For Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers

Make the bed

Draw a quilt with 30 patches. Each time your child makes her bed, let her colour a patch. The goal is to complete the quilt. In the same way, you can motivate your kids to pick up their toys. Draw a toy chest and cut out 30 pictures of toys from advertisements or magazines. If your child picks up his toys at the end of the day, let him glue a picture in the toy box. The goal is to fill the chest.

— Jennifer Bussey

Pick up toys

Children enjoy blending music and work. While you show them how to do developmentally appropriate chores, use a well-known tune and make up lyrics to fit the melody. For example, if you choose "The Farmer in the Dell," you can sing words similar to the following:

We’re picking up the blocks. We’re picking up the blocks. Hi-ho, the derry-o. We’re picking up the blocks.

You also can add a child’s name to the song.

Josh picked up a toy. He’s such a wonderful boy. Hi-ho, the derry-o. Cleaning is a joy.

— Sharon Wilkins

Feed the pet

Give your child a measuring cup and show him how much food to put in Rover’s bowl. Then help your son fill the water bowl as well. Because he can’t yet reach the sink on his own, he can fill a cup with water and transfer it to the dish. When he sees Rover chowing down on the food, praise your child for taking care of his pet.

— Abigail Cleveland

Water the lawn

Children long for cool, refreshing water in the summer heat almost as much as plants do. Take care of both by allowing your child to water plants with a small watering can. Help him fill it with water from the garden hose, and teach him how to pour water slowly on a plant. After he’s finished, reward his effort by turning on the sprinkler and letting him run through it.

— Melissa Lehman

Rake the leaves

A large pile of fallen leaves makes a great playground for children and a fun family activity. Buy a small, plastic rake so your toddler can help. Be sure to sift out any limbs or material that could hurt your child if he jumps on the pile.

— Melissa Lehman

For School-age kids

Neglected Chores

My husband and I tired of reminding our four sons to do chores. We told our boys that if a chore was not completed by a predetermined time, another sibling could do it. Then the neglectful sibling had to pay the one who completed the job. Giving hard-earned money to a brother motivated them, and we no longer had to remind them.

— Sue Heimer

Motivate with a point system

At our home, we’ve adapted a point system to motivate our kids to take on chores. The system also encourages other ways of helping. It’s a fun way to instill responsibility and ownership without resorting to nagging or scolding. Here’s how it works:

Each time your child completes a chore or task on his own, award points. The more important or difficult the task, the more points are earned. Especially kind or generous acts earn "bonus" points. Take away points for misbehaviours or failure to perform expected chores. The key is to be consistent. Be sure to decide on a point value system in advance.

At the end of a predetermined time period (such as one month), the child with the most points wins.

Make sure every child benefits regardless of who wins. In our home, the winner gets to decide where our next fun family outing will be — bowling, the family arcade or a kids’ movie night to name a few. The winner earns the power of choice, but siblings still get to join in the fun.

— Dan Kassis

Chore charts

Did you finish your homework? Have you set the table? My children and I grew tired of my daily, ineffective interrogations.

One day I laminated a chore list for each child and set up a magnet chart that had their names and the days of the week.

Later, my children picked a small number of inexpensive items they wanted. I labeled each with a "price" of a specific number of magnets that needed to be earned before receiving the prize.

Whenever my children completed their chore list without being reminded, they placed a magnet on the chart. If they did not do their chores, they had to remove a previously earned magnet. Once a child earned enough magnets, the child could redeem an item from the prize box.

— Melinda Means

Build relationships through chores

I felt myself slipping out of touch with my six children. When my oldest boy stressed over his chores, especially doing the dishes, I worked alongside him, giving him an occasional elbow nudge or playfully splashing him. Soon his wall of resistance vanished. Now I view chores as a family relationship builder instead of a burden.

— Brandy Brow

Dr. Bill Maier

Dr. Bill Maier is a veteran broadcaster with a background in both general market and Christian radio and holds a doctoral degree in clinical psychology. During his time at Focus on the Family, Bill hosted the Weekend Magazine program, the Family Minute with Dr. Bill Maier, and the Family Insights TV news feature.

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