THERE has never been a better time to encourage the kids to help with the housework. If my house is anything to go by, with everyone home all the time now, there is infinitely more work to do to keep on top of the mess.
The same amount of clothes still need to be washed, we have never played more board games in our lives, and other than that I spend 90% of my time in the kitchen, between food prep, food ingesting and food clean-up it feels like a constant job. I am all too often the type of person who prefers to just do things myself, it is usually the easiest option, easier than chasing a child to pick it up or hounding them to put their things away.
But that is not sustainable; I end up getting angry having to carry the lion’s share of the housework and it teaches the children nothing.
And nowadays, I just wave my hands expansively and say it falls under the remit of home schooling — well, they are learning; responsibility at being given something to undertake themselves, concentration in taking it on and completing the task, and empathy in giving their poor parents a break from all the bending and picking up!
My eldest lady is generally obliging whereas the youngest, despite her seemingly innocent age, is well able to shy off any task asked of her, like picking up the clothes she drops all over the floor, disregarded in favour of an older sister’s clothing.
That said, she is only two so I don’t ask much of her apart from simple tasks like picking up what she drops and putting away toys that she has played with. She brings her plate and cup down to the table before dinner and sometimes brings it back to the sink (but that usually results in more mess created and the floors needing washing... you win some, you lose some!).
My four-year-old is still at the stage where you have to be able to make sure she can see the finish line with a task, otherwise she is overwhelmed from the outset and it’s an uphill battle. She is able for lots of simple jobs like putting the plastic cups and plates away once the dishwasher is finished. She can clean her room to a reasonable standard. At the end of the day she has to put away her clothes, either into a drawer or into a wash basket, she doesn’t do this every night now but even a few in the week and it helps me stay on top of things.
She can help to set the table and I think this is also a brilliant way to teach (can you tell I am dragging any educational win out of everything we do?). She must count the knives and forks so that gets her counting up to 12, and the glasses which gets her up to six. Once she has finished her meal she can bring up her cutlery and plate to the sink. It often helps to get her to sing the clean up song and task her with doing as much as she can within that amount of time and leaving it at that.
The eldest girl is the one who has done more than her fair share of jobs around the house over the years. She is a helpful child and will generally oblige if she is asked. It would be easy for me to ask her to do everything but it wouldn’t be fair. Therefore, I make a conscious effort to make sure the jobs are distributed among the two older girls fairly, one is six and the other is eight so they are able to do much the same jobs between them. They can both help with dinner, they help the four-year-old set the table, they put away the clean plates, cups and cutlery from the dishwasher (whatever they can reach in the cupboards).
The eight-year-old can sweep and wipe the table after dinner. They help me and my husband with sorting clothes, matching socks and putting them all away, which in a house of six people is a sizeable task each week. And they keep their room and the playroom tidy(ish).
They are getting better, I guess they see that the more they help me with the little jobs, the less time I spend on them and the more time I spend with them, playing games, colouring or baking. They are slowly but surely beginning to recognise that, with a collective effort, the whole house functions a little better.