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Habit training - What chores do you introduce & when?

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I've been browsing this site: http://www.charlottemasonhelp.com/2009/07/habit-training.html


I feel absolutely overwhelmed by all that we need to accomplish here...and highly motivated to get started! :) 


So...I'm starting a running list of which chores to introduce & when, helpful routines & organizational strategies we could implement, etc. I'm planning to take one small step at a time, maybe one for each child or just something we could implement as a family, and build from there. I know everyone will have different lists...but I'm curious to hear from you all...


What would you say are the *key* tips to routines, chores & organization that have worked in your family? Looking for *practical* "nuts & bolts" ideas here. 


Thanks! :)

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Since you're looking for habit training, maybe start with something simple as you go through your day.

1. Everyone must make their bed upon rising.

2. Everyone must be dressed with their pajamas in the laundry basket before breakfast.

3. Everyone must put their breakfast dishes in the sink or dishwasher after breakfast...etc.


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For the nuts & bolts of it, I think Heidi pointed out an important aspect. Tying the "to-do's" to something that stays the same every day I find to be incredibly helpful. Meals seem to work in our house, because we have all 3 every day. So, it's easy to stay on top of making sure it's done when there's a consistent deadline.

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I usually just have them work/work with them on whatever is making me crazy at any given time. Sick of tripping over shoes? Everyone gets reminded, praised, scolded, nagged until they automatically put them in the designated spot. Same with putting dishes away. I do try to make it easy on them. Make sure everything has a "home", model the behavior (this is critical in things like saying thank you & apologizing & such).


Right now everything is an uphill battle because the 18 month old destroys any work they've accomplished. He dumps out the shoe box, toy box, pulls books off the shelves...he's been deemed "The Destroyer" by my 5 year old.



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There are lots of chore threads here.  Be sure to read them-most Americans have shockingly low expectations of their children when it comes to chores.


age 18 months-picking up after themselves-if they have the manual dexterity to get it out, they have the manual dexterity to put it away under supervision.  If they won't, I take their hand and place it over the object and force their hand to put it away. That usually results in them insisiting on doing it themselves. 

age 2- putting plastic dishes away on lower shelves under supervision

age 3- dusting with a feather duster or dusting cloth, putting laundry on hangers and putting laundry away, folding towels

ages 4-5-chore training by cleaning along side mom in the bathrooms, using a canister vacuum (much lighter for younger kids) and in the kitchen, cleaning vehicles inside and out, clearing the table, etc.

age 6-on the regular monthly chore rotation for dishes, vacuuming, mopping, cleaning bathrooms, litter boxes, cleaning the kitchen, cleaning cars, etc.

age 13-do your own laundry


My kids have daily and weekly chores lists posted for the month.  The lists rotate between them every month so everyone learns how to do everything. 



First work, then play. 


School then chores then activities then free time.

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Mine are similar to Mom in AZ.


Toddlers--help pick up toys and books. Put dirty plate and cup in sink.

Age 3 help take out the trash to our burn pit and the compost to the compost pile. About 3 1/2, begin folding clothes (easier things like shorts and washcloths.)

Age 4 fold all of their own clothes and help fold younger siblings' clothing. (I do all adult or big items like towels.) Learn to bathe themselves. Help bring in groceries and put some away, if able, on shopping day. Dust with feather duster. Sweep garage (gets really dirty in our rainy season.)

Age 5 Begin teaching to wash dishes and clean bathroom sinks. (We have no dishwasher.) Our dishes are too high in our cupboards, so they can't help put them away yet.

Age 6-8 Able to clean all bathroom fixtures. Learn to sweep.

Age 8-9 Begin learning to cook simple items. Sweep. (Our entire house is tiled--no carpet.)

And I don't now much past that. :)


I currently use a chore chart from Confessions of a Homeschooler as outlined in my blog here. I may try to streamline it someday.


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Habits come from routines, and routines are most easily put in place around existing routines.  The easiest places to add in routines is around sleeping and eating, since we already do that pretty consistently.  


You want to add things to routines slowly, giving lots of time for them to become habits before adding something else in.  If you feel behind and try to get your family up to speed quickly, you will all burn out.  


Start with simple daily wake-up and bedtime routines.  Hygiene, laundry in hampers, wipe off dirty sink.  After a few months, add in a meal time routine, such as clearing the table, washing dishes, or putting away clean dishes.  Clearing the table was was really hard for my kids.  I resorted to an incentive program where they could get a marble in the jar every time they cleared the table without being told.  These things do not have to be drudgery.  Make it fun.  


Once these are fairly habitual, you can start working on weekly routines, such as sorting laundry, changing bedding, dusting, sweeping, etc.  Also, make sure you get some child-sized cleaning tools.  I have small spray bottles with water for my kids when they are little, and with window cleaner for my older dd.  I have a child-sized broom.  I put shampoo in small travel-sized bottles so my dd could wash her own hair when she was little.  My feather-duster is stored within their reach.  


I really like the book Children Who Do Too Little by Patricia Sprinkle.  It has some very nice suggestions for each age group.  But remember to be patient with yourself and your family.  Habits are years in the making.  

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I was terrible at this. Overwhelmed and terrible. I started by getting their " come inside the house habits" taken care of first. This was more of a big deal in the winter when they had so much to put away. Shoes, hats, gloves, coats all went in their designated spot and no one got to do anything until it was done. There was a lot of chasing the little two to make them come back and do it. Now they know to come in and put their shoes away without me telling them.

Next, we worked on picking up after themselves. Play with a toy and leave it? Heck no. Open a package of food and drop the trash on the floor? Oh my freaking heck no. And with eight year old, I've stopped telling him what to do, I'll just tell him, " you forgot something" and wait until he figures it out himself.

This week, we're working on the habit of no screen time and getting our morning routine in. Wake up, go potty, make bed, eat breakfast, brush teeth, change clothes, comb hair. It's our spring break right now, so we'll add school next week.

My oldest knows how to clean bathrooms. I taught him when he was seven. I'm going to be adding that into his routine again soon. It's mostly just pick up and wipe down, not the deep cleaning, but it does keep things more presentable. The middle is practicing his sweeping skills, but mostly he's my gopher. He's also really good at folding laundry. The youngest is not a destructive tornado, but she can be if not watched, so I try to keep her occupied or by my side.

I just started with the things that were crazy out of control but easy enough for them to do. Also, I've stopped cleaning for them. They clean the living room and their bedroom. I'll tell them what go do, but I won't clean it for them.

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Whatever chores you think are important, Chore Wars works well to keep the kids motivated.  :)  (It would work best with multiple kids, though.  Jack is the last one at home, and he played "against himself" for a long time and then badgered his Dad and I to also play.  However once we started entering our chores, he felt so outclassed, he quit the game.  Oops.  I should have kept saying "No."

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I found my eldest was later to do things than my second child, because she had no one to copy, and I am anticipating my second doing things much sooner.


DD1 is 3yo, DD2 is 18mo.


Both children together can clean their bedrooms with minimal assistance.

They clean their toy area with some help

They throw things in the bin and do other little chores

DD1 can set the table herself except for glasses.

DD1 can wipe up a mess, wipe down a table, etc.

DD1 is learning to help with laundry

DD1 is learning to help with unpacking the dishwasher


Before her 4th birthday I'd like to see DD1 capable of keeping her room clean by picking up each morning. cleaning the toy area on an average day independently but with some verbal guidance, put away her own laundry after it's folded, place her dresses on the hangers (she enjoys this!) and unpack the dishwasher except for glassware/heavy servingware. Maybe help pack it too, I'm not sure since we do have breakable items and our washer is rather finicky. And finally, just be a general help while DH and I are cleaning, doing little jobs as asked during our weekend cleanup etc.

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For our current system, we've divided everything up into personal responsibilities and family responsibilities.


Personal responsibilities means helping take care of your own body, clothes and possessions. They need to get themselves clean, appropriately dressed and tidy for the day.  They need to plan what to wear, which includes putting dirty clothes in the laundry in the correct sorting tub, setting out school clothes the night before for the girls, letting me know in advance if they would like something particular washed (ie do not tell me on horse riding day that your jodhpurs need washing!). They need to make their beds, or strip and remake them when needed. They need to tidy their rooms and organize their things.


Family responsibilities means everything else: cooking, cleaning, laundry once it's in the laundry room, pet care, garden and lawn maintenance, etc. Every day the girls are expected to do their personal responsibilities (with help if they need it, eg the 5yo gets me to help her if she needs hair washed or nails clipped) plus two family responsibility chores (eg clean the bathroom and feed the animals). Ds has to do three chores because he does not practice music. In addition to that, we will sometimes ask them all to pitch in and get something done (eg if we've been sick and the house has turned into ground zero).


Once personal responsibilities, family responsibility chores, music practice and schoolwork is done, the kids may choose to do extra work, for which they get paid. This week ds did a massive amount of lawn mowing, so he will get extra on pocket money day.


We find the easiest way to accomplish things is to try and keep in a daily rhythm. They need to be presentable before they can eat breakfast. The girls need to get changed out of school uniform and unpack their schoolbags before they get their after school snack. And so on. (This kind of sounds like I am starving them into doing things, but basically if we don't have some kind of set time, they just wouldn't get around to it.)



Yes, it is surprising how little some parents think kids are capable of. All my kids can do things like starting a load of washing, sorting and folding clean clothes, loading and unloading the dishwasher, weeding and planting, mopping the floor, whatever. The things they can't do are mainly due to physical limitations (eg we don't let Ms 5 use the lawnmower because it is too large / heavy for her to use safely, not because she doesn't know how it works or can't be trusted to be careful enough). 

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I find that I don't do well with charts so since we only have two doing chores right now, we alternate days and when it's their day, they help more (like with setting the table, getting the mail, general help for mommy). They both empty the dishwasher together and they both hang their clothes up.

I think I could definitely make them do more; I still fold and put away their drawer clothes and load the dishwasher because I'm a little OCD about where things go. But really I should make them do more things more often.

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The oldest started chores at a later age, while the littles are quickly learning from him at earlier ages; but in any case, here's what they are responsible for right now:

DS6: clean toilets, cook a few very basic dishes with supervision, mop, wash mirrors/windows, wipe down walls as needed, sweep, vacuum, dust, water plants, carry clean laundry back to room and sort it into drawers, set table, clear table, tidy-up toys, make bed, brush teeth (inspected by mom), and put away shoes/coats/etc when returning home.

DD5 and DD3 do all of the above, except toilets, cooking, and mopping.

DD2 (just 24 months) insists on trying everything; she's surprisingly good at tidying-up.

It really is amazing what they are capable of (and even enjoy) at a young age. And it's been incredibly helpful to me. I should note that each child has their own "jurisdiction" (set of rooms) that they are responsible for -- so they each get daily practice in every type of chore, plus the satisfaction of knowing they cleaned their own space by themselves. And they use picture charts, so even the non-readers can work with little supervision from me.

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We've done formal chore charts from time to time. But we don't anymore. Partially because I'm terrible at keeping up with them. And partially because I want to train them that they need to help with the work that needs to be done, which might vary from day to day or week to week. So we try and instill certain habits that mean they help daily and then there are other things they typically help with. I say typically because there might be a day where I give them a break and do one of their typical jobs but then there might be a day when I ask for more help and expect them to do it. This works well for us. Dh and I both work part-time and both are home part-time and we model the idea that there are no jobs that are "mine" or "his". Instead it's "well, the laundry needs folding so I"ll fold it" or "dinner needs to be cooked so I'll cook it". I'm trying to teach the kids the same idea. 


I don't really remember exact ages or progression when they do things but it's all a gradual progression. For example, I might ask an 18 month old to bring me her bowl from the table. I might ask a 3 year old to take her dishes to the counter after eating. I would ask a 6 year old to put those dishes in the dishwasher and help wipe down the table. I would ask the 8 year old to also clear the rest of the dinner table, wipe down the table, and sweep the floor. 


Habits we instill...

*Clearing their own dishes after eating

*Picking up their toys

*Putting things away after they use them
*Cleaning their rooms 


Jobs they pretty much always do...

*Helping with trash- gathering all trash cans and dumping them. The 4 year old can do this. The older ones take it to the outside can and to the curb if it's trash day.

*Helping set the table, helping prep dinner

*Cooking (I started teaching my oldest to cook around age 8 and he can do a pretty good job with several meals now at age 10. The 7 year old can also make some basic things. They don't cook regularly but there are times I'll ask them to make lunch when I'm busy or if they want something I don't feel like making.) 

*Helping with laundry (They all put away their own. The boys, ages 7 and 10, sometimes fold it and they also can switch loads for me if asked.) 

*Clean their own bathroom- I have two boys. This is an essential task to teach them. Trust me. :)

*Dusting (this is a favorite of the 4 year old) 

*Straightening the shoes in the foyer/closet (This is the 4 year old's special job and we have her convinced she does it best. )

*Changing their bedsheets weekly 


Other things they can do and sometimes help with:


*Washing windows

*Swiffering/mopping the floor 


I think a really big thing in having kids help and be more responsible is to let go of expectations a bit. I don't mean that we should not expect them to try their hardest but it's a learning process and a four year old will never put away her clothes as neatly as I would, no matter how hard she tries. I've learned that I have to teach them things that seem obvious to me. Like, don't dry the bathroom floor with toilet paper after mopping it. When I know they've done a sloppy job and could do better I make them do something over. But if it's more of an issue of me being a perfectionist I try and remember that the big picture of training the kids is more important than having a perfect house.


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