Children love to imitate adults and will love to help around the house--especially with these fun ideas.
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Have you ever looked to see how many methods are out there to help convince children to do chores? How many books aimed at parents, and how many storybooks there are about characters who find out doing chores is fun? Just goggle “how to get kids to do chores” and you’ll be overwhelmed by the search results. Surely one of these magic methods works!
Well, I certainly never learned the magic while I was a parent. More often than not, I just did the work myself rather than fight with them. If only I’d known about the simplest approach! My youngest was 7 when I first learned about the Montessori approach to teaching children to help care for their environment. They call it “practical life”, and it’s very simple:
Give them them right-sized tools to help, and let them help you as you care for your home. Young children love imitating adults, and if you give an 18-month-old a rag, he will help you dust. Give a three-year-old a mop and a spray bottle full of water, and she will help you clean the floors. Show a two-year-old how to fold laundry or put away clean silverware, and you’ve got a willing helper. Will you get spotless floors or perfectly folded clothes? No, but that’s not the goal. The goal is to let them help take care of their home and belongings from the earliest age possible.
In the book Hunt, Gather, Parent: What Ancient Cultures Can Teach Us About the Lost Art of Raising Happy, Helpful Little Humans,
author Michaeleen Doucleff points out that in ancient cultures, children worked alongside their parents as soon as they were able. A review on The Booklion shared, “In western culture, we tend to separate our world from our children’s. We set them up with child-friendly activities while we do the dishes, laundry, and cooking on our own. But young children, Doucleff claims, want to help with the family. They can spray, wipe, stir, hold tools, and fetch things. The trick is to do chores with the child; it’s an opportunity for closeness and teaching rather than isolated chore charts and commands to clean up certain rooms.” (read the full review—maybe the book is one you want to share with your grandchild’s parents?)
How can grandparents help raise helpers? Here are some fun gifts that can be used in real work around the house:
Although it’s sold as a toy, the tools in Melissa & Doug Let's Play House Dust! Sweep! Mop! 6 Piece Pretend Play Set are study enough to do more than pretend. My grandkids have had a blast using them all.
Cleaning cloths in fun colors are more fun to use. I was happy with the quality of these: DecorRack 8 Pack Kitchen Dish Towels.
Though it’s hard to find spray bottles kids can use, these little bottles are the right size for little hands. Tolco Empty Spray Bottle 8 oz. Frosted Assorted Colors.
This child-safe knife set will get your grandkids helping make dinner! Tovla Jr. Knives for Kids 3-Piece Set. And they’ll love helping even more with one of the adorable aprons from Urban Infant. It was hard to choose from the many designs!
You know I'll always include books, but finding children’s books that modeled this approach was tricky! Most of them, like The Berenstain Bears and the Trouble with Chores, start with the premise that children don’t want to help.
Elizabeti's Doll, by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen , shows a family where the children are naturally responsible for much of the family work. My grandchildren love it! There are two other Elizabeti books that also model the same concept--and are equally engaging stories!
Another fun one is Laundry Day by Jessixa Bagley. Although the badger brothers get a little carried away with their helping, it's still a great example of pitching in.
Can you think of any books that show the children as partners in caring for their home and family? Please share them in the comments if you can!
Lessons Shared from One Cool Grandpa to Another
Today's post is written by Greg Payne, host of The Cool Grandpa Podcast.
Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later. Sooner sounded great until it happened. At Christmas of 2018, I received the news. "We have one more present for you guys," my son said with a bit of a grin on his face. My son handed my wife a card wrapped in holiday paper that I guessed was not a gift certificate for an all-inclusive river cruise through Europe. It was, in fact, a sonogram picture of a little boy. Imagine my excitement, pride, and happiness for my son, daughter-in-law, and especially my wife.
That was the day, Christmas 2018, that I heard the news that I was becoming a grandfather. I was happy for the kids; they had been married for a few years, and kids, I felt, would show up at some point. I knew that my daughter-in-law and son would be, and are, good parents. I had—and still have—some doubts that I could and will nail this grandpa role. Don't get me wrong; I am smart enough not to let the grandkids feed alligators raw chicken out of their little hands. I will most likely not ask them to taste questionable milk out of the fridge. However, I fear that there may be some things that I might miss that could have led to a stronger relationship if done differently.
For me, instead of fretting about what to do and not do with soon arriving grandson and other grandchildren to come, I decided to take some action. I started a podcast. The Cool-Grandpa Podcast was born out of two ideas. First, I feel that the grandfather's role in the family is not being acknowledged to the extent that I think it should be. I had this attitude before I became a grandfather, so it wasn’t a late-arriving attitude. Good grandpas do more than write checks on birthdays and show up, then fall asleep watching the football game on Thanksgiving. Grandpas can have a decades-long influence on grandchildren. I wanted a platform, modest as it is, to celebrate and document the impact of grandfathers on grandchildren and their families. Second, I wanted to learn from grandchildren (adult or otherwise) and grandpas about what makes a Cool Grandpa.
So, I began asking: What did your grandpa do with you when you were ten or eleven years old? The answers often lead to comments about activities or conversations that led these adult grandchildren to receive a greater sense of great worth in their middle school years.
With grandfathers, I will often ask, what is it that you do with your grandchildren so that your time with them is particularly memorable? I want to dig into this mystery and understand how I can make sure my grandchildren know without a doubt that I am their cheerleader, their coach, and their confidant. So, I started the podcast to learn how to become a Cool Grandpa or, in another way, how can I be the best grandpa I can be?
There are four critical lessons that I have learned in over 50 hours of talking to people about being a grandfather:
The role of the grandfather is essential. If it weren't, I wouldn't have 50- and 60-year-olds continually telling me about how their grandfather influenced their work ethic, hobbies, and interests, the direction they took in high school and college, and their relationship expectations.
Instead of quietly going about our business and being awesome, let's be active and intentional about what we do and how we do it. Our grandkids are worth it, so say it loud and say it proud, I'M A COOL GRANDPA!
Greg Payne is the host of The Cool Grandpa Podcast. He enjoys discussing the importance and the role of grandfathers in the lives of their grandchildren and families. Greg and his wife, Karen, can be found whitewater kayaking in North Georgia on the weekends, where Greg tries not to get too banged up having fun.
The value of a new perspective
“I just have to see if I’m good or I’m bad.”
That’s what my 4-year-old grandson told me when I reminded him that he wasn’t supposed to be in our closet. It’s where I keep a stash of activities for those moments when something new and diverting is needed to change the way the day is going. He doesn’t know they are in there, but if he did, he’d soon obsess about the closet. Because, remember, he is four.
Why did he say he had to see if he was good or bad? Well, he wandered into the closet as part of a general, meandering exploration of our bedroom. When I told him to come out, he spotted the mirror on the wall and said the first thing he could think of to explain what he was doing. He does this a lot: he’ll do or say something and then explain it with whatever comes to mind, which is mostly hilarious but often quite profound. It’s one of the reasons I adore this age.
The funny thing is, though, that we actually never stop doing this magical thinking. Even as adults, we find a way to justify a thought or action that, if we were capable of being fully truthful and aware, isn’t honest or rational.
We tell ourselves that it’s okay that we cut in the pickup line at school because we’ve got to get to the meeting on time. We justify buying something we don’t need because it’s on sale. We let the grandkids watch TV past their bedtime and reason that it won’t do any harm.
Consciously or unconsciously, we decide what we want to say or do. If there’s a chance it’s a bad idea, we unconsciously resolve the cognitive dissonance by justifying it. And we never admit that this magical thinking may be causing a problem for ourselves or the people we love.
When I started this blog, my goal was to help you develop a deeper bond with your grandchildren—to be more than grand. The key to this is consciously developing an honest, open relationship with your adult children. This means that in addition to providing ways to connect with your grandchildren, I want to help you find ways to improve your relationship with their parents. It’s important that we first recognize when we are using magical thinking to justify things we shouldn’t be doing.
That's easier for some people than others, and sometimes that means asking for outside help to get a new perspective. We designed New Grandparent Essentials to help provide that perspective. It fosters a dialog that will allow you to examine what you think about some of the most important parts of grandparenting and find out what your grandchild’s parents think about your role. It helps you ask the right questions and listen openly to feedback from your adult children, so that when you look in the mirror, you are seeing yourself more clearly. And when you look in that mirror after completing New Grandparent Essentials, I promise you will like the results.
PS—if you are wondering, after checking in the mirror, my grandson declared he was good. Which was at least 80% true!
Ready to get New Grandparent Essentials? Click here!