On Putting the Kid to Work

Over Christmas, Hubby and I were visiting his parents in his hometown, and he ran into a friend from high school after a Christmas church service.  The guys were catching up, and he proudly introduced Bubs, then gave my growing belly a pat and introduced Squishy as well.  The friend is married with 4 boys now, and he told Bubs, “You’d have a blast at my house, little dude!”  I’m kind of bummed we couldn’t stick around longer, because I’m sure he is 100% right!

So, Hubs was picking his brain about raising boys, and asked one of his favorite questions to ask parents of older boys.  “I just want to know, when do they start DOING stuff? You know, like, being helpful around the house?”  The friend replied, “Man, honestly- my oldest JUST started.  He’s 7.  Girls are different- they want to be mini mommy, you know?  Boys… they just aren’t like that.”  And I was standing there like, “Yeahhhhhh……”  I let the guys finish up the convo, and of course debriefed with Hubby in the car.

“That’s the same answer I got from another dad at work,” he said.  “His 7 year old just started helping out around his house, too.”

Folks, I’m calling bullshit.  Iseriouslydontthinkso!

I mean, we got a Baby Mop as soon as Bubs could crawl!


Just kidding, just kidding, just kidding! Also, yes, this is a real thing.

Girls help sooner?  Because they want to be mini mommies? OK, fine, but WHY do they want to be mini mommies?

Also, Bubs wants to be a mini Daddy.  If Daddy wears a hat that day, Bubs INSISTS that I put a hat on him.  If Daddy is in the bathroom shaving, Bubs wants to watch.  Mommy is great and all that, but he’s only 14 mo and Daddy already for SURE has way more cool points.

So, here’s my point:  are the kiddos seeing Daddy pitch in around the house?  Or does Mommy do all the chores?  AND… what are the expectations?  If there is one thing I’ve learned in my 5 years of teaching, it is that my students WILL rise to my expectations.  Kids can do stuff if given the opportunity.  And little kids LOVE to help.  Additionally, they are classic Pavlov’s dogs.  They thrive on routine.  Set a routine, set an expectation, and keep at it!

Bubs is 14 months old.  He’s already helping me pick up.  He sees me doing chores every day, and he wants to jump in and help.


He grabbed the swiffer the other day and went to town.  Did it do much good?  Nope, not at all in terms of getting the floor clean, but he thought it was hysterical to sweep right beside me as I dusted.  He helped!  And I clapped and cheered him on.  He thought that was even more awesome.

I fold laundry in front of him.  He picks up laundry out of the hamper and puts it in the most random places.  Like the coffee table drawer.

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So, yes, I have to go back and retrieve the items later.  But he thought it was cool to “help” me, so I’m rolling with it!

It’s tempting to just pick up all his toys myself when he’s done playing with them, but there’s no lesson in that.  I’m a musical person, so I sing a clean up song.  It’s to the tune of “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush”

It’s time to put the toys away

The toys away, the toys away

It’s time to put the toys away

Help me if you can

We keep all of his toys in bins, so it’s easy for him to plunk them right where they belong.  Sometimes he starts to wander off, so I keep singing, I hand him a toy, and I tell him to put it in the bin.  When he does, I clap and cheer.  He loves that and claps for himself.  I tell him, “You must be so proud of yourself for putting your toys away!”  He has started to put all kinds of things in his toys bins now.  I found my slipper in one last week.

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I sing the song when he flings food from his high chair, too (“time to put the food away”).  After removing him from the chair, I take his bowl and start putting the pieces in it, handing him bits to put in the bowl as well.  Then, I take a damp rag to wipe off the floor.  I put his hand on the rag and show him how to wipe back and fourth, then remove my hand.  If he gives a wipe or two, I applaud and cheer.  There is much applause in our house 🙂  It works for my kid.

I think a lot of moms fall into the trap of thinking, “I’ll just do it myself.”  Sure, it’s faster and you know it’ll get done right, but I think that you’re really shooting yourself in the foot if you don’t train up your kids from the beginning that being a part of your family team means that everybody does their share.

We want a bunch of kids someday, if all goes according to plan.  I also love my career.  So I need some help around here!  I delegate trash duty and making the bed to my husband.  Somedays the bed is made a little lopsided, but I’ve learned that I need to not care.  He’s helping, and it doesn’t matter if it’s not perfect.  Sometimes I have to redo things when Bubs “helps” me around the house, but I will ABSOLUTELY encourage his helpful little attitude!  And I’ll continue to model for him so he knows what I want him to do.  I’m hoping that this will all pay off soon enough.  And waaaaaay sooner than 7 years from now.

One more thing- I keep it light and fun because I want to instill the idea that our family is a team  and that is feels good to help around the house!  Chores were always such a drag when I was growing up.  Nobody in my family liked doing them, and it was like pulling teeth to get everyone to keep the house up.  I’m trying something different… I want my kids to love having a clean space to play in, and to love helping us keep it that way.  Only time will tell if it’s successful.  I’ll keep you posted 🙂

Here is a great article about age appropriate chores for children:


And age appropriate life skills- love this blog post:



3 thoughts on “On Putting the Kid to Work

  1. I completely agree with you. Sebastian has been helping us sweep, unload the dishwasher, load clothes into the dryer, clean up when spills, and clean up his toys for about a year now. Of course he doesn’t do a good job and he definitely needs supervision, but who cares. He’s learning to help and that’s all that matters. Applause still works for him!

  2. Crystal, I deeply appreciate your perspective on this issue. Growing up, my two older brothers and I had weekly chores. My mom often voiced her determination that my brothers would NOT be “bachelor slobs” when they left home; she never expressed a similar concern with me. Years later, I was three weeks into Freshman year of college, out of clean underwear, and completely clueless about what to do next. Mom was horrified when I called and asked her how to do laundry. While teaching my brothers the nuances of whitening whites, removing tough stains, etc., she’d somehow overlooked me.

    This is one of two stereotypes at work: One, that boys are destined to be “bachelor slobs” if you don’t seriously intervene; or two, that girls just become “little mommy” naturally, without instruction. People talk a lot about “the differences” between boys/girls, as if “the differences” are innate, and not at all relative to time, place, and upbringing. Of course there are differences– who would argue the glaringly obvious biological variations? However, in an effort to understand our daunting, complicated little ones, we use “the differences” category far too broadly. I’m afraid this limits us, and our children, far more than it helps.

  3. Pingback: Updated Kid Chores | Adventures of the UnSuperMomma

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