I think the title of this post is straightforward enough: I am a big fan of teaching kids independence (in my classroom as much as at home) and I thought I’d share which tasks we’ve assigned to our girls (ages five and seven) in the hopes that perhaps I can make your life easier too! (Or, you can just judge me and wonder why, oh why, I want my children to grow up so fast, and why I don’t want to dote on them and single-handedly meet their every need. Whatever works for you!)
- Set table
- Assist with meal preparation as requested
- Clear table
- Put own dishes in dishwasher
- Unpack school bag (take out agenda) and lunch bag (this is the point where I sign the agenda and read school notes) while they start lunches
- Put agenda back in bag
- Make lunch (evening) This is a BIG one. I slice buns (if that’s a requirement on a particular day), but they do everything else, following the rules: 1 dairy (yogurt, cheese) 1 fruit, 1 carb snack, 1 meal, plus fill up the water bottle.
- Put lunch in school bag (morning). I still get it out of the fridge so that it can’t be missed. I’m not going to be the mom who works at the school and didn’t send her own children with lunches.
- Unpack and put away groceries. (Recently, we returned home from a weekend away, and had picked up groceries en route. I went to the bedroom to unpack my suitcase, and by the time I came out 7 year old Frannie had unpacked and put away five bags of groceries….and everything was in the right place! The fact that the kids clear the table and make lunches really helps them to see where things belong, though we did have one incident where I called the grocery store to see if I had left the fresh orange juice (listed on my receipt) at the till. A couple of hours later, Frannie heard me and my husband talking and spoke up: “We brought it home! I put it in the cupboard with the apple juice!” I’m sure it was fine.
- Brush and floss (with disposable flossers) teeth and put away toothbrush/toothpaste (morning/evening)
- Replace toilet paper roll when necessary
- My 7 year old is starting to take showers on her own, but sometimes still asks me to help. It will be a beautiful day when I can say “Go take your showers!” (Yes, they grow so fast and one day I will miss the fact that they wanted me to shower them, I know, I know.)
- Get dressed (asking for assistance with tricky buttons, etc. Asking means coming directly to the adult and making the request, not sobbing “I NEED HELLLLLLLLLP!” from the bedroom.)
- Make beds. They have been taught to do this properly and that they must do their best. I accept most day’s work as “their best”. This was hard for me at first.
- Put dirty laundry in laundry basket
- Put laundry away (I fold it in piles, they put items where they go). Frannie does slightly more than Maggie, as she now mixes and matches her own clothes. I still match up outfits for the five year old, and each day she chooses the one she wants from the hanging closet organizer. Because of hand-me-downs (from various people) she has WAY more clothing than her sister, and I’m not ready to relinquish total control because I want to make sure that outfits get rotated, holiday pieces are worn in season, etc. By summertime I plan to hand over the reins.
- Keep room “tidy”…the definition of which continues to be negotiated.Again, this is hard for me.
- Bring in mail/newspaper and recycling boxes (They only do this in nice weather. I don’t want them slipping down our driveway in subzero temps.)
- Put away all pool toys after swimming, and hang up swimsuits and towels to dry. Don’t know how this one occurred to me in this weather…
- Do homework (7 year old)
- Put on/remove outerwear, hanging up/using racks as appropriate
- Clean up one activity before starting another
It’s important for me to mention that my daughters are not always gleeful when it comes to these responsibilities, and they do require reminders. Some days more than others!
I also want to make it clear that I don’t have my children slaving away so I can get my Twitter fix (not usually, anyway) but if half an hour at night can be saved, that gives me lots more time for reading stories and helping with homework – without making it feel like those are chores as well. Plus how do they lose when they are learning to be responsible and self-sufficient young women from this age?
So…what am I missing? Is there anything else that kids this age should be doing themselves? I’d be glad to add it to my (their) list!