Hello again! Emily here to tell you about an idea I put into action this summer that has been working like a dream for us. Like many of you, we ended the school year just happy to be done with locked-in routines and morning battles. The first week or two, we reveled in the freedom, and slowly my kids figured out how to sleep in an extra 30 minutes. (Heaven, I tell you.) But by the end of that second week, we were floundering a little in the lack of structure, and I was beginning to realize that my kids were getting downright lazy. And lazy leads to bored. And bored leads to needy.
I didn’t want to get all crazy with new rules and routines, to schedule their entire day, or become a hardened task-master. But I did begin to suspect that we could use a little light structure to our mornings, even with the sleeping later. And I do want my kiddos to begin to understand the concept of daily chores. So as I was browsing Pinterest, I saw a darling idea for a summer “Boredom Buster” jar, using popsicle sticks and washi tape (of course)… and I realized I could re-purpose that cute idea to serve my desire to have some summer chores put into place.
I’ve had a list of age-appropriate tasks on my fridge for a while now— a list that shows things each child is likely capable of doing at certain ages, and it is from lists like these that I made up my own set of chores for each of my children. (This list, from thehappyhousewife.com, is a really good one and has a printable version!) I decided to give each of my three kids a list of 8 possible chores. Quinn, who is two, got simple tasks like “clean up toys” and “put pillows on the couch nicely”. Lucy, age 4, got chores like “empty recycling” and “do one load of laundry” (I figure the laundry thing means either one load put in the wash, or transferred from wash to dry, OR folded. Not all three. And this chore would be with my supervision and help, of course.) And my oldest, Noah, who is 7.5, gets to try his hand at dishes, sweeping, and putting books away on his shelf nicely.
The idea, in my case, is to give them some tasks they can attempt, sometimes with my help, and begin to learn those skills. I don’t expect or need these jobs to be done perfectly— I just want to begin to establish the routine and the expectation. Eventually, I imagine I’ll have some stricter standards I want them to follow. But this summer, I’m just trying to teach them the concept.
So for the Chore Jar: I then got 8 sticks per kid and chose a different washi tape design for each of my kids. I taped the end of the sticks, then wrote their 8 tasks on their sticks, like this (Noah=red, Lucy= floral, Quinn= yellow):
Our morning then looks like this:
We still wake at our leisure. It’s been amazing to get to sleep til 7:30, I tell you. That is when Quinn wakes. Noah is often soon after that. Lucy, the mini-teenager, can often sleep in til 9 or later. Crazy! So when the boys are up, I get them breakfast. Whenever Lucy joins us, I get her some breakfast too. Then, when breakfast is done, whatever time that may be, they clear their own dishes and come to me to get a chore stick from the jar. (I don’t put their sticks back in that week, so we don’t repeat tasks all the time). You’ll notice in my above photo that some of their tasks are identical. If they happen to get the same chore, they get to work on it together. Lucky them! If the 2 or 4-year old draws a task that needs my direct help, we get right to work together. Lucy is often still eating when Quinn gets to his chore anyway, so it works out.
I plan for their tasks to take no more than 10 minutes. They are often even less than that. And after chores are done, we get to proceed with our day and whatever adventure awaits.
I am finding, after three weeks of this, that even this small routine has set the tone for the day, and therefore for our summer. The kids are usually completely willing to do their jobs, and I think the younger ones in particular are feeling really proud of themselves and happy I am asking them to do “important” things. So far, no one has complained! And perhaps if we can keep this up, I can begin to ask more of them toward the end of the summer. I want to continue to be mindful of the age-appropriate task list, and of not asking them to do things perfectly the first several times. I want to encourage teamwork and I want to keep praising them for doing their work cheerfully.
We still get LOTS of freedom, long days in our pajamas, and a looser, milder pattern to our summer days. But a couple of simple routines in our days, like this easy chore jar, have made all the difference in making an already good summer even better.