Let the eye-rolling begin! In addition to playing, camping, and cavorting at the local pool, my kids will be doing chores this summer. To say they’re underwhelmed at the idea is an understatement. The typical response to anything containing the word “chore” is a woeful “But Mooooom…!”
Growing up, I earned a weekly allowance of 50 cents for dusting and vacuuming the entire house or mowing the lawn. I had to get my work done before I went out to play and that sense of duty has stayed with me. I want to instill the same values in my children, so this summer is not going to be all fun and games if I have anything to say about it… and I do! Our vacation will be packed with all the usual diversions and we’ll take a breather from the hassle-and-grind of the school year, but when it comes to housework my kids are going to pitch in. So says mom.
To kick things off, I came up with a special “summerized” and age-appropriate list of tasks for them to do, starting from the moment they wake up…
1. Make Their Beds. My kids do this year-round, just not very well. My dad was an Army guy and part of his military training was making his bed perfectly every morning. If you haven’t seen this year’s incredible University of Texas commencement speech by Admiral William H. McRaven (a Navy SEAL for 36 years), watch it. He reveals 10 ways his SEAL training prepared him for life. #1 was making his bed every morning which gave him an immediate sense of accomplishment. This summer I’m going SEAL on my kids and teaching them to make a bed right!
2. Do Camp Laundry. Camp laundry is not like typical laundry. As many moms know, camp laundry is crusted with a special mix of dirt, grass, chlorine, popsicle juice, sunscreen grease, and other seasonal yuck. My kids are prone to dumping their laundry rather than dealing with it. This summer, I’m introducing them to the magic of OxiClean and the wonders of laundry room technology. If they can work an iPad and build Minecraft mansions, they can certainly work a washing machine.
3. Clean the Bathroom. Living with three boys (2 juveniles, 1 adult) makes for messy bathrooms. It’s time they started pitching in on the cleaning, and yes that includes the toilet, inside and out.
4. Wash the Car. Growing up, I loved washing the car. It’s the ideal activity for a steamy, summer day. Crank up some tunes, grab a bucket of soapy water and some sponges, and let the kids go to town.
5. Dust Their Bedrooms. This should be a year-round chore, but I haven’t gotten around to showing my kids how to do it right. This summer, they’re getting schooled in the art of dusting. This is an easy (and gratifying) chore for school-age kids, plus it forces them to organize shelves and bedside tables as they go, so sort of a 2-for-1.
6. Pack Lunches. I hate packing lunches and summer is the perfect time to teach children to do it themselves. Because we’re not doing bag lunches every day or rushing to get out the door for school, we can take a bit more time to discuss which snacks work, what makes a balanced meal, and how to keep food hot or cold.
7. Unload the Dishwasher. Another task I don’t relish: unloading the dishwasher. It’s not the hardest chore in the house, but I find it tedious. Since my children are at an age where they can handle breakables and figure out what goes where, this is a good fit for them… and crosses one more thing off my to-do list!
8. Set the Dinner Table. There is something wonderfully nostalgic and ceremonial about setting the dinner table — the folding of napkins, the layering of placemats and utensils, the assignment of water and wine glasses. We've also started doing place cards which is a bit formal, but good fun for the kids.
9. Prepare Breakfast. Most mornings, my kids are more awake than I am (pre-coffee). Breakfast is one of their favorite meals so it’s a natural choice for easing them into cooking and baking. I don’t plan to have them sautéing omelets quite yet, but they can easily handle fruit, yogurt, frozen waffles, cinnamon toast (a family favorite), and instant oatmeal. I get to sit back and sip my java while they slave away!
10. Groom the Garden. My children help year-round with yard work which can be tough physical labor, especially in autumn. They’re troopers and summer is the perfect time to reward them with easier outdoor chores like watering plants, trimming dead-heads off the flowering shrubs, and picking herbs for the kitchen.
The way I see it, summer chores are a win-win. I get help around the house. The kids get to learn new skills and develop a sense of pride and achievement. The house is our house and as much as they may moan and groan, I know they get satisfaction out of making our home look good. That sense of accomplishment and responsibility is clear in their faces, and every once in a while, I actually catch them bragging about it to a friend … “Yeah, I pack my own lunch…”
Do your kids have a summer chore list? Take our poll to weigh in: