Doing chores and keeping the house tidy might be cathartic -- enjoyable, even -- for many adults. For most kids, though, the experience is nothing but gruelling. It is thus incumbent upon parents and other adults to make house chores fun for the little ones, since it benefits everyone when kids help out around the house.
We spoke to Adriana, operations manager from MaidForYou on the ways Sydney parents can make house chores fun for kids.
As a general rule of thumb, stick with positive reinforcement if you want to encourage good house habits in children. Sure, being strict and reprimanding them for their messy rooms will do the trick instantly, but you don't want children associating chores with negative emotions-- They'll never do it without you breathing down their necks.
What you really want to do is associate as many positive emotions and happy memories as you can to house chores, and with any luck, you could succeed in raising kids who think of chores as something to look forward to, instead of something to avoid and procrastinate over.
Well, to get you started, here are some ways you can make house chores fun for kids.
Hide treats all around the house
Nothing sets children off faster than getting high-reward missions. Ever notice how kids are never tired when they're hunting for Easter eggs or when they're trick or treating? It's because they're fueled by the anticipation of all the candy and chocolate they're getting by the end of the day.
This is the same kind of energy you want to channel when doing house chores.
Hide various treats around the house. It can be chocolate bars, candy canes, or even dollar bills -- anything that's appropriate for the age of your kid/s. Tell your kids they can keep all the treats they chance upon while cleaning up.
Now, you have to let their excitement simmer for a moment before dropping the caveat: they can only start enjoying their loot once the general cleaning is over. Even you will be surprised how fast your kids can clean up when the stakes are this high.
Let the music blast
If you want simple fun without all that trouble, you can simply put on some music to set a good mood for tidying up time. Kids love music, and there are Spotify playlists specifically created to set up a nice ambiance for simple tasks like putting away toys, dusting, and sweeping the floors. Pay attention to the songs your kid loves dancing to, and let it blast when it's time to tidy up. Anything that keeps their spirits up and makes them want to keep moving is good.
Make it a contest
Kids are competitive by nature. If you have more than one child, it's always a good idea to turn house chores into a 'who can do it better' or 'who can do more' types of contest.
First, you have to assign points to different tasks, according to the level of difficulty. Surely, helping with laundry should be worth more than clearing out the table after dinner, right? You have to take the time to think this through. If you're having a tournament, you have to make sure the scoring system is fair.
Assign points to every single house chore you want the little ones to help with, and then make a large tally board, which you will then post in a common area of the house. Hang it up somewhere the kids will see multiple times a day and keep the scoreboard updated so they know when they already have some catching up to do.
At the end of each week, tally the points and give rewards to the winner. Switch up the rewards week after week so the game will remain exciting.
If you have a solo child, don't worry -- you can still play this game. The only difference is that your child would have to compete with you.
Assign them outdoor chores
Most parents have a tendency to only delegate indoor chores to their kids in a bid to keep them sheltered and safe. However, dusting furniture and washing dishes can quickly become boring and repetitive for active kids.
As long as you keep them under your close supervision, don't be afraid to have your little ones help in watering outdoor plants, mowing the lawn, repainting the fence, or even in bathing the family pet. The outdoors always present an enticing adventure for kids, and they'd surely be willing to sweat it out in yard/garden chores if it meant they can stay and play outside for longer.
Never scold kids while doing chores
First, understand that your kids will never be as good as you are doing house chores. Their hands are tiny, their minds are always flying somewhere else, and you've had decades of practice and experience that they'll never be able to catch up to. The sooner you accept this, the sooner you'll be able to shed the perfectionism away.
No matter how frustrating it is when kids make a bigger mess when they're just trying to help, you have to be patient with them. Guide them every step of the way, and recognize that what seems like basic knowledge or common sense to you might be entirely new to them. Allow them some room to make mistakes and discover solutions at their own pace. Whatever you do, do not scold them or make them feel bad when they're exerting actual effort in trying to learn.
Remember that we don't want them to associate chores with something traumatic and terrifying, so you have to keep your cool.
Be generous with praises
Instead of focusing on their shortcomings, make sure to notice things they are good at. It might be as simple as a nice bed sheet tuck or not spilling any leftovers when they clear tables after meals -- just be genuine.
More than anything, kids live for the approval and appreciation of their parents. Believe it or not, even though they might not even be consciously seeking it, children need validation from their parents.
You know, even if they took longer than you would have wanted to finish the chores you assigned, don't forget to tell them they did a great job. Kind words and praises would surely motivate them to keep on helping, and to continuously do better next time.
Do chores with them
Finally, one surefire way to make tidying up fun is to turn it into a family thing. If you delegate house chores to your kids while you sleep in on Saturday mornings, they will eventually resent housework-- and you.
The best way to convince kids that doing chores is fun is by setting an example. If you constantly show that you're miserable when cleaning the house, they will be repelled from wanting to help out.
On the other hand, if you make house chores something you all do as a family, the kids will surely view it as an opportunity to spend quality time with you and would soon look forward to doing it!
An 'assembly line' setup makes everyone feel good and fulfilled, so try to set chores up that way. For instance, when you're folding laundry, you can put your kids up to the task of pairing up socks or stacking mummy and daddy's clothes into two separate piles.
Remember, a family that does chores together, stays together in a house that's always spick and span.
Photo by CDC on Unsplash.