A few months ago, Ella started asking if she could have some chores to do. I don’t know what sparked this interest in chores, but I wasn’t about to pass up an opportunity to get some free labor around the house.
We made up a chore chart with four tasks for her to do every weekday and hung it up on the back of the pantry door.
Every day, she marks off her jobs and on Friday afternoon or Saturday, we tally up how many jobs she’s done and pay her 10 cents a job (so she has the capacity to earn $2 a week).
Some of the jobs are daily and some are once or twice a week and so if, on Friday afternoon or Saturday, she’s missed a few during the week, she can make them up, assuming that’s possible (you can’t set the table four times in a row, obviously). Sometimes she wants to make a little more cash and does the ones she’s missed and other times she opts to pass.
Each set of chores repeats for four weeks and then I make up a new set for the next four weeks (you can download the chart here, if you are so inclined). By the end of four weeks, she’s ready for a new set of responsibilities, but it’s not so frequent that I have to think about it very often. So far it’s worked pretty well.
Also, because we never have cash on hand (this being the notable exception and I’m not about to be paying my 4-year-old $20 for anything), I went to the bank and got 10 $1 bills and 10 dollars worth of dimes so that I wouldn’t have to worry about whether or not I had cash around. I put it all in a tupperware in the pantry so it is right there ready for every pay day.
I know that lots of parenting experts say not to pay kids for chores (Bart and I are currently reading The Opposite of Spoiled and it will probably tell us we’re doing everything wrong), but Ella specifically wanted a way to earn some money, so this was a good way for us to do that. She still does other non-paid chores around the house and also continues to set the table and unload the dishwasher on the weekends too, even though she doesn’t get paid for those days.
I think (I hope!) that she recognizes that we all do work around the house, whether or not we get paid for it.
Anyway, if you’re looking for ideas, here are some of my favorite chores for preschoolers:
- Sort laundry. I do all the laundry on Mondays, so on Monday mornings, Ella sorts her laundry into dark and light piles (Ani likes to do hers too, although she’s not quite got the hang of it yet). I also have Ella sort the laundry back into Ani and Ella piles once it’s clean so I can put it away.
- Water the plants. Ella planted a bunch of little flowers and vegetables when we did this project, so she waters them a few times a week.
- Set the dinner table. She sets her and Ani’s spots and I do the adult dishes (which are too high for her to reach).
- Get the mail. She can JUST barely reach the mail box (at least until the wind blew it off its post over the weekend and now it is sitting on the ground, which I’m sure is really ingratiating us to the mail woman) but she loves reaching in and getting the mail.
- Wipe down the garbage can. If your house is anything like ours, you know how filthy that garbage can gets. But now? Sparkling clean, at least for a few days a week.
- Unload the dishwasher. She does about half of the dishwasher, including all the kid dishes, most of the baking and cooking stuff, and then she leaves the things that are too high for her to put away for me.
- Help put away groceries. She can put away all the produce in the fridge and a lot of stuff in the pantry.
- Sweep the kitchen floor. I feel like my parents taught me lots of good life skills, but I didn’t figure out how to really sweep until I was an adult (same goes for blowing my nose). I’m hoping Ella learns a little sooner than I did.
- Sort the library books. Before we go back to the library each week, I have her sort the books into piles of what to return and what to keep for another week.
- Vacuum the rugs. I pull the furniture out of the way and she vacuums both of the rugs in our family room.
- Clean out the car. She can bring in all the shoes, books, jackets, and stickers that have accumulated in the car over the week and help me put them away.
- Wipe down the kitchen cabinets. This is the kind of thing I NEVER do, so it’s nice to have a child to make do it instead.
- Clean the bathroom mirrors. What is it about a spray bottle that is so fun?
- Dust the bookshelves. The dust isn’t nearly as bad here as it was in Texas, but it’s still nice to not have a cozy layer of dust on every surface.
- Throw away dead flowers. I buy flowers most weeks (hello, clearance floral arrangements at Krogers), and once they are past their prime, she can throw them away and empty the water into the sink.
- Make the bed. She has only a quilt and a pillow on her bed, so she can make it every morning on her own.
- Put shoes away. Shoes tend to collect by our garage door, so once or twice a week, I have both girls haul them all upstairs and put them in their appropriate closets.
- Help with laundry. The girls both like to put the laundry in the washer, add the laundry soap, and then move everything to the dryer when it’s done washing (it helps that this house has front-loaders).
- Wipe down the kitchen chairs. Our kitchen chairs get filthy and having Ella wash them down once a week makes a huge difference in not looking like we live in a pigsty.
- Fold towels. Clothing might be a little difficult at this age, but we go through a ton of little blankets and plenty of towels, and these are perfect for her to fold.