Teach your children . . . work

Parents know it's difficult to keep children occupied during long, hot, school-free summers.

Sure, matinees and swimming and play dates are fun, and might even keep siblings from killing each other during listless, blistering afternoons, but who says summer should be all about fun? (Well, the kids do. But don't listen to them.)

Summer's a great time to teach your children about work. During the school year, they can beg off doing chores around the house, citing homework or time-consuming school activities. But in summer, we parents have the kids right where we want them: They've got nothing more important to do, so why shouldn't they help around the house?

Chores done by children not only lighten the load for parents, they teach the kids valuable lessons about work and cleanliness and city health codes.

Doing chores can complement their schoolwork. What is cooking, after all, but chemistry? Youngsters can learn much about biology by doing yard work. Math skills can be improved as the kids keep track of how many more chores they've done than their siblings. And, believe me, they'll be keeping track.

Kids can learn everything they need to know about diplomacy and negotiation as they try to weasel out of onerous tasks. (This will be a valuable skill when they grow up and have actual jobs.)

Of course, children require a certain amount of supervision. If the parent doesn't monitor the housework, the kids will do the bare minimum, and the parent will be right back where he or she started -- with a filthy home. The only difference will be that much of the filth will be hidden under beds and in closets. While that certainly works for me, it's not the preferred method.

Some chores are too dangerous for children. Anything involving a hot skillet or power tools, for example, should be left to adults. In fact, if the job involves any type of tools, it's probably better to just call a professional. You'll end up doing it eventually.

But as long as a chore is relatively safe and unimportant, children are perfect for the job. The kids might not perform up to your standards, but so what? If you have to go behind them and clean the kitchen all over again, what have you lost? You would've had to clean it anyway. Let's not lose sight of the main goal here: Chores keep the kids busy, and that's a good thing.

Let's look, then, at some chores that are appropriate for children, and the benefits and drawbacks of having kids do the work:

Picking Up Stuff

They're limber, they have young backs and they're closer to the floor. These factors make children better than adults for picking up toys and shoes and other detritus scattered around the house. Besides, they distributed most of the mess, shouldn't they pick it up?

Taking Out the Trash

If a child is tall enough to reach a bag of trash into the garbage bin, then he or she is ready for this job. Just don't be surprised when you find evidence of leaky bags dripped all over the floors.

Doing the Dishes

Whether you have a dishwasher or do dishes the old-fashioned way, kids can be a great help. Naturally, there will be a certain amount of breakage. And, the kids may not always put clean dishes and utensils in their proper places. Cooking can become a daily game of "Where's that ladle?"


Give a kid a feather duster, and you can save yourself a lot of cleaning time. But this only works if you don't care how thoroughly it gets done.


See "Dusting" above.


Summertime lunches of sandwiches or hot dogs are easy and fun for kids to prepare. Thanks to microwave ovens, children can cook their own meals without ever getting near an open flame. Caution: If your kids use the microwave a lot, they may get the yen to experiment. Keep an eye on the cat.

So, put your kids to work, America. It'll ease the parental workload and the whole family will benefit. Best of all, chores make the children eager to return to school in the fall.

No comments: