Summer break is quickly approaching. As a mother of an energetic six-year-old boy, I face this news with a combination of excitement and, as bad as it sounds . . . dread. On one hand, I am happy to not have the early-morning scramble of finding shoes, signing permission slips and reading logs, and navigating the grade school car loop. On the other hand, summer days are long. Without the structure of school, my son can often sink into a state of laziness and boredom.
While looking online at the summer movie series at our local theater and area day camps, I came across an article about how summer vacation is a great time to teach children about jobs and money, giving their days structure through chores.
Household chores are different than daily responsibilities. By six, most parents give their children the independence to make their own beds in the morning. They may not perform that task with military precision, but kids should be able to do a grade-school version of the task. Kids should be able to brush their own teeth without reminders and also get dressed on their own (even if it means that your child shows up for breakfast every third day in the same Minecraft T-shirt). But those are daily responsibilities, not actual household chores.
Household chores are important to instill a good work ethic in children. Contrary to what some parents may expect, most children crave structure and order in their lives. Daily chores help provide that structure, as long as the chores are age-appropriate and flexible enough to match the ability of each child.
Some six-year-olds are able to fold and put away a mountain of towels without issue, while others may think about folding a pile of towels as a task as difficult as climbing Everest. Maybe your child would be better suited in shaking out throw rugs or picking up sticks from the yard. You never know what gifts and interests you may unlock in your child by letting them guide you in choosing their jobs. Some kids may discover their green thumbs by taking care of houseplants. Others children may discover that they love to cook.
Regardless what chores are assigned, the process can start as early as five or six years old.
Chores appropriate for six-year-old boys and girlsIn Common Living Areas:
· Dusting furniture
· Watering plants
· Shaking out throw rugs
In the kitchen:
· Washing produce
· Scraping carrots or potatoes
· Loading or emptying the dishwasher (as best as she can reach)
· Setting and clearing the table
· Putting away groceries
In the bathrooms:
· Light cleaning of the sink and toilet
· Changing the toilet paper
· Folding and putting away washcloths and towels
· Putting his own laundry away
· Matching socks
· Getting the mail
· Picking up sticks
· Weeding the garden (with a lot of guidance)
· Feeding and watering the pet
· Walking the dog
· Brushing the dog
There are kid-safe cleaning products and small-scale cleaning tools that can be purchased online. Giving children the appropriate tools for the job will help them take ownership of the tasks.
Choosing the right payment options is also an important part of the process. Keep in mind that payments need to be short-term rather than long-term. Daily or weekly paydays are necessary for kindergartners and first graders. They need to learn that “work equals pay.” Consequently, on bad days, kids need to learn that “no work equals no pay.” This can be a brutal lesson to learn when there are multiple siblings in the family. Not taking a older brother to the new Star Wars movie because he was too tired to do his work after staying up late playing video games would be a memorable lesson.
It is important to let a child make decisions on how their money is spent. Even if the latest fad may seem crazy and a waste of money, let them spend some of their money. Children should also be encouraged to save a portion of their earnings and donate part of their pay to a charity that is important to them. Amazingly, not all kids are spenders. Your kids may surprise you by enjoying watching the balance of their savings account increase from month to month.
Even though it’s important to have clear and high expectations, it is important to remember that kids are kids. Between 30-60 minutes a day during the summer would be an appropriate amount of time for a six-year-old to work. Kids also learn valuable life lessons from playing outside, participating in sports, and daydreaming. Give them plenty of free time to have those experiences.
Wrapping up chores and rewardsAfter a family comes up with a list of chores and determines how and when the children are paid, it’s helpful to purchase a chart to stay organized. If parents are trying to teach their children that “work equals money,” then it only makes sense that images of money are a part of the chart.
Children like being independent and keeping track of their progress. After a job is complete, a child could ask his parent if the job was completed well enough to earn his pay. If he does, then he can track his work with an earned image of payment on the chart. That way, at the end of the pay period, kids can add up the amount of money they warned.
Teachers are often trying to teach real world applications for math. This is as real as it gets! If you’d like, visit our store to see our cash-based chore charts.
Don’t let your kids fall into the summer slump this year. Help keep them busy, learning, and develop their responsibility all while engaging them around the house.