Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Child Labor of Love

It's no secret that I like order. And organization. And apparently words that start with the letter "O". Anyway, our house is usually pretty orderly. Part of that is because we have six people living in a relatively small space, so things have to be picked up and in their place if we want to be able to do things like walk around or eat at the table. Until recently, Matt and I (yes, he pitches in) have done the bulk of the cleaning and straightening around here. But as the kids get older I have been salivating over the idea of considering getting them involved in the daily duties around this place.

Once the triplets turned four, I suddenly had this notion that now was the time that they should start helping out more around the house. You know, earn their keep, pull their own weight, that sort of thing. Well, I guess that's a tad extreme, but I did think it was time that we started introducing and maintaining some of those dreaded chores that plague children while they live at home.

But when I started to think about these so-called chores, I was a little stumped. What can a four year old handle? What's asking too much and what is appropriate? What's asking too little? Basically, what should I expect my four year old to be able to accomplish daily and successfully when it comes to chores?

Here's the list I've come up with. These are either chores we have implemented or ones that I'm planning to add soon. I'm hoping this doesn't make me sound like a militant stay at home mom!

1. Pick up their rooms and the playroom before we leave the house to go anywhere or before we go to bed at night. Basically, this means we pick up about three times a day - before we head to school or out for the morning, before nap/rest time, and before bed. I know some people that only pick up once a day, but that would drive me ca-razy.

2. Bring their plates/cups to the sink after they are excused from the table. We've started this recently and it's working well. Plus, it makes for less trips for Matt and me between the table and the sink at clean up time. We're still working on holding our plate straight and level when taking it to the sink (Wilson has gotten a lot of goodies off the floor lately), but they're picking it up quickly.

3. Set the table. The kids LOVE this. There is a nightly fight over who gets to do what. I give them the silverware and the napkins and they place it on everyone's plate before we sit down to eat. We are fully transitioned into family dinner time where we all sit down and eat together. It took us a while to get there because it was too much to get dinner for all of us ready at the same time. Once the kids started eating all the same things as us, we were able to all sit down together. I'm so glad we do it and the kids love it too. They call it Everybody Dinner!

4. Dressing themselves. We've just started this even though I probably  could have started it way sooner. We're usually just on autopilot in the mornings and it has always been easier for me to help the kids get dressed so we could keep our assembly line of dressing, brushing teeth, and brushing hair going at a good clip. But I finally gave in and the kids are all now attempting to dress themselves in the morning. I still pick out their clothes (surprisingly, none of them have ever challenged me on clothes or what they wear) and they get dressed. It takes a little longer and sometimes I still have to help with buttons, but we're getting there. The kids love their new found independence as well.

5. Feed Wilson. The boys have mostly taken to this chore and they alternate days on who gets to feed the dog. It's actually pretty involved since we keep his food in the basement. They have to grab his food scoop, go downstairs, open the food bin, scoop out the food, put the top back on the bin, and come back up the stairs balancing the food scoop full of food before dumping it in his bowl. I'd be lying if I didn't admit we've had a few spills, but they're trying and that's all that matters. I'm hoping we can get them to walk Wilson someday, but we'll have to wait until they gain a few more pounds because Wilson likes to give the walker a walk more than he likes to be walked himself!

Here are a few chores I'm hoping to add in the future ...

1. Make their beds. They try to help do this now, but it's hard. They're just not tall enough and three of their four beds are against a wall, which you know makes the bed WAY harder to make. For now we just do it for them, but I'm hoping to let them do it more in the future.

2. Fold laundry. I abhor folding and putting up laundry. I don't really mind putting it into the washer and dryer, but I have definitely been know to leave a load in the the dryer to "fluff" every day until I am forced to fold it because another load is waiting to be dried. So I am totally on the get-my-kids-to-fold-and-put-away-their-own-clothes bandwagon. The kids actually ask to help me fold laundry, but you can probably guess as to the prowess of a four year old's folding job. Usually they just roll it up and place it in piles. I'm hoping we can work on this and get them to help more in the future. Any former GAP employees want to lend me one of those cool shirt folding things I always see them using?

3. Take out the trash. In our house this is a man's job. I hate taking out the trash and luckily Matt is willing, but I know he would readily give up this job in the name of training the next generation of young men. As soon as the kids are taller than the trash can, they are fair game.

So what do you think? Am I asking too much of them? Not enough? I'd be really interested to hear what types of chores you have your children do (or imagine them doing in a few years). I want them to be responsible, but not feel like slaves in their own home. Give me your suggestions!

And what's a post without a picture of my most recent "help" ...


  1. I love this! I too, relish the idea of Emery doing chores, and she does some to a smaller extent already. I can't imagine four helpers! :) We too, like to be organized and clean around here. Loved your post.

  2. It's amazing how much they can do at a young age (and how much they enjoy doing it)! Luke's keeping up with them and doing everything as well. Makes me think I should have started this way sooner!

  3. My son turned 4 in December. We're doing very similar things. He's been dressing himself since he was about 2.5 or so. He feeds our dog, takes his plate/cup to the sink after meals, puts away the clean silverware from the dishwasher (he washes his hands first), puts away his socks and underwear in the right drawers and puts his hanging clothes away (the ones he can reach). He's been doing all of these things for around 6-8 months, we started them once every two weeks so it wasn't too much at once. I've been wondering what other people do, looks like we're on the right track :)

    Christy in FL

  4. Wow Christy, I'm impressed! I have been hesitant to let them help put clothes away since I have a whole system of organizing their clothes in the dresser (me and my type A self), but I never thought about letting them put away socks and underwear. That would be easy to let them do! And I'd love to get them involved in putting away the dishes/silverware as well.

  5. this is so great! tessa has been helping me some with laundry. she likes to help me put things in the washer and then into the dryer. it definitely slows me down and we don't do it everytime, but she likes to help. she also will hand me dishes out of the dishwasher when they are clean and i will put them away. i get the breakable stuff out beforehand. she too helps with the dogs being the official treat giver. and now with a new baby, she is my diaper changing assistant!

  6. Oh Holly, how I WISH I had a diaper changing assistant a few years ago! Love that Tessa is adjusting so well to being a new big sister!