For most of us parents, raising a responsible child is a big part of our agenda, right? But what does that look like. I’m no expert but I DO think children need to have age-appropriate expectations even at a young age. They need to have a role in the family and have the chance to get the satisfaction that comes from a job well done!
In our house, there is lots and lots of noise and chaos and fun and general comings and goings. The one answer I give most consistently when people ask ‘how do you do it?’ is that our kids are- for the most part- fairly self-sufficient about things they CAN be self-sufficient about. Okaaaaay… what does that mean? Basically, it means they’re not making dinner, but they are getting themselves dressed in the morning. They’re not mowing the lawn, but they are setting the table and clearing their plates. They’re not doing the laundry, but they might be SORTING the laundry if I were one to sort the kids’ laundry.
So what do we actually have each of the kids do? (Before I go even a minute further, I’d love to know what jobs YOU all give your kids? Leave a comment and let me know!)
Martha is 2 1/2. Don’t let the smile fool you, she is ALL 2-year-old. Willful and volatile and opinionated and defiant. Fun stuff. So here’s what we ask and expect Martha to take care of each day:
1. Picking out her clothes and getting dressed. She needs help but she gets her clothes out of her drawers and can get 75% of the way there!
2. Cleaning the table or floor. If we give Martha a sponge, she can THOROUGHLY clean something. This has been a great summer activity as I can bring the item to be cleaned outside and let Martha go to town!
3. Fetching items from around the house and following multi-step directions. I might ask Martha to run upstairs and get a brush from our bathroom drawer. Perhaps Louisa needs a toy from the basket in her room. Or maybe we need the sunblock from the beach bag before we can walk to the library. This sort of thing is great for Martha.
4. Cleaning up toys. We have most of our toys organized in baskets so cleaning up is easy, but Martha is definitely expected to put things away each evening.
5. Getting silverware. Martha knows a spoon from a fork, so before a meal I will ask her to go to the drawer and pick out a fork for dinner.
6. Putting her dirty clothes in the laundry basket. After a bath or before bed, Martha is expected to gather her clothes together and put them into her laundry basket. (Laundry basket today, DOING the laundry tomorrow!)
7. Feeding the dog. Frank’s feeding regime is pretty simple so Martha (or anyone else) is able to help. I give him a scoop of his wet dog food and then she gets to scoop the dry food on top. If she gets too little she can grab another scoop… and if she spills, well… we know someone will be right there to clean it all up for her.
Moving on to Oliver. Oliver is almost 4. Which means we’ve just turned the corner from his stint as a terrible-3. And most of the time, he’s fairly amenable to cleaning. The other times, it’s a challenge. But these ‘responsibilities’ seem to be ones he’s pretty happy to do.
8. Making his bed. And by “making” I mean pulling the sheets up and making a pile of his stuffed animals.
9. Feeding the fish. So yeah… our carni fish is still alive and has graduated to a 10 gallon tank. Apparently they can live for 8 years (!!!), but the tank is now in the kids’ room and Oliver can help feed him. Have a wet rag handy as the fish food doesn’t always make it into the tank, but Oliver loves it and is very careful to only give a small pinch.
10. Loading the dishwasher. I don’t know if it’s the age, or the individual, or that logical boy brain of his, but Oliver LOVES loading the dishwasher. I have to prep the plates a little bit, but if I leave them ready for him, he can put them in the dishwasher in a reasonably organized manner.
11. Using a dustbuster. Oliver would dustbust our entire house if I let him. Being able to wield a big loud ‘thing’ is high on his enjoyment list which is win-win for the Smith family.
12. Watering the outside plants. This is short lived, but Oliver knows how to turn on the garden hose. Sometimes this means and unexpected spray, but more recently it’s meant that our newly planted trees and bushes get PLENTY of hydration. So rather than running around moving a sprinkler, I have Oliver hop between all the plants whenever he wants to water!
13. Baby tending. Oliver’s the only one who doesn’t over kiss or over hug or over squeeze the baby. So gentle.
Eleanor is 5 1/2 and full of a new-found kindergarten vim and vigor. Last year, she asked for a job chart… so I made one… and it lasted about two weeks. So these aren’t required chore chart sort of things, but… they are somewhat expected from her at this point.
14. Putting her clothes away. Lots of times, I just put laundry away when the kids are in school or Mark’s giving them a bath, but if I think of it… I’ll give Eleanor a stack of folded clothes and ask her to put them back in her drawers. (Her dresser probably won’t be ready for a feature in Real Simple when she’s done… but do I care? Nope!
15. Setting the table. In our house the ten minutes before any meal are the MOST chaotic. I usually wait too long to feed everyone, and then they’re hungry and grouchy and getting in my way and getting in each other’s way and it’s ugly. So taking one of the kids out of the mix by having her set the table is great. She finds silverware, folds napkins, gets cups and does whatever other prep works she deems necessary.
16. Dividing snacks. I love this project. The closet math geek in my loves the idea of starting girls with numbers and logic problems early. I’ll give Eleanor 2 bags of pretzels, for example, and have her divide them evenly amongst the three of them.
17. Making her sandwich or bagel. She usually asks for a little help at the end, but she’s able to get the bread, peanut butter and jelly and spread things around-ish.
18. Sorting socks. I know this is starting to look like I’m giving my kids the worst jobs in the house… and I guess I might be, but they really do enjoy them! The sock challenge is one that Eleanor competitive little brain is great at… she lines them all up and puts the pairs together and that’s what we call a laundry victory.
19. Laying clothes out for her and her sister. This falls into the living doll category as picking out outfits is right in Eleanor’s wheel house. Picking out her own clothes comes easily, but asking her to find an ensemble for Louisa is an extra little task that she’s taken to! It requires a modicum of humility to bring my 11-month-old out in some of her choices, but… self sufficiency for the win, right?
20. Putting her dresses on hangers. And she’s prone to multiple costume changes a day so alllllll her dresses.
What are some jobs and chores you have your kids doing around the house? Swiffering the floors? Backing up your computer files? Scrubbing grout?
Finally, thanks for being so nice about yesterday’s post, guys. It’s always comforting to know that other people go through the same stuff! (I’m still not treating Photoshop to a pumpkin spice latte, but I also know that sometimes these ideas just don’t come together the way we envision…)
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