Chore time or family time? There’s only so many precious minutes in a weekend or evening, so do I spend them playing with the kids, or saving the kids from overflowing trashcans, crusty countertops, and tripping over mildewed laundry while they play hide-and-seek? Either way there’s a heap of mommy-guilt at the end of the day.
But here’s a new idea—family chore time. The fun of family time, the productivity of chore time–mostly. If you’d like to energize your kids to help around the house more and get more quality time with them as well, here’s some ideas that might make chore time less of, well, a chore.
Pick the right time of day. I tend to favor mornings to get it out of the way, so we do our Saturday clean-up right after breakfast. This also avoids temper tantrums over interrupted playtime or movies. End times are as important as start times. Ending at a normal snack time, meal time, or other routine activity change can provide encouragement when interest starts flagging.
Pick the right tasks. You want quick and simple tasks so that kids don’t lose interest but still have a sense of accomplishment, and include as much movement as possible. Sorting laundry, emptying trashcans, matching socks, and dusting or wiping furniture seem to work well. Family-chore-time means it’s imperative that you all work together, so make sure everyone’s working in the same room.
Pick the tools. Kid-sized brooms, dustpans, buckets, and rakes or shovels come every color imaginable (or can be a fun project to paint and personalize). A set of pillowcases in your child’s favorite color or character can be turned into a personalized apron, bandana, and cleaning rags. Colored or scented dish soaps or trash bags can add interest to otherwise boring household business.
Pick the music. Pick something everyone agrees on, or rotate who gets to choose. We rotate our favorite radio stations with favorite movie soundtracks and children’s bible songs so everyone can sing along as we work. This is a great opportunity to fit in some fun teaching time too with letter or number songs.
Pick a theme. Younger kids love to pretend. Pick a theme and play along for the chore period. Music, voices, costumes, the whole nine yards. Cowboys/girls don’t empty trash cans; they muck stalls. Pirates don’t mop floors; they swab the decks.
Pick a game. Races are a favorite of mine. Keeping with the idea of fun family time we race as a team against our music, rather than against each other most of the time. Can we get the laundry sorted by the end of this song? Can we get the mirrors cleaned before the chorus? Can we get the trash to the garage and get back before this song is over?
And the Winner is…
Everyone deserves a reward for a job well done. Just remember a few pointers. First, chores are a reoccurring event so your reward or prize structure needs to be sustainable. Second, since everyone did the work, try to find a reward that includes everyone as well. I have found that the chance to play outside with mom or dad, a special art project, or story time work well—no mommy guilt included.