As a homeschooling mother of 4, there is often lots to do around my house and lots of errands to run. If I tried to do all of it on my own, I would be one overstressed lady, and likely have miserable children and a rather grumpy husband. Instead, I have learned to involve my kids in every day chores. This helps me to get those things done that I need to do and keeps the kids from immediately undoing every thing I am doing. However, I sometimes struggled with the guilt of having them work with me. It is important for children to learn how to do things in life and it does help teach responsibility, but these tasks are not always fun. I set about to find ways that got the jobs done and allowed my kids to have fun. Here are 10 ways we make it work:
1) Make up songs- Whether we are traveling or simply doing chores, my kids and I enjoy changing the lyrics to songs we know to fit whatever we are doing at that time. We often sing, Dora's Map Song when traveling, using pit stops and places along the way for the first part and our final destination for the end. "First we will visit Mt. Rushmore, then we will see Salt Lake City, and then we will reach Grandma's House!"
2) Have a race- Kids are competitive. We hold the "Amazing Kid Race" at our house on a regular basis, but especially on days when there is a lot of chores to get done. Each child is given a challenge to complete, such as fold 10 pieces of laundry and put them away or match up 3 pairs of socks and put them away. When they complete that challenge, they receive another one, maybe empty one garbage can. The challenges continue until the chores are finished. An alternative to this, and one that is especially good when there is only 1 child to race, is to have them try and finish doing something before you finish doing something. Your chore can be the same or something different. I used this a lot when they were really young, especially when trying to get out the door. I would say, "I bet you cannot get your shoes and coat on before I find my purse and get my coat on."
3) Have a scavenger chore hunt- This is another activity I like when we have a lot to get to done. I divide the chores up into several different parts and assign each child one part of each chore. The first child to complete their list wins. A typical list might include the same challenges as listed above, as well as: put away 7 toys, hang up 1 jacket, straighten 1 shelf of books, and so on.
4) Make it special- This is great if you have more than one child and need to get some one on one time with them. I typically have one night a week I can go shopping. Each time, I bring one child with me and get them something special on our shopping trip. Sometimes we share a doughnut, sometimes they get something from the gum ball machine, it always changes. They enjoy the time and they are there to help me get one of my chores done as well.
5) Play music- Whatever task you are doing, music makes it fun. We crank it up in the van when we are driving around town and we sing as loud as we can, the goofier the music, the better. We also like to listen to music as we do chores and dance as we move about the house.
6) Have a toy bath- When it is time to clean the (non-electronic) toys, I throw them into the tub with a kid or two and let them give the toys a bath. Even the youngest children can do this and they love pretending to be big.
7) Rewards for drudgery- For every un-fun activity, include something fun afterward. When I have to drag the kids along for little errands, such as the post office or bank, I reward them afterward, either with a trip to the park or game time at home. They know that if they have listened, the reward will last longer and usually be more fun.
8) Involve them- When there is an activity that is more difficult for a child to get through, such as waiting in a long line at the bank or post office, find a small task that the child can complete for you. Maybe, they can apply the stamps to your letters while you wait or count the coins in your change purse or find a stick of gum that you have hidden in your purse.
9) I Spy- Most of us have played I Spy at some point in our lives. This is a great game for almost any activity and works just about anywhere. It makes travel time fly by as well as the time spent waiting in lines.
10) Let them lead- The best way to incorporate fun into a child's life is for the parents to relax a little and just let them lead the way. Kids have wonderful imagination and a knack for having fun. Let them tell you what they want to do and how they would like to do it and then, assuming it is safe, do it their way. One time I asked my girls how they wished their room could get clean. They decided it would be fun to build a robot that would help them clean. I let them pretend to turn me into a robot and they could tell me what they wanted me to put away. The catch was the robot could only work if it had energy and it gained energy every time they put something away.
Childhood is fleeting and kids deserve to be kids while they can. However, childhood is also a time for learning how to live in this great big, and sometimes, crazy world. Let's show them that it is ok to have fun in life, even when performing some of our least favorite chores.
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