Saturday, March 12, 2011

Organize your "Munchkins"

My mother-in-law taught me many years ago, "NEVER DO FOR YOUR CHILDREN WHAT THEY CAN DO FOR THEMSELVES".   From toddlers to teens,  I have remembered this concept. Ultimately, we are raising our children to be self- reliant, to go out into the world on their own, as responsible adults.  We can start that process when they are young.

Now that I am older, I see that those that have been taught these principles are self-reliant, and self-motivating, without looking to Mom and Dad.  When they have not, let's see, what's that word I keep hearing that describes spoiled adults? . . .  "a feeling of entitlement".  Just talk to any HR worker, they'll enlighten you.

I love chore charts.  You can make them age appropriate.    Younger children enjoy drawing the pictures.

When you use charts each child knows what is expected of them, and nagging lessens to a minimum.  When they want to watch their favorite morning show, or go play outside, instead of going down the mental list, all you need to say is, "Can I see your chart?"  Well, they're certainly not going to show you an empty chart, so off they go . . . with no nagging :)  (that kiss at the end of Laura's chart, stands for a kiss for Mom :)
 Home-made pictures are great
Clip art is available all over the place.  When your children help create their chart, they will "own up to it."
 Once I asked a teacher what programs I should put my children in during the summer so that they wouldn't loose what they had learned during the school year.  She told me that if they read 1 hour each day during the summer, that they would be ahead when school started in the fall.  Hard as this may have seemed in the beginning, the kids learned to enjoyed it.  Especially when I added in "library day" to the weekly schedule.  So, during the summers, the daily charts included reading time.

 As the kids got older, I found that I needed to implement a "Lost Power" concept. (bottom of the next picture).  I don't remember the specific details, but you could customize it.

Choose your favorite method of home organization, and create charts for it, so that your home runs quietly and orderly.  Everyone knows what is expected of them.

Children should have daily responsibilities, as well as weekly responsibilities.  I love the feeling of a clean house.  So, many years ago, we developed the habit of cleaning our home each Saturday morning.  The children all knew what was expected of them.  They had their list.  The most important part was that Mom and Dad worked as well on their list.
I made a long list of everything that I felt needed to be done in our home on a weekly basis to keep it clean.  Then, I took a sheet of paper, divided it into 3 strips, 8 inches long, and put each person's name at the top of one.  I took each item on my list and added it to someone's paper, age appropriate, until all items were assigned.

 Since you will have many "harder" tasks, too hard for your little ones, break them up and assign younger children the easier part of that task.  For example, "clean the kitchen floor" can become "sweep kitchen floor" for a younger child, and "mop kitchen floor" for an older child.  Obviously, sweeping on the young child's list will need to be one of the first items, so that it is done when the older child goes to mop it.   If children are sharing a room, it is best to split their list so that they are not in their room at the same time.
To maintain the integrity of the standard of work, the performed tasks must be checked by Mom or Dad, or even an older sibling (done in kindness to prevent resentment).   I have learned the hard way, if you do not check their work, laziness, and deception set in. . . not fun to break.  After a few weeks of fine-tuning, I xerox copied the lists and put a staple at the top.  Each Saturday, I passed out the custom tablets.  When they finished, we tore it off, and the next week's list was ready to go. This was enough for 3 months or so, until I had to adjust the lists again. It's always fun to add an ice cream run, or a 30 minute "Trampoline Party with Dad" when everyone is done.

Your children should be doing their own laundry as soon as they are capable of it,  11 or 12 years old.  Show them how to sort, and give them a specific day to wash.  You can even let them watch their favorite TV show while they fold.  I know what you're thinking.  It is not cost efficient to have each child running the machine individually.  I would rather spend a little more money, and have my children learn this concept thus, I have kept my "old fashioned" top loading washing machine.

Or, you can figure out some system where the children are gathering and sorting, then folding and putting away their own clothes.  LEADERSHIP IS ALL ABOUT LEARNING HOW TO DELEGATE!   You might as well learn it now.


 I like to keep a bucket in the laundry room for stray socks.  That's their place, not in drawers or under beds scattered through out the house.   Every few months, I can match them up and send them to their proper home, whether it be a child's drawer, or to the "deep 6".  Children love to come home from school and find a note taped to the back door with special instructions, "a treat in the freezer for anyone who brings me their stray socks."  Make it a little more fun, and draw your request in pictures, or a riddle.

When all 5 children were young, middle school age and down, we had a "SOCK SATURDAY PARTY" every year in August just before school started.  The kids brought down every single sock they could find in their bedrooms.   The kids were all into sports, and mostly wore "tube socks", and by the end of the summer, those socks were a "sight to behold"!

They were each then given new, nice and white, matching socks which had no holes or beaded rough heels.   Add a little excitement, and wrap them up like Christmas morning (me wrap? . . . the oldest child was always the designated wrapper).

I sorted the old ones, and they were given away or went to the "deep 6". (Just in case you're wondering, I've been with my 82 year old Dad for a few weeks and this phrase has rubbed off on me, I think it's a generational term).

 It is much easier for children to keep their rooms orderly, if you have a "purge system".   Every 2 months or so I sent them up to dump all their clothes out onto their beds.  They went through their clothing items, and brought to me what they had not recently worn (that season), then carefully folded everything and put it back in their drawers.

I think that children can have a few toys and be happy, and millions of toys, and not be any happier.  Occasionally when the toys all started running together, we had a "Toy Sort" activity.  The kids had a funny little song that they would all "na na na" to, which brought a little excitement, and seemed to help them work a little faster.  Each toy belonged to a group or set of toys.  All cars go in this box, Legos in these containers, blocks go in this basket etc.  So, I could hold up a toy and the children could tell me where it's home should be.  Now, just because they knew where each toy belonged, didn't mean that they were always put away in their proper location, thus "THE TOY SORT".

After the toys were all sorted, I looked for the next opportunity when the kids were all in school, I collected a large selection of the toys, 1/3 to 1/2, and put them in big bins, and into the attic.  I then, brought down the bins that I had put up there 4 to 6 months earlier, and PRESTO!  NEW TOYS!  I was always amazed how just 4 months earlier they were no longer playing with those toys that now seemed so exciting!    I also did this just before Christmas time, knowing that Santa would bring EVEN MORE TOYS!!  Thanks Mom for that idea :)

This is a surprise camera shot in my 17 year old son's room.  (Confession: not always clean).   I have done very little to teach him about laundry.  The older children have paved the road, he just followed along.   It is fun to now see our older children crave cleanliness and order in their homes.  It doesn't always mean that you'll find it, but the feeling of order is part of their being, and it is fulfilling as a mother to finally see the pay off.

Children function well when they know their boundaries, when they live in order, and when they know what is expected of them and when they are to accomplish it.



  1. Love this! It's very inspiring. Although, maybe you need to have a large number of kids to feel that way. :)

  2. I just wanted to let you know how much I loved and appreciated this post! I was inspired to print out some free chore charts off the internet, complete with graphics at the top matching their personality. My dd's, 9 and 11, live a rather privileged life already. I do have them do stuff around the house (mostly their own laundry and cleaning their rooms), but not nearly as much as I should (love your gma's motto that if they can do it for themselves, make them!). I come from a very poor, underprivileged background, having most of the weight of chores, caring for siblings, ect., on my plate at a young age. I didn't want that for my kids so I guess I have gone in the opposite direction. But now I see that they are often bratty and act snotty if they have to lift a finger (11 y.o. is worse than 9 y.o.). I DO NOT want them to be like that now, much less as an adult! Thank you so much for an awesome post and for helping my kids take more responsibility. Oddly enough, my 9 y.o. is very excited about it! 11 y.o. not so much! LOL She'll live! LOL Thanks again!

  3. Susie - You're off to a great start. It is sometimes hard to see our children struggle and work, but I'd rather they learn to work through hard things now than when they're adults. We have a quote on our fridge that says,

  4. Wow LInda, you are so organized. I have been trying to figure out a job chart for my kids. this is so great. I need to get on it.


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