If you’re anything like me, it feels like 10% of your day is spent playing and connecting with your kids, and the remaining 90% is spent cleaning up the mess after your moment of fun.
I’m a stay at home mom to four kids (ages 6, 5, 4, and 1½) and I homeschool them as well, so they’re pretty much always with me. That means they’re at home making a mess 24/7. At any given moment you’ll find: Nugget couch forts, bunk bed tents, upside down chair bunkers, Cheerios in the play kitchen, random rocks in every crevice (what’s with kids and rocks??), etc.
In order to maintain my sanity, I realized pretty early on that I was going to have to outsource some of my cleaning tasks. We’re a single income family with multiple kids, remember, so a cleaning lady just ain’t happenin’ for me. Luckily, I handmade four little helpers just for this reason (okay maybe not just for this reason; they’re pretty cute regardless of how helpful they are, but you get the picture). It might seem like a toddler can’t actually be useful when it comes to chores, but trust me, they can!
Here is a list of 8 age-appropriate chores for kids to help mama enjoy more time with the family, and less time scrubbing three-day-old milk out of sippy cups forgotten in the back of the car.
Putting Laundry Away
Laundry is never-ending over here, so to expedite the process, I have each kid put away their own piles of laundry. We have labels on each dresser drawer for those who can read, and even if they can’t, they pick up on what goes where after being guided the first couple of times. The younger ones like to help out by pairing socks and folding washcloths, too.
Feeding the pets
Feeding and watering the animals is a great job for almost any age! We keep our dog food in a tub with an easy latch so that the kids can reach in and get it. Even my toddler can help scoop dog food into the bowl. My 4-year-old is in charge of filling up the dog water, and she likes to use a big cup to pour into the dog bowl, so she doesn’t have to carry a full dish around and risk spilling any.
Making Their Own Breakfast
Now, I’m not talking about frying up bacon or crafting a California Omelet or anything, but kids can make breakfast! They can pour their own bowls of cereal and milk (mine usually start doing this around age 5) and can even make their own toast in the toaster oven (only my 6-year-old does this). My 6-year-old and my husband have a Saturday morning tradition of making pancakes or waffles together, and not only does it teach my son how to cook, but it’s great bonding time for them both!
Helping With Dinner
My kids love to help me cook. In fact, many times it turns into an argument about who gets to help, so we try to take turns. They’ve learned how to assist me with stirring, mixing, flipping tortillas, etc. It’s also a great way to get some math practice in there when teaching them about fractions of cups and measurements. I let my older kids help cut up fruit and veggies, and teach them the proper way to hold a knife.
Taking Out Their Trash
I may be outing myself here, but I’m willing to bet most of you are in the same boat; my car is an absolute disaster. We’re always on the go, so that means lots of snacks are eaten in my car. The things I’ve unearthed from the underbelly of our carseats would haunt your dreams. The easiest way I’ve found to keep things from devolving into straight up squalor back there is to consistently have my kids clean out any trash they find floating around in the back on their way out of the car. That being said, I recently sat in the rear seat of my car and was thoroughly disgusted at the grime back there, despite this practice. As far as splattered stains on the roof fabric, kick marks on seat backs, and the God-knows-what liquid that is congealed in the cupholder? You’re on your own there.
Putting Dishes Away
This is one that even the tiniest helpers can do. My one-year-old loves putting away the dishes. She hands me the silverware out of the dishwasher one by one, reaches into the very back of the machine to fetch the plastic cups, and happily puts the plastic storage containers away in an easy to reach cupboard.
Setting the Table
Another great helping option for kids of all ages! The littlest ones can set the napkins by each plate, and the older ones can set out the rest of the dinnerware. My 5-year-old daughter loves to make us “fancy tables” and organize the silverware nicely on the napkin, dim the dining room light and make the table presentable for us.
Picking Up Their Own Room
My three oldest kids share a room (we have another room for them but they love being together!) and that means it gathers 3x the mess of any other room. Their responsibilities are to make their beds, put their clothes in the hamper, organize their books shelves, and keep their closet neat. It’s never perfect, but it helps me stay on top of it instead of constantly being overwhelmed by the mess.
My house isn’t spotless, and I still get overwhelmed sometimes, but these little things help me chip away at it rather than constantly feeling like I’m drowning in chores.
Now, if only I could figure out how to get my kids to stop making all these messes in the first place!