Little Helpers: Getting Your Kids Involved

Little Helpers

Laura helps Ma make cheese in “Little House in the Big Woods.”
Sketch by Garth Williams.

One of the best ways I know to build a solid, loving relationship with your kiddo and teach good, strong, pioneer/ old-fashioned values and work ethic is to have him or her help you around the house. My munchkin enjoys most chores we do together. Of course, he’s only 5 … I’m sure his enthusiasm may wane as he ages, but the foundation has been laid. 

One of his favorite places to help is in the kitchen. He’s been “helping” me with cooking since he was tiny. Fortunately, now he knows how to crack eggs without making the mess that he made here at age 2-1/2!

He invented a little game called “Recipes.” He comes up with meal ideas that sound yummy (interesting food combinations!) and we discuss the ideas … we don’t often actually cook them! It’s great practice for his creativity, imagination, conversation skills, thought process … and, eventually, his actual cooking skills.

Another area where he’s (sometimes) a big help is grocery shopping. We both love it, and he’s a little “star” at our local Publix … everyone knows him by name! At age 5, I still have him convinced to ride in the cart … how long will that last?

The Stool

One of my favorite kitchen “tools” for kids? A nice sturdy stool. Gives him a sense of empowerment and makes him tall enough to truly be helpful at the counter. He loves to stand on his stool and measure and stir and pour. Sometimes – with plenty of supervision, of course – he even gets to set his stool at the stove and help scramble eggs!

The Quarter Chart

Another way I encourage him to help with housework is his “Quarter Chart.” He gets a check for various tasks around the house (folding and putting away his socks, undies and jammies; cleaning the bathroom; helping me unload the dishwasher – he does silverware and pots & pans; helping me take out the compost; feeding the dog and cat; etc.). Each check = a quarter. (He doesn’t really get the quarters; we use this symbol to help him learn about money and math.) Once he’s earned $5 in quarters, I match his $5, and he has $10 to use for one of 3 purposes, which we rotate: spending (a toy of his choice), saving (he has his own little bank account) and sharing (he gets to choose the charity of his choice; usually he wants to help “feed the hungry children.”)

Sneaking in Learning

I try to make each “little helper” experience at least a little bit educational. Measuring cups in the kitchen are a great way to teach fractions. Defrosting tomorrow night’s dinner entree is a science lesson. Folding laundry together is a lesson in order and organization. Grocery shopping together has all kinds of educational possibilities, including social skills, nutrition, budgeting and list-making.

Independence

My munchkin’s favorite chores are the ones he gets to manage almost completely on his own:

  • Packing his toys in a bag for a trip.
  • Organizing my kitchen “miscellaneous” drawer.
  • Keeping his notebook of savings account statements and deposit slips neat.
  • Fitting all his razor scooter safety equipment into his own gear bag.
  • Sharpening his can of pencils.

These chores might not be extremely helpful to me, but they sure give him a sense of empowerment and accomplishment. Which leads to him being willing to help me with other chores (like laundry and dishes!) that truly are helpful! Our pioneer ancestors put their kids to work because they simply had to … they couldn’t survive without the help. As modern pioneers, we put our kids to work because we know how good it is for them … and for our relationship with them.

How do you involve your little helpers in housework??

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