One sticky summer night, I was feverishly clearing the dinner table, washing dishes, and loading the dishwasher, when my five year old daughter Charlotte suddenly took interest in what I was doing.
“Can I please help you, Mommy?”
Her sweet question totally caught me off guard. I wondered, Can she actually help me? Is it possible that having her “help” will create more work for me? What if she drops a plate and breaks it? Will allowing her to participate in dinner clean up slow down our bedtime routine? How do I teach her about being responsible using household chores at this young age? Can a kindergartener be included in the household cleaning?
All these questions blasted through my mind at lightning speed, but the answer that came from my heart and cancelled out all the worry was a massive “YES! Yes, you can help me, sweet girl! Let me show you how…” I grabbed our trusty old step ladder, stood her up in front of a sink full of bubbles, handed her the scrubby brush and said, “Please scrub all the food residue off each item in the sink and hand it to me after so I can dry it, or put it in the dishwasher if it needs an extra bath.” Saying it this way was helpful for my neat-freak tendencies because if she missed a spot I knew the dishwasher would take care of it later, and I wouldn’t have to risk hurting her feelings if she saw me trying to rewash something she missed.
That night while she washed dishes, we talked about if she felt like she was ready to do more chores around the house. She was showing interest in helping, and I did not want to discourage her (because, let’s face it, I need all the help around the house I can get!) Even though those first few weeks of having her help I found myself rewashing the majority of the dishes she had helped wash, I knew that what we were doing together was bigger than me having to do a little extra work to include her in the process.
Chores and Rewards
When we decided to make an official chore chart, I asked her to tell me three or four things she was interested in doing to help around the house. She chose helping clean the dishes after dinner, washing the windows, and cleaning the toilet. (The toilet one scared me a little at first, but she is actually really great at it!) Together we decided that we should also add tidying up her bedroom and keeping her toys put away in the living room to her chore list.
At the end of each week, if she had been helpful and kept up with her chores, she would earn a reward. We decided that she would either get to earn a special ice cream date or choose an item from the dollar spot at the store. (After all, her two main motivators are shopping and sweet treats!) Including her in the process was fun and helped her to feel a sense of responsibility to the list we created together. She was excited about completing her daily tasks and never once let me forget to clean the toilet (or put it off a day or two).
Helping Your Helper
A few of the chores she chose required my supervision and were not very “helpful” at first, but we were spending time together talking about her day. One afternoon, while cleaning the windows with me she said, “Mom, this is hard work—my arms are really tired!” It felt like such a massive victory that she was beginning to recognize all that goes into being responsible and keeping everything in order. As she becomes more comfortable with each chore, I have seen her take ownership of her household duties and her confidence soar. Knowing that she CAN wash dishes, she CAN clean the toilet, and she CAN put away her own toys has helped her to try new things that might seem hard at first.
She’s seven now and we’ve added a few more items to the chore list, but we always include her in the process and ask her to help decide what she should be doing to chip in around the house. If you have a young child at home who is showing interest in helping you with chores around the house, I encourage you to just say yes and give them a shot! You’ll both be surprised at where it will lead and how precious your time working together can be.
I’ve designed a chore chart that you can use to sit down with your kindergartner and fill in the tasks together. This is a great child development resource for Christian families looking for ways to make Christian parenting as well as Christian homeschooling more interactive for your child. Simply write in the task(s) for the days you want them completed. I also sometimes draw pictures next to words she might not yet recognize to help give her little hints. Happy cleaning!
About the Author
currently lives and works in Nashville, TN with her family and rescue goldendoodle puppy.