Tired of being the cook, the cleaner and the mom? Parenting expert Fi Star-Stone has ways to get the kids to pull their weight around the house.
2 TO 5 YEARS OLD
At this age there’s not much they can do to help, but it’s about sowing seeds by showing them how nice it is when we all work together.
- Many jobs you find boring, toddlers love — separating the laundry and feeding the washing machine, for instance. Give them a little bit of responsibility by letting them put the powder and softener in and pressing the buttons.
- Children can dress and undress themselves a lot sooner than you think. Have a competition to see who can get dressed the fastest. Get them into the habit of putting their dirty clothes in the laundry basket at night and their pajamas where they belong in the morning.
- Always teach them to put one toy away before getting another out. Even little ones can carry their plate to the sink or dishwasher and put their shoes away.
6 TO 9 YEARS OLD
Children this age can’t concentrate for long, so give them tasks that take no more than 10 minutes.
- Use a reward chart to encourage them. Once they get a set number of stickers for, say, 10 jobs completed, such as putting away food shopping, folding up washing or helping you clear up, they win a treat or an outing, like a trip to the movies.
- One simple task they can do at this age is to put clean clothes away. Leave the ironed pile on their bed, and let them sort it out. They can also set the dinner table and help clear it afterwards.
- Ask them to keep their room tidy, and make sure they have lots of simple storage — big plastic boxes or wicker baskets for toys and a low shelving unit for books. Give lots of praise and make them feel that any little task they’ve done has really helped you.
Read more: 20 cleaning hacks you didn’t know you needed
10 TO 13 YEARS
- Now’s the time to give them specific jobs around the house that they’re expected to do regularly — putting the dustbin out or feeding the dog. They should be able to keep their rooms clean as well as tidy now, so show them how to dust and vacuum. Don’t expect perfection to begin with, though!
- If you’ve been at work all week and have loads of chores to do on Saturday morning, ask for their help — but dangle a carrot. Explain if you all pitch in for an hour, you’ll get it done quicker and can do something nice later. Jobs they can do alongside you are a good idea because they can chat, and you can keep an eye on them. If you’re mowing the lawn, ask them to weed; if you’re vacuuming the TV room, ask them to dust.
- This is the right age for them to take responsibility for their school chores. Packing their bag the night before or putting PE clothes in the wash. If they forget something, don’t rush into school with it. This is about making them stand on their own two feet, after all.
- Pre-teens can make their own packed lunch. Set aside a shelf in the cupboard and one in the fridge, and put a selection of things on it that they can choose for their lunch box, so they can make it.
Read more: 11 organising cheats for an always tidy home
OVER 14 YEARS OLD
You’re not just encouraging them to help now but giving them skills for when they leave home – and for life!
- Teach them to iron and let them do their own clothes. They should also know two or three simple dishes, so if you’re running late, they can cook. Never over-criticise or offer too much advice; they’ll improve with practice.
- While grocery shopping, set a budget and tell them to look out for the best deals. If they come in under budget, they can keep the change.
- If your eldest can drive, get younger siblings to ask big brother or sister to pick them up from extra murals or take them to a friend’s — or listen to them read or help with homework.
- Make house rules: cups go in the dishwasher, not the sink. Towels always go back on the rail. The rubbish gets taken out once the bin is full. Your teen won’t see it as unfair if it’s the same rule for everyone.
- Under 16, they may be too young to get a job but will still want pricey things. Encourage them to earn new shoes or makeup they’re lusting after by cutting the grass or washing the car.