“In every task that must be done there is an element of fun.” Mary Poppins
I’ll never get my room clean…it’s too messy!
I hate folding socks; can’t someone else do it?
If you have heard comments such as these from your kids (or maybe thought them yourself!), you are not alone. It is not that chores are really so hard–at least not if you do them often enough to keep the task manageable–as much as the fact that they are routine. To say it another way: they are boring.
To counter the complaints, you could preach a little sermon about doing all things without complaining or arguing, tacking on a reminder about how much you do for them. Or you could yell at them and threaten them with more chores if they can’t cheerfully do the few they have. Or you could borrow a page from Mary Poppins’s diary and help your kids use their imagination to make their work fun.
Here is what I mean: do you remember the scene in the Walt Disney movie Mary Poppinswhere the children are complaining about straightening the nursery and Mary Poppins sings a delightful song and makes a game out of it as the toys magically put themselves away? Well, you and your kids can make a game out of work with a little imagination and creativity; and especially when upbeat music is added to the mix, you will find that attitudes are magically improved. Here are some ways we have made work fun in our home when our children were young:
- Army game - Mom is the drill sergeant and inspection takes place at precisely O-seven-hundred hours (or whatever time works for you). Mom assumes the tone of a sergeant as she asks each soldier if his/her room is ready for inspection. The soldier must stand at attention and answer Yes, Drill Sergeant Sir, or No, Drill Sergeant Sir. If the room does not pass inspection, order the soldier to do 10 push-ups and they must complete the job before they are assigned to their next job or given a pass for the rest of the day.
- Cinderella game – My younger sister, Marie, played this game doing her chores as a child, even calling herself Cinder-Marie! She would imagine that she had a wicked stepmother and stepsisters who forced her to do all their work. Moms, it would probably be best if you played the part of the fairy godmother, rewarding her hard work with a trip to the ball (or the mall or the treat jar)!
- Sock Match-up game – Have the children sit in a circle on the floor then deal out all the socks in the clean clothes basket to the children (like dealing out cards for a card game). Instruct the children to make any matches from their own pile that they can, then take turns asking another child if they have a pink footy sock or a black ankle sock etc. The game can be played like Go Fish or Old Maid.
- Treasure Hunt game – Secretly hide a treasure that will be found when the work is done. A toy, candy, or coin that will be discovered at the bottom of the laundry basket, under the bed, etc.
- Stopwatch game – My children, especially my boys, loved the challenge of a timed competition or a race. Ask them how quickly they think they can complete their chore and then time them. Make sure they know it must be done well! This is actually a great way for them to see how little time chores take when they are focussed and don’t “mess around”! Another variation on this is to have them race you, to see who can finish their task first. (This is usually preferable over the children racing each other since you can make sure they win and it doesn’t become a source of sibling rivalry.)
- Musical Chores – Turn on some fun music and have the kids see if they can finish the chore before the song is done.
The possibilities are limitless! Children have wonderful imaginations… just get them started and they can take it from there. In fact, besides the more peaceful atmosphere and the improved attitudes toward chores, you may be encouraging this century’s next great novelist or inventor!
“… a cheerful heart fills the day with song.” Proverbs 15:15 (MSG)
We would love to hear your ideas for helping children do their chores with a happy heart! Please leave a reply below.
Read more articles on parenting in the “Parenting” category under “Family.”
(Carla and her husband Clyde will celebrate 25 years of marriage this year. With six sons and one daughter, there is never a dull moment in the Collier home! She enjoys tennis, reading and writing. Carla serves as the website editor on the Keepers Ministry Team.)
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