School’s out: time to put the kids to work!


It’s been weeks since students packed up their cubbies and emptied their lockers. Their backpacks are likely collecting dust in hall closets across the country, and for some, routines have sharply shifted. Wake up times have been pushed back, levels of teenage motivation have plummeted and memories of the school day routine are long gone. Sure, summer vacation is about taking a mind break: it’s about resting, relaxing and relishing in the year’s successes, but it doesn’t mean your children can’t strengthen other skills while they’re off.  It wouldn’t hurt for your child to help out a little more around the house this summer, and in turn, it may also lighten the load for mom and dad.

Age appropriate tasks
Whether your little one is four or 14, kids are never too young to learn how to be responsible members of the family. A toddler can put her shoes away while a five-year-old may enjoy taking his plate to the kitchen sink after dinner, especially since mom and dad do it too. But bear in mind, it’s important to keep tasks simple for children under 10.

Encouraging children to take on designated household chores does more long-term than just help parents around the house. Some experts say it helps create ‘life skills’ for children, which is especially helpful once they’re on their own.

Offer up incentives
An allowance is typically one of the most effective incentives for children of all ages. While kids may initially feel a sense of pride in making their beds or folding laundry, the novelty can wear off pretty quickly. Cold, hard cash for a job well done is a great way to reward your child. For younger kids, why not create a chart, offering a sticker for every completed task.
After five or 10 stickers, it’s time to offer up a little thank you.

A little bit goes a long way
A child’s allowance may only be pocket change to you, but it can seem like big bucks to a kindergartner. Some pint sized investors might opt to save their allowance over a period of time before emptying the piggy bank. For others, they can’t spend their hard earned cash fast enough. Either way, bring them to the store and show them first-hand how far their money will stretch. Now that’s a lesson in money management.

Reap the rewards of hard work
There’s no greater sense of accomplishment than experiencing the benefits of independence and hard work. So, let your children relish in their small successes. Increasing screen time by an hour, or taking your child out for ice cream are great ways to show them you appreciate their contributions at home.

Spend time, not money
While kids take a break doing household chores, there’s plenty of other work to do to keep up their skills in the classroom. A quick daily or weekly refresher will help sharpen your child’s mind, whether it involves reading, writing or math.  Libraries are a fun, interactive way to strengthen comprehension and reading skills for younger children. There are also plenty of online learning tools for students of all ages.

Don’t use chores as a punishment
It might be a default for some parents and that’s ok, we’re all human. The problem is, punishing your kids by dishing out more chores means they’ll associate them with negativity and may even avoid doing them altogether. Instead, explain why the entire family should take pride in the work everyone does around the house.

I realize I’ll have to re-mop messy milk spills, rearrange the bottom rack of my dishwasher, and sweep the same section of floor where my children diligently collect crumbs after dinner. Admittedly, it would be much easier and faster to do on my own, but I know long-term, my children will reap the benefits of taking pride in household chores. Excuse me now while I scrape Cheerios off the floor.