While it may seem like a long way off, the little humans you live with and nurture are someday going to fledge the nest and find a nest of their own. When they do, it’d be nice if they knew their way around a washing machine. Here are some habits you can teach your children starting now.
Nighttime Tidy Up
Before everyone heads off to bed, rally the troops to get the dishes into the dishwasher, the couch straightened, the shoes put in the closets, the coats hung up, the counters wiped clean, the garbage taken out, the laundry put away … Basically, put the house back in order and ready for the next day.
Teaching your children to participate in this nightly ritual will instill a valuable habit that they’ll take into adulthood. This simple habit is chock-full of character-building mojo as they sacrifice now for rewards later, diligently work when they don’t feel like it, consider other members of the household, and cooperate with the rest of the family to get the job done.
What day does the garbage get picked up? How about recycling? Who’s in charge of managing the garbage receptacles in your house? If it’s you or your spouse, consider outsourcing the job to a capable child.
Let the child know what night the garbage needs to be taken to the curb each week. Put them in charge of emptying all the trash cans at home, replacing the garbage bags, bringing the cans to the curb, and returning the cans to their place after the garbage truck has come.
Unloading the Dishwasher
Are you the only one in your house who knows where everything goes in the kitchen? If so, that’s a huge red flag that your children over the age of, say, 2 need more responsibility.
Emptying a clean dishwasher and putting away the dishes properly is a great example of the type of effort it takes to keep a household running. Care for each item must be taken, everything must find its way to its proper place, and the job is done when it’s done. As a bonus, the next time someone needs a spoon for her yogurt, she’ll know just where to find it.
Make Your Own Bed
Do you make your kids’ beds every day? If they are old enough to dress themselves, they can make their own bed. (If they’re not, they can help.)
Many adults haven’t embraced the benefits of this habit, but a made bed sets the tone for the day. It’s one of the first things you do, offering you an easy win before the day has hardly begun. A made bed instantly makes the entire room look neater and cleaner. At the end of the day, it’s another reminder that regardless of how it all went, you started off right and can now get into a nice, neat bed.
Even a toddler can help get a handle on the dusting around the house. Swiffer cloths or simple rags are perfect to hand off and let the kids do their best with the surfaces of the house. The older the child, the more capable he or she will be, but every little bit helps when it comes to dusting.
Along those lines, it’s not that hard, even for a preschooler, to learn to use the vacuum. Put your child in charge of vacuuming certain rooms consistently or make running the vacuum a part of the nightly tidy-up if that works better.
Clean the Bathrooms
Ah, the most glamorous of the household chores. One way to encourage your children to not make a total disgrace of the bathroom is to put them in charge of cleaning it each day. Perhaps young children could begin by using natural and safe cleaning fluids like a mixture of vinegar, water, and lemon juice. Kids can manage towels and toiletries, and wipe down counters, sinks, tubs, and yes, toilets.
Do the Laundry
Oh, the laundry. Is there a more relentless household chore? As your kids grow, make sure they put away their own clothes properly each day and are competent in working the washing machine, the dryer, and even the iron.
Finally, you’ll have hit platinum-level parenting when you see your children begin to take initiative to better some part of the household. Perhaps they simply see a messy surface and take it upon themselves to clean it up. Perhaps they want to plant a garden and take the initiative to make that happen. Perhaps you wake up early one weekend morning and find them cleaning out your garage.
Encourage your children to take ownership and initiative in the care, maintenance, and improvement of the home you share together. Each task, chore, and project will instill in them the skills, standards, and good habits necessary to take good care of their own home someday.