out her clean, dry Blankey, and we talked about what a helper she was. Pre-schoolers will also enjoy learning to fold: start with kitchen towels and wash cloths, a great skill for fine motor development and coordination. Take the laundry learning outside with an old-fashioned clothesline, clothespins, some old undies and rags, and a bucket of soapy water. Choose a shady spot for your “laundry station” and this can keep the kiddos and their friends busy for an hour! Teach them how to wring out a rag, and that along with the clothes pin action is great fine motor exercise. (This cheap idea was actually my son’s birthday gift from Mommy, back in April when it was nice to be outside in Dallas.)

Windows: You could start by letting them draw on the windows with window markers or crayons, and leave this up for  few days first. Or you could have them clean the windows, then decorate with some of those seasonal decals they sell at the dollar store. Even if they are just using dry rags or paper towels and a spray bottle filled with water, the point is they are learning to help, and this activity just might keep them busy for 10 minutes so you can shower! (Or send them outside to clean the fence with a bucket of water, and you might have a whole half hour to actually do a little cleaning – yeah, right.)

Dishes: Push the step-stool up to the sink, and let them do a little pre-washing as you load the dishwasher. Or just give them a few plastic dishes for cleaning and drying. Toddlers and preschoolers can help unload and sort the clean silverware back into the tray, stack plastic cups, or put lids on tupperware. I know, you could do it so much faster YOURSELF!

Outside: We beat the heat by having a kid’s car wash in the drive way. They so willingly “wash” Mommy or Daddy’s car for FREE! (Someday this will be great – right now it just keeps them cool, passes the time, and spreads the love.) MJ also likes to use the same hose to help water the bushes. (Spray bottles work great for watering plants or “cleaning” fences and doors as well.)

WARNING! If you think you are going to get a perfectly clean house out of this, think again. If you want to raise helpful, self-reliant children, and are willing to get a little “messy” in the process, proceed with love.

Let me know…what are your kids favorite “chores” around the house?