Alexander and Sophia have been helping me since they were about 18 months old. They started by sitting on my bed while I folded laundry with the job of folding washcloths or they had a towel in their hand and followed me around dusting. They have always been included in house cleaning. When they were younger, we worked side by side. Both kids used to love to "wash the dishes" which really meant spraying the hose or playing in a sink full of suds. However, I always appreciated the effort they made and expressed the fun I had working beside them. Sometimes I would say, "Well, since you were such a big help today, we have extra time to read a book or go to the park." I think even at an early age they felt they were contributing to our family.
As the kids got older, they slowly started taking on independent jobs. Alexander started with vacuuming the family room when I was at work. He loves to manage time so I gave him instructions to start at 9:30 so he would be finished by the time I arrived home. Steve said it was amazing. At 9:30 every night, he would get to work without having to be reminded. At first the job he did wasn't that great, but I kept encouraging him and soon he was moving furniture to vacuum underneath and now does an excellent job! With Sophia, she needed to work side by side with me for a longer time. She likes jobs that bring immediate recognition such as setting the table or helping to make dinner. However, she now is in charge of dusting and vacuuming the living room and does a pretty decent job!
This weekend, Alexander was in charge of folding four loads of laundry. As always, he turned it into something fun. When I went upstairs, he had folded all the clothes and piled them into two separate walls. It looked so cool.
Here is my advice:
1. Let them be creative while cleaning. For almost a year Alexander and Sophia had fun coming up with creative ways to fold dish towels. Sometimes they were folded as rectangles or triangles, other times they were twisted, etc. However, one day they were all "perfectly" folded. I asked why. Well, they finally figured out that the towels fit in the drawer better if you just folded them normal.
2. Appreciate them. If you are afraid they will not do the job you want when company comes over, don't give them jobs for this occasion. Let them have the day off! However, when they do jobs, notice specifics that you like, "Wow! Look how the counter top is shining." or "I always miss that area when vacuuming. Thanks for getting it."
3. Let them have ownership. Sophia loves to rearrange the bathroom or move the silverware around when she cleans. It won't be the end of the world if things are moved around.
4. Find jobs that satisfy the kid's personality. Alexander and Sophia have different needs and weren't ready for the same jobs at the same ages. Respect who they are.
5. Brag about them. Always let your kids hear you telling others about the wonderful things they do. We all like to hear it ~ even kids! Sometimes Alexander or Sophia will mention later that it made them feel good when I was telling a friend, family or stranger about how much they help out.
6. Have fun yourself. Let your kids inspire you to try a new method of cleaning or organizing.
Do you have great ideas too?