Household Help from the Kids

I once came across a magazine article about a Mom who never called her kids’ household tasks ”chores” but instead referred to them as “skills”. This seemed a very politically correct and positive way to spin the business of acquiring these “skills,” which I myself had honed for many weary years. In short, I realized Mom would never be liberated unless the kids were apprenticed to learn how to clean. Thus, once they came of age to operate basic household equipment, the lessons began. You can help your growing kids develop these skills as well.

  • Give them roles that spark their imagination. “Garbage Sack Santa Claus” encouraged our kids to assume the job of collecting the full trash liners from  wastecans in the bathrooms and bedrooms and consolidate them into the big trash bin. They understood the image of Santa carrying the his toy sack (in retrospect, maybe the Garbage Grinch would have been more appropriate).
  • “Park Sweeper” got started when we noticed how fascinated the kids were with the attendants at Disneyworld, Alabama Adventure, and even the Galleria. They thought the dustpan on a stick was so cool that they would literally stop eating to watch an attendant sweep up a fry three tables away. Seeing a home version of these dustpans with handles in Bed, Bath and Beyond, I took a chance and bought one. Sure enough, it was a hit. Now the new has worn off of this trick dustpan, but that’s all part of the plan. Our hope is that they get sick enough of the dustpan to prepare themselves for another profession.
  • Swiffer mop – What toy can even compare to the Swiffer? It has buttons! It sprays! It even has a sort of diaper to change. Moms, you’re crazy if you don’t put this amazing gadget to work in the hands of your eager and able kids. Our moms had to wring mops and tote buckets of water, but now we are delivered from these messy hazards.
  • Vacuum – Not with the big honkin’ machine you may consider the household workhorse but with one of the smaller, lightweight vaccums that have become so popular. These little suckers have much more power than you might guess. They aren’t the loud, scary beasts that used to frighten the kids and they’re relatively easy to manage (note the kid-friendly ergonomic handle pictured). Obviously your kid will need to be old enough to safely plug in an electrical applicance and be also keep the cord out of the beater brush, perhaps around age eight or nine. They can knock out the rug in the family room in no time – a real lifesaver when company’s en route.
  • Dishes – Start with having them bring dishes to you at age four or five, then learning to clear the table, and finally graduating to loading the dishwasher themselves at age six or seven. Incase you’re worried, they can’t possibly load it any more haphazardly than your former college roommate. Cascade gel packs are perfect for kids handling this job because there is no detergent to measure or spill and no tablet package to open. Just inspect the washer yourself before running to be sure the rotating jets are unobstructed.
  • Disposable Cleaning Wipes – These prevent the kids’ temptation to get trigger-happy with spray bottles because they dispense pre-moistened, disposable wipes for cleaning countertops and even the tub. Who do you think has an easier time swiping the bottom of the tub, you or the household members less than five feet tall? As an added bonus, many wipes kill viruses, so those busy little hands may even get sanitized in the bargain.

These are just a few of the products that can make household cleaning easier for your family. Of course you will still have to manage the process, and it will take many episodes of patient instruction to get the kids to the point of mastery, but all skills require practice. Besides, do you want to spend at least 18 years of your life cleaning up after a family? That truly would be a chore.