Thursday, August 14, 2008

Chores for Little Ones

A reader asks:

I have 5 children ages 8 and under. I am just adopting the ideas of training children to have good habits and to do their best. Do you have any suggestions of where and with whom to start? I do try to teach them to obey right away and to be kind. Their rooms looks like a bomb exploded in them. They do have table chores which are not done with excellence and they do not pick up after themselves. I am going to institute a “together” chore time like you suggested and start working with my 4 year old on doing the silverware neatly.

My response:

Off the top of my head I can give you a few tips that may help you see your way better with so many little ones : )

Keeping the Bedroom cleanIf a child is told to clean up his room and there are a lot of toys out, he can be easily overwhelmed just by the sight of the mess and give up on the idea. First and foremost, purge unused and broken toys. Do this on a regular basis. Children do not need a lot of toys. It stunts their imagination. Secondly, make sure that toys with many small parts are organized into sturdy plastic boxes of some kind to make clean up easier. Keep the room simple and organized so that clean up times are easy.

I suggest you make and enforce a rule that only a set number of toys may be out at a time. If they don't follow the rule, put the majority of toys up in the top of the closet or put a lock on their closet door. You get down a few toys at a time for them and they don't get to have any more until they have completely cleaned up the first ones-perfectly. Now they have fewer toys to clean up. Any child can clean up a few toys. The littlest ones (1 to 3yr olds) need mama by their side continually singing and helping them, but 4 yrs old and up should be trained to clean up by themselves. This is a gradual process requiring patience and consistency. When they have earned your trust in this area, eventually the toys can be placed in a more accessible area for the children.

Never let the room become a disaster. I always have the kids clean up their room before they leave it to go play elsewhere and also before every meal and bedtime. In this way, it is being picked up four or five times a day routinely. When we have guests coming, we put up some of the toys in a closed closet because we understand that not all children are taught to pick up after themselves. This helps clean up time to be more enjoyable afterwards.

If clothing is a problem, go through your children's closets and drawers and figure out how many outfits are necessary per child. Most children don't need more than 7 outfits a season. Give away the rest. Be ruthless. This will free up so much space and allow your child to be in charge of keeping his drawers neat.

Chores for Little Ones
I also suggest that you begin to include your little ones in daily chores. You don't need elaborate lists. Just include them when you are unloading the dishwasher, cleaning windows, folding clothes, etc... They need to get used to work as a normal part of life. This prepares them for a more formal daily routine when they are a little older.

If children are trained at a young age to work around the house, they grow to appreciate it and feel like a very important part of the family because they are contributing something valuable. My five year old son daily makes his bed, straightens his room, cleans his bathroom sink, sweeps the mudroom and keeps the shoes straight, feeds the dog and cats, helps clear the table and put away silverware. His weekly chores involve emptying trash cans, shaking rugs and helping with zone chores as a family. This does not include spur-of-the-moment chores I give him throughout the day such as running little errands, cooking beside me, weeding the garden, etc... He still has plenty of play time but is already becoming very responsible. He feels needed and this helps him have a healthy self image.

I hope that helps a little,

one step at a time...


4 Moms 35 Kids


  1. Hi!

    Just popping in to say this post and/or one of your Bible training posts would be great for the CM Planning carnival. Hint Hint! :o)

  2. I would like to know if living back in America has been harder to to stay on track with a simple life. Has your family been bombarded with things that easily take your focus away from your goals and if so, how are you handling it?

  3. Anonymous16.8.08

    Dear Lindafay,

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful response. I typed a long rambling comment but I somehow erased it.

    Your ideas are so practical and helpful. I am trying to take it one step at a time and rely on Christ. The children's rooms are clean now, as is the rest of the house so I can disciple and train them as I should.

    Thank you for your blog and sharing your thoughts,

    A reader

  4. Dear Liz,

    We moved out into the country and rarely go into town since my husband now works from a home office. So our pace has certainly not quickened all that much. I am busy with new and different responsibilities, however. We have a small farm with cows, chickens, goats, cats, dog and probably a horse or two soon. We also have as a huge garden and plan to raise some crops commercially next spring. This has kept all of us very busy but in a good sense of the word. It is a welcome change from the inner city.

    My children don't really know anyone yet and I haven't connected with other homeschoolers in our area due to summer break. We hope to get (just a little) connected in the fall. I'm a homebody naturally so we don't plan to run around much. My husband has been in real need of rest so this country move is doing him some good.

    We live pretty close to a university so we hope to continue relationships with international students. Just taking it one day at a time right now.

    My children are still going through some culture adjustment. Sometimes they miss 'home' and cry, other times they embrace America. They are going through a process of allowing America to become their own country. Sometimes they like it, sometimes they don't. Overall, they are doing well.

    Dear Reader,
    You are very welcome. I realize my post wasn't very chatty. I apologize if I came across curt. I was in a hurry that day.


  5. Anonymous18.8.08

    Dear Lindafay,

    You came across wonderfully helpful! Your post was perfect, thank you for taking time to share with all of us. Thinks are improving one step at a time :-)

    Your reader friend

  6. Isn't it amazing how 100 years ago every child worked, and today hardly any do?

    Of course kids need chores, and I'm glad you're posting on it!

    We had regular chores for the girls at 4 and 5, including dusting the coffee table, using the Windex to clean the bottom of the fridge door and the front of the bottom kitchen cabinets, and putting their clothes in the hamper. It doesn't sound like much, but kids actually enjoy it at that age!

    I talk a lot about this issue at my blog, so visit To Love, Honor and Vacuum today!

  7. Anonymous21.3.10

    Thank you Linday Fay for your simple and practical advice. Thank you!