Most parents want their kids to grow up to be self-sufficient, helpful and responsible. I’ve yet to hear a mom say “Well, I hope when Sammy is 42, he lives up to two percent of his potential!” But, teaching kids to do chores is sometimes a daunting, overwhelming and, well…HUGE task. It’s a task that takes patience, consistency and so much creativity…..but I’m here to help! Using Little Tikes toys, I’m sharing tips for teaching kids to help around the house, and how us parents can help cultivate an attitude of JOY when it comes to chores.
TIP #1 – MAKE A CHORE LIST
One of the best tips for your kids, regardless of age, is to make a list. A comprehensive list of all household chores is a great way to teach kids that it takes a lot of work to make a house run smoothly. We often forget that kids need to be taught everything. They don’t know that dishes get washed….then dried….then put away. They don’t know that bathrooms get disgusting. They don’t know that the bed sheets don’t magically become clean. As parents, we can show them everything that needs to be done so they understand the amount of teamwork that’s needed.
And on the flip side….we must also teach them that if we don’t do the work, there are natural repercussions. If we don’t wash our dishes, we won’t have any to eat from. If we don’t clean our floors, there will be bugs in our house. If we don’t mow our lawn, the grass will be very itchy on our legs. There are simple terms with which we can explain the consequences of not doing chores, and kids can understand those!
TIP #2 – INTEGRATE TOYS INTO TEACHING MOMENTS
Toys are amazing teaching tools for kids. I love blurring the line between play and chores because it makes the chores more fun and enjoyable! Toys are a great way to do that. For example, we love Little Tikes water tables because they can entertain the kids for hours, but also introduce them to washing dishes. Add a sponge (just like the one you have at your sink) and some dish soap and allow your kids to bubble up!
It’s amazing how much fun they will have cleaning their toys. They don’t realize it, but they are learning to manipulate that sponge and soap to clean JUST LIKE washing dishes. Pair this with a little play table and BOOM! You can teach them to use that same sponge to wipe down table tops!
TIP #3 – GEAR UP
We joke that Jeremy doesn’t try anything unless he has all the right gear. He doesn’t want to trim the hedges unless he has the right tool and gloves and his favorite hedge-trimming shorts on. Kids are very similar. They love having the ‘right gear’ to do the job. We love giving the kids gloves, hats, boots, tools and wagons for their own chores.
And they love it too!
The Little Tikes Lil Wagon is our very favorite tool for introducing little ones to yard work. It’s a manageable size so they aren’t overwhelmed with the time to fill it up. They can pick up different things at different seasons.
And they feel so accomplished when they get all the sticks, pine cones, dead flowers or whatever into that little wagon!
TIP #4 – ENCOURAGE, ENCOURAGE, ENCOURAGE
How many times have you seen a kid do something and your first instinct is to correct, criticize or critique their work? That’s natural! We want them to do “A GOOD JOB” over having “A GOOD ATTITUDE,” but I challenge you (as a parent who also struggles with this) that we have to encourage abundantly. A child who is joyfully willing to work is far more helpful than a child who HATES it and never wants to help….but can do a good job if you push them to participate. Our jobs as parents is to teach, but we must teach them to enjoy it first. Then we can help them hone their skills.
Take, for instance, my sweet four-year-old here. He creatively wanted to DUMP the sticks. Is that more work to lift the wagon vs just the sticks? Yup. Is there a chance that the sticks will fall out and make a mess in the yard? Yup. Is he now going to have more work cleaning the little sticks off the side of the fire pit? Yup. But instead of saying “You are doing it wrong” or “Let’s do it my way,” I can choose to say “You are so helpful! This helps me so much!” and he will learn that the most important thing is to help.
TIP #5 – KNOW WHEN TO GO SOLO AND WHEN TO PAIR UP
Some kids thrive on solo chores….some get easily distracted alone in a room full of toys. As parents, we can help our kids find joy in chores by understanding which chores are great individual tasks and which are great for pairing up.
My kids love dumping toys in our playroom….ahem…looking at you Max! But if I ask Max to pick them up, he does MUCH better if he has a partner to help stay focused on the cleanup. He gets competitive and has a longer attention span on the task if someone else is his chore teammate. In contrast, Weston has a personality that enjoys more solo work. He will get it done faster and be happier when he can put all the cars and remotes in our Little Tikes storage bins himself. He gets a sense of accomplishment looking at a clean room and seeing he did it all by himself. Of course, all kids need to learn to work independently and in a team….so consider mixing things up sometimes! But realize, most adults choose independent or team-oriented tasks as jobs and it can drastically affect our mood and joy in that work! The same applies with children.
TIP #6 – MAKE PICKUP FUN
Picking up is 90% of kids chores. Pick up clothes. Pick up toys. Pick up trash. Pick up sticks. Pick up pillows. Pick up shoes. The pick-ups are endless in kid world! One of my best tips is to think of ways to make pickup FUN. One of the boys’ favorite ways is to use our Little Tikes slides to see if they can figure out how to get the toys in our storage bins. Yes, the same slide that is perfect for my kids to play on endlessly….
I simply place a box under the stair part (no climbing!) and put the end of the slide on the storage bin.
The joy they have when they make it in is so cute! And they literally ASK to do the job!
TIP #7 – EVERYTHING HAS A HOME
Speaking of the Little Tikes storage….this is really important for kids. Every storage area should be clearly explained for children. There are some storage areas that off limits (hello knife drawer!) and there are some that are kid friendly! My kids are always much more helpful in putting things away when they know where things go! I love Little Tikes playroom storage because the bins are so sturdy and durable….and they have tons of options if cars aren’t your kiddo’s thing! Either way – giving your kids’ items a home helps everyone to enjoy that room, that item and to be able to keep it in working order!
TIP #8 – TIMING IS EVERYTHING
For my kids, we can get them to do just about anything if we whip out a timer. The kids LOVE racing the clock! We give them a wagon or a toy shopping cart and let them race around the house picking up as much as they can in one minute. Or, you can do the task of a single room….seeing how long it takes to clean up that space! Either way, the kids are happy to battle it out against clutter if they can see the seconds tick by!
TIP #9 – ROLE PLAY
Role play is an important part of life. We always quote that saying “Things are caught not taught,” and it’s so true! If I want my kids to have a happy attitude toward work, I must put on my brave face! And it’s amazing how much joy the kids have when they get to ‘be just like mommy and daddy’ with the right toys!
Ella is only 18 months old but she copies pretty much everything we do. If we have a wipe and are cleaning the windows then she has a wipe and is cleaning the windows. If Daddy is mowing the lawn, then she must help with her own toy mower! Sure, sometimes it is just for a couple minutes, but she is learning that SHE CAN DO IT, TOO! That confidence and desire to help is crucial in development. I have seen firsthand how role playing can lead to leadership qualities and bravery. That might sound cliche but it’s true!
TIP #10 – REWARD BIG AND SMALL
At the end of the day, we all do work for the rewards. We go to a job because we get paid and have a personal sense of accomplishment or joy from a job well done. Kids are wired exactly the same. We love rewarding them in different ways, because kids are all different from each other. Here are several ideas:
- Tell them verbally how proud you are and what a great job they did
- Spend some fun time playing the game of their choice and make sure they understand that you can do this with them because the task they tackled is done
- Give them a fancy foot rub with warm towels and lotion
- Serve them a favorite dessert or treat
- Video chat a family member to brag about them while they watch
- Pay them and immediately take them to get a Dollar store item
- Give them a star on their chore chart
- Have a movie night
- Take them on a one-on-one date
- Reward them with a big seasonal chore gift (we do this every spring after we get the yard ready – and this year they got a new water slide!)
The options to reward your kids are endless. We always do a seasonal chore reward because we want the kids to know that we appreciate their help so very much and because of them being patient with us and being helpful, we can make sure they have a way to enjoy the yard!
I hope this list was very helpful in tips on how to integrate JOY into your kids’ chores and little ways to teach them responsibility! I appreciate Little Tikes being so encouraging when it comes to bringing this important topic to light. As one of our favorite toy companies, it was refreshing to know they want our next generation to grow into responsible and joy-filled adults just as much as we do!