Input Welcome: Chores for Children & Indoor Exercise Ideas

Eliyahu, out bug-hunting
Eliyahu (4), out bug-hunting

Melissa asked, 

"I really appreciate your view of working alongside your children and I try to implement that sort of lifestyle with my own little ones.

"While my children truly seem to enjoy helping me and doing little chores, I also feel like I am constantly having them do things for me ('Will you throw this diaper in the pail, please?' 'Will you pull your chairs up and help me with dinner?' etc. - all day long).

"We set aside time where I play with them or read to them throughout the day, and most of the evening after dinner is spent just playing. But I still feel like a bit of a slave driver.

"Do you ever feel like that? Do you have any specific standards as to how much help you will require of your children? Do you feel like giving them time to just roam and explore are important?"

I've been thinking about this very thing recently, especially since my oldest child is 6 now and very capable of doing many things to help around the house, including cleaning, changing diapers, and "babysitting" (while I am home of course!).

I want to teach responsibility, and I want everyone in the family to work together so our home is peaceful not chaotic, but I don't want to pass things that should rightly be my responsibility as a mom on to my child.

One of the ways I balance that is by examining my motives. If I am giving a job to a child simply because I am too lazy, that is not good (in my opinion). It's not necessarily a question of what the task is, but why it is being given. :)

If we're all working together, including me, then it's usually okay. We all eat meals. There's nothing wrong with children helping clear the table or unload the dishwasher... every single day. :) I simply can not do everything! Most of their jobs take only a few minutes (like setting the table), yet it helps me get dinner ready on time and blesses the family.

The amount of help required, I think, depends on the family's needs. Growing up on a farm, some seasons required a lot more work of us children than other seasons did. In the summer, an extra hour was spent weeding or working in the garden. If it was time to butcher chickens, my whole morning was spent helping. Other days, I got away with just washing dishes and had lots of free time!

Building with Duplos
Duplos -- received as a gift and supplemented by some from GoodWill -- are the boys' current favorite toy. :)

Our children have days with lots of free time, and other days (like Fridays) when they have to help with extra chores. Work is part of life, and since I know we do balance it with play, complaining is unacceptable! (I'll be re-reading this again in a few years when we have teenagers. :P)

I'd love to have reader input on this topic! What are your thoughts regarding the balance of work and play for children? Any tips for making chores more fun? We do things like setting the timer, having races, small rewards at the end (to motivate the kids AND me!), and music/audio while we work. Some days motivating myself is harder than motivating the kids, unfortunately!


Moshe, just chillin'
Moshe (6 months), just chillin' on my lap at the playground. :)

Sarah asked,

"Where we live, it gets extremely HOT in the summer, plus thick and humid. I'm talking lows in the high 70's and highs in the 100's. My 4yo is a bursting ball of energy who is almost never quiet or still, except when watching TV. I really hate TV, but he has been watching a lot of it lately. HELP! What are some fun energy-burning activities that you do with your young children when they can't play outside?"

Oh, boy. Heat! I do NOT like the super hot days, and am so thankful that we get very few of them here in western Washington! Since we don't have a/c, if it does get really hot, the kids play in a cold bath tub of water, eat ice and frozen blueberries or frozen peas, we grill all our meals outside, and play in front of the fan!

We can't really do any indoor energy-burning activities since we're in an upper-floor apartment, but one thing I've found that kids like is running around things. Either through rooms in a circle, or just pulling the kitchen table into the living room or pulling out the couch -- my kids can not stop running around things! :)

I'm sure the kids would do exercise videos with me as well (I wonder if they make kids exercise videos?!), and since the winters here are cold and rainy, I want to do more of that sort of thing once we're not living above other people. :)

We've also tried going places, like to a (not-crowded) mall or big store (where running wouldn't disturb others) or to the racquet-ball room here at our apartments, and just letting the kids run around and around! They love it if I play tag with them.

We also play what we call "obedience game" which is similar to "Simon Says" except that they have to do everything. :) We give them things like "lay on your tummy", "go turn on the light", "go get your pillow", "come to Mommy", "give each other a hug", "sit Indian-style", "Okay, now stand up!".

They usually try to do everything as quickly as possible and get quite out of breath in the end! :) Ruth (2) likes to join in, and when she was younger, she would play along by copying the boys' actions since she wasn't quite old enough to understand the commands. :)

And of course this "game" is to give them practice at doing things immediately and without complaining. It really does help chase away the whines! :)

Anyone have any more indoor exercise ideas for Sarah (and me)? :)

Ruth, totally worn out!
We went on a really long walk earlier this week (about 4 miles I think!) and Ruth walked the whole way! (Yes, she has good shoes and lots of energy!!) Then she did this, for the first time ever. After I took a quick picture, I started to wash her up and she awoke and said "I'm eating!!" and finished her food before heading to bed. :)


Tammy, this is one of my favorite things you've done. I 100% agree with your view that it's the motivation and not the job that's the key. If you're asking your child to change diapers because you want to watch TV, that's a LOT different than working together as a family. Fair and age appropriate chores build responsibility. As a parent and teacher, I often ask my daughters AND my students to take responsibility and do their part(s) and I find that they truly enjoy it. However, I must be careful not to overload the more responsible student nor my older child. My girls love watering the tiny garden, washing dishes, dusting (!), mopping- putting away their own toys, not so much. There are definitely tons of kids' exercise videos out there, but you must be careful if you're cautious about characters or outfits the kids are wearing..... My dad sent my girls a DVD from Rebbetzin Tap, who is getting reading for Shabbos (our Sabbath) and integrating the kids in chores, etc. She does it to music (including making challah) and the girls ask for it all the time.

Thank you! I agree -- it is good to be mindful to not overload the older or more responsible child simply because that is the "easy" way. :)

I'll have to check out that DVD! :)

Sorry, Tammy; it's Beth- once again, forgetting (read: too lazy) to sign in. The Tap video is marketed for girls who are Orthodox Jews, but I love watching them make challah. There are also Sesame Street exercise videos as well as many others, but I am not sure what you and your husband allow them to watch. I think there are some Christian ones as well; in fact, I'm sure of it. :)

We have a rebounder and the children love to use it - maybe not the best idea for you Tammy, in a flat, but we have ours upstairs and it is not noticeably noisy downstairs when the children are using it. Love, Lucy

Hi there. I love your post, too. I agree 100% about doing things together and not having them do thing for you just 'cause you don't want to. Something you didn't specifically address is that sometimes there is a need to "serve one another." I think you'd agree that isn't when we as parents are just too lazy. However, when my kids know I'm super tired from doing a big job, it's a pleasure for them to get me a glass of tea while I go sit down. That's serving one another. It's also the kind of serving that comes when someone in the house is sick. Again, the motive there is MUCH different than - "I just don't want to." While my kids do this for me from time to time (now that they're teenagers). They know that I do it for them (Mom, could you get me a blanket? Mom, could you snuggle me and read a story. Mom, could you get me a drink). It's good to teach that we serve one another - especially Daddy after a long day at work or after someone (kid or parent) has done a big job (like when I make special lemonade for my teenage boy who has just mowed the lawn. I bring it to him in the living room where he can rest).

And, I think, Tammy, that if you keep sowing with your kids the way that you are, you won't have the teenage problems that people generalize about. I have two teenage boys, and they're a blessing. They know that a family runs well when everyone pitches in. They feel a sense of worth when they're done their part (something that's really important to instill in our boys). Boys really need a good work ethic (girls do, too, but I think you know what I mean).

And, a game - similar to your obedience game. When we would walk from one place to another, my boys would get too far ahead of me at times. Sometimes that was okay and safe, and sometimes, I needed them closer. We made up something we called "obedience drills." It was similar to red light, green light. They'd walk/run ahead until I said STOP. They'd freeze and wait. When I got close enough, I'd say, GO. Sometimes I'd let them get well ahead of me, but sometimes I said STOP and GO pretty quickly one right after the other. That always got the kids laughing really hard. But, then if we had an emergency of some sort, I knew that they'd freeze if I said STOP. It was a fun game that we all enjoyed, but it taught them to listen and obey quickly, too.

Keep up the good work ladies. Put your time in now, and you'll enjoy the teenage years.

Thank you for adding this! I had started going down this trail when writing my post but ended up deleting some of the "bunny trails" because I was having trouble clearly expressing all the details. :) Serving each other is essential as well, and there have been many times when I was feeling unwell (like during pregnancy) and would lie on the couch and tell the boys, "Mommy needs you guys to be big helpers and do ______ ". And then I try to express lots of gratitude and praise for their efforts! :)

I think we need to do your outdoor "stop and go" game! The boys run ahead and I call them back when they get too far ahead, and so then they run back to me and run ahead again (I think they end up running and extra mile for every mile we all walk together! heehee). We need to work on stopping immediately, though... especially with Ruth.

The thing is that all of these things take work and effort and time. Our society puts a premium on what works well for us, which means sitting in front of a screen of some sort or sitting on a phone. When my little one plays house at her home day care center, you wouldn't believe the number of kids who play it by cradling a block or something between their ear and shoulder and "talking on the phone". Luckily, since I must work full time, I found a place that is in line with my philosophy and her caregiver makes sure that all the kids do small amounts of work in addition to school work and play..... Anyway, another thing my girls adore is to use spray bottles filled with water to help water plants, clean up (you need a rag, too) and to just run around outdoors to play. Don't know why they love it so much, but they do. :)

I recently read a really great book called Grace-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel. He talks about teaching your children (from birth basically) that the reason we are here is the same as Christ- to serve and to love people. Bringing their "chores" back to that mentality gives children purpose for life.

My husband and I have been talking a lot about how to help our children (#1 due in January) be mindful of this. Like another commentor mentioned, we want to be always starting conversations about how they can serve and love each other, our neighbors, church members. The more you practice, and repeat the meaning, the more kids will build it into their foundation. If you make it a game and at least partially their choice, kids love it!

Thanks for such a fun topic!

My situation isn't quite as severe as Sarah's, but I have a super active four year old who doesn't like to sit still and play quietly.
I try to take him outside everyday. Some days that means we head outdoors shortly after breakfast and he gets his running fix then. He still likes to play in a baby pool. On hot days he'll spend hours filling and emptying buckets, cups, whatever he can find. He also likes to paint the sidewalk or driveway with water.
When outside play is not possible, we play chase inside. If there's anything he can run around -- like in a circle -- he loves it.
Winter is tougher for us to get outside. Once in a while I'll take him to a fast food restaurant that has a play area. I'll get coffee and sit while he climbs and jumps.

Running in a circle -- what IS so exciting about that?! :) Our house in Ohio had rooms that connected in a circle and the kids LOVED to run around it! Or when I'd pull the couch out to clean, they would run around it for a while! :)

We did the play area thing a couple times last winter. There is a McDonalds near here with a huge play area and the kids all climbed in it for about 3 HOURS!!! They needed a bath when we got home, but still. It was fun! There's a mall here with a big play area too, but we need to go when it's not a busy time. :)

Too funny- our house here in NC is like that and kids LOVE it! I watched my friends' 1-yr-old twins for an afternoon and they just walked in circles for hours! Each entertainment!

Your kids look like they have lots of hair when they are babies!

My children are all in thier 30's , things have changed so much. I don't see families working together as ours did when my children were young. Working together not only got chores done more quickly, which left more time for other things, so many other benefits, sharing, love and consideration of others. I think this is the major reason for the lack of chaos in the family. Working together reinforces that we are a group, together, a team, a family. The children see that a well run household where everyone has played a part can see the results that benefit all. The safe cozy haven we all need, not only to enjoy but to help to learn how to create such an envirement has major benefits. Also just the communication that will last a lifetime with you, your children and them with their siblings is also such a blessing. If you start young, there is never an issue with complaints, as teens, they may think it, but rarely voice it. Starting young makes it so much easier, they know what is expected of them, realizing, this is what makes our family, home and relationships work!

I try to have my son help me around the house when I'm doing work as well. He really does get lots of time to just play so I don't feel bad about it at all. I think it's a good lesson to learn that the house doesn't stay nice and food doesn't land on the table without some effort. I don't want my son to take it for granted. However, the only time he does work when I am not also working is occasionally when he cleans up his toys. It's his mess and it's his responsibility to clean up even if I'm reading a book (usually supervising over the top of the pages). I think it's important for him to learn to clean up after himself and not expect someone else to do it for him.

And I must say that I love the pictures of your kids. What cutie pies!

Our children sometimes worked beside us, but also learned to do chores on their own at a very early age and really gained a sense of accomplishment. For example, when they were 2 years old I would cut out pictures of various chores and make them their own little charts of things to do early in the morning and close to bed time. They loved this and felt so accomplished each day as they worked through the little chores on their charts. When they were older, they could accomplish a lot in short order each morning. In less than 30 minutes each day, their rooms were picked up, their bathroom was clean, the trash had been taken out, vacuuming and dusting had been done.

Our idea was always that God made us for service and we needed to take care of what had to be done at home so we would be ready to go out and serve others and that it was essential to develop a heart of service in them. It was very important then to be ready for hospitality or to go help someone else every day. We rarely spent a whole day at home, just as, as we felt called to teach our children that we belong to the whole Body of Christ (Romans 12) and that we are to consider the needs of others above our own. God has really blessed this as our children are adults now and have hearts of service for the Church and the lost, which is much more important than a spotless house or special meals each day. As a mom, it is sometimes a struggle not to allow our families to be our idols or even thrift to become idolatry. But God always provides, not only our physical needs, but also the help we need to parent as He calls us to.

We do laps around the house, too!

I also bought those large balls with handles where you sit on them and bounce around. My 5 year old loves hers!

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