Double Duty: Juggling Kids and Cleaning, While Doing Your Homework
Information compiled by the GradSchools.com team - last updated November 2010
As you’ve probably anticipated, graduate school is a major undertaking. And raising your kids, of course, is no small task. All together, the combined responsibilities of family, school and work can be overwhelming. Household chores quickly fall by the wayside. But a little parenting strategy can go a long way. Keeping your kids busy can simultaneously keep your house clean. Sound too good to be true?
Depending on their ages, kids can be trusted to assume various levels of domestic responsibility. And while they may already have a list of weekly chores, you can add on some optional extras in exchange for modest rewards. Rewards should be commensurate with the tasks completed. Small, inexpensive treats might include permission to stay up later than usual on a Friday night, a slumber party with friends, or a special request item from the grocery store. Older kids may require some extra incentive. An afternoon movie, or a new article of clothing can serve as the payoff for a month’s worth of pitching in. Meanwhile, family-focused give and take isn’t all about multitasking. Whether they express it or not, kids are hungry for praise and approval. They also need to learn about sharing and group participation. Below are some examples of household assignments that double as opportunities for cooperation, praise and encouragement.
Meanwhile, family-focused give and take isn’t all about multitasking. Whether they express it or not, kids are hungry for praise and approval. They also need to learn about sharing and group participation. Below are some examples of household assignments that double as opportunities for cooperation, praise and encouragement.
Dusting is a perfect project for older kids and tweens. And since dust is everywhere, it’s bound to keep your little guys and girls busy. Assuming that a spray can is age appropriate, teach your kids how to dot a bit of polish on their dust rags or – better still - mate-less socks they can wear over their hands. Then, set them free on all your wooden surfaces. Encourage them to be as thorough as possible – reaching in between banisters, and inside the grooves of table legs. Give them white gloves to check each other’s work. Other hints:
(1) An old bandana, worn as a kerchief, adds a fun element of dress up.
(2) Make a list beforehand of all the objects/areas you’d like your kids to cover. Checking items off a list helps to clarify the scope of the project, and offers a sense of accomplishment.
(3) For especially young or trigger-happy children, it’s probably best to keep the polish under lock and key. Your local market may carry pretreated, disposable wipes that can stand in for aerosol. And if you’d rather not deal with chemicals at all, there are several new dust brushes on the market, with fun shapes and handles.
(4) You might suggest kids put their names on their dusting “tools” to create a sense of project ownership.
Cleaning the fridge
This is one of those projects you’re always putting off, because it’s easier to shut the door than to face the depth of the mess. Fortunately, most kids relish the opportunity to get their hands on “grown-up” work. Outline a plan of attack, including what can be saved, trashed and recycled. Remind them they’ll need to clean out containers that are housing old leftovers. Supply the necessary equipment (e.g. damp sponges and trash bags/recycling bins), and leave them to their work (er…play). Other hints:
(1) Remind them, first and foremost, that they’ll need to empty everything out quickly, and work with what they have from outside the fridge. This way, they won’t be refrigerating the whole kitchen for the duration of the project.
(2) Be clear about your expectations. Are they old enough to condense two half-used bottles of ketchup? Can they make judgment calls on borderline produce? If anything is seriously rotten, you might want to make a “hands off” list, so they can leave the heavy duty disposal to you.
(3) Challenge them to come up with their own organizational system. Any chore is more appealing if it carries some amount of personal input. Maybe they can color code the condiments, or alphabetize the cold cuts. Whatever they decide, remember to praise them for their effort.
A new twist on “clean up your room”
Kids of all ages can and should play a role in keeping their spaces clean. If your kids aren’t already picking up their clothes and making their beds, now’s a good time to address Bedroom Beautification. (You can call it that too – a fancy title might lend some formality to the process.) Experts suggest that you take room-cleaning beyond a surface pickup by asking kids to go through their drawers of clothes and toys, and set aside items they’re ready to donate to charity. Other hints:
(1) Make sure items slated for donation are clean and “gently worn.” Anything that’s falling apart should get recycled or thrown away.
(2) Don’t push kids too hard to give up their belongings. If they have a greater say, chances are good they’ll be more enthusiastic about the process when you ask them to repeat it next season.
(3) Get things started by setting aside a few of your forgotten garments. You’ll teach by example, and free up a few hangers in your own closet.
Even if you’ve never made a habit of using coupons, clipping fliers is a brilliant way to busy small hands. All you need are some childproof scissors and a stack of newspapers or Sunday circulars. If you really want to optimize the process, buy an inexpensive accordion folder with tabs for alphabetizing. One child can work on cutting, while another organizes the coupons by product or brand name. At the end of the day, you’ll have gained a few hours of study time, plus a few dozen ways to save cash.
How many times do you find yourself running to the store for a birthday card or a thank you note? Save money and time, by asking kids to create a few different types of homemade cards. Set up a craft station at the kitchen table with whatever materials your kids can safely (and neatly) handle. Materials can be as simple as crayons and construction paper. Friends and family will be heartened to receive the personal artwork, and kids will be proud to mail out their special designs.
When your schedule gets crazy, houseplants are often the first casualty. Caretaking duties like watering and pruning are easy tasks for kids to complete once you’ve given them a few basic pointers. To avoid overwatering, you may want to dedicate a specific measuring cup to this assignment. And you can also teach kids how to gently dust leaves with a wet paper towel.
Got loose change stashed in coffee cans and piggy banks? Many grocery stores provide machines that will sort your coins and reimburse you on the spot, but these generally come with a small fee. To keep older kids busy, and for a quick finance lesson, why not create a coin roll assembly line? Your local bank can provide paper coin rolls for free, and your kids will enjoy watching the dollars add up. Other hints:
(1) Make it a game by asking kids to guess what the total output will be.
(2) Advise them to categorize coins before starting to roll. Show them how to make separate piles of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters.
(3) Make sure kids wash their hands when they’re done handling the money.
There are plenty of chores that kids simply can’t do. If you run out of kid-friendly options, ask your kids to make you a list of chores. Send them around the house to scout for disorganized closets and unruly drawers. Have them write up a list, and rate items in order of priority or mess-factor. They’ll love to feel authoritative, and – after noting the extent of your to-do list - they might further realize how important their cooperation is.
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