I'm a huge believer in chores. Huge. Violet started feeding our dog when she was 2 1/2 and it was her 'full time' job by the time she was three. It's Sarah's job right now, but when the school year starts it will be passed on to John.
I believe in chores for two reasons. First, I have too many kids (and a husband) for me to do all the work. I pick up and clean most of the day anyway. I'm pretty sure that I deserve some down time to pursue my hobbies, have some girl time - without the house looking like a war zone. Second, and this the most important reason, chores teach kids responsibility. They teach kids the value of hard work, respect, being part of the family, team work. And yes, part of the punishment in this family for not doing your (simple) chores? You go to your room, while fun, family things happen downstairs. If you can't help keep this family functioning, well, you can't participate in the fun of the family for a half hour or so.
I'm hard core. I don't want my kids to grow up entilted. So here is what they do:
~At about 18 months they were taught to toss their sippy cups in the sink. By now (at 8, 5 and 4) it SHOULD be second nature to get a plate/cup over to the sink. It's not, but usually I just have to send a glare and head jerk and somebody clears the table.
~At two years they were taught to get their dirty laundry to the laundry room - not a basket. I got rid of laundry baskets. They only encourage me to fold clean clothes into neat piles, carry it upstairs and leave it in the hallway for weeks. And weeks. So the kids have been trained to lob their clothing down the stairs, get on their jammies, go downstairs and push/pull/slide the clothes into the laundry room. Recently we've added putting the clothes into the hampers. (John loads a dump truck with his clothes and 'motors' clothes to the laundry room.)
~ They each make their bed, however crazy that may look, before they come downstairs (ha!) each morning. They effort is there. Violet, at 8 does this five out of 7 days. Which is pretty darn good. I'll take it!
~They are also responsible for picking up their own toys each day. I don't care what they do to the rooms during the day. But at night I need some sort of pick up to happen. One of the smartest things I did -- and I totally stole this from some parenting or organization magazine, was to get your child to help organize their room. So I did just that. John literally picked where each toy 'lives.' And each toy ends up back in it's 'garage' or 'home' almost every night. He's four. And I don't beat him.
~Then I have daily housekeeping chores that just have to be done. Things that I need help with and they are old enough to do. So why shouldn't they? I cook, scrub their toilet, wash the toothpaste out of their sink, fold their laundry. So why shouldn't they do a little cleaning/up keep? They should. Violet empties all the trash in the house on Wednesday nights. She also sweeps the kitchen floor, and vacuums the rugs downstairs. She receives an allowance of a dollar. Sarah keeps the shoe area clean - keeps them in the basket or drawers, takes them upstairs to the 'shoe box' I have in each room (she does this under great distress every.single.time. I take all her shoes away. She somehow manages to get it done. She'll get an allowance this year.) She also moves the stools in and out when we sweep and mop. John is responsible for putting a new bag in the trash can anytime I empty it -- he loves this job. He also helps to feed the cat as his 'time' approaches to take this job over.
~After I wash the laundry, each kid puts away his/her own jammies, underware and socks. I don't fold these clothes, so it doesn't matter how they make it into or come out of the drawers. So long as they make it into the right drawers? I'm good. Violet puts away all of her own clothing - and I expect her to do it nicely. It's a work in progress :) Sarah hangs up her dresses after I've put them on the hangers.
~ I bought three Melissa And Doug chore charts and that has really helped. The kids have filled them with random things, like "Brush your teeth." Which is totally fine, because they do it and get a sticker. Somehow, even after they've completed thier chores, a super reward is never given. I seem to always 'forget.' Partly because I truly do, and partly because, well. They are part of the family. These chores make the family run. Do I get a reward every day for scrubbing their urine off the toilet? For cleaning the tub yet again? For making another dinner? No, because it's what I do to keep us a family unit. So sometimes they get a high five. Sometimes I add fifty cents to their Disney jar. Sometimes the day just continues because we are just a family.
Still to come: Organization -- school is coming! Lunches have to made. What we do to make this painless.