Katherine at Raising Five had a wonderful couple of posts on children and chores. Katherine uses such a simple but great idea of chore sheets posted in each room so that the children know specifically what needs to be done, because as we all know, if it ain't spelled out, their definitions are definitely not our definitions of cleaned up. As Katherine states, "Kids do not naturally catch implications, hints, suggestions...". We must be clear so that they know exactly what is expected. And it avoids manipulation and frustration all around.
In emailing with Katherine about this topic and requesting a copy of her room by room chore sheets, she asked about what I have up my sleeve for dayhome in this area. Well I don't know if I have any tricks up there, but one thing I do know after working with preschoolers for 18 + years is that when the kids know what is expected there is much more peace and smoothness throughout the day.
With six pre-schoolers here every day, you can imagine the chaos and mess and the mega amount of work there would be if I somehow didn't involve them with a little bit of helping out. How do I keep some semblance of organization and cleanliness going with a very busy group of youngsters? At this age a chore chart, of course, would be age inappropriate for them so we thrive on routine. If I had to name one secret that I had, routine would definitely be it. We do different activities within the routine but the basic routine stays the same. Some things that define our routine throughout the day are:
-when we move from one area of the house to another, as in from the upstairs (where we wait for everyone to arrive) to the downstairs playroom, the toys that were played with up stairs must be put back into it's basket.
-before snacks and lunch a clean up is done
-if a toy or set of toys is done being played with it is encouraged that it go back on the shelf or in it's box. Doesn't always happen but it is encouraged.
-certain toys have specific places to play with them and they may not be carried around anywhere else but that area. For example: polly pockets, coloring, lite brite, games and puzzles, etc. may only be done at the table. This contains the small pieces and keeps the very little guys from getting ahold of them.
-at snack and lunch, we each put our own garbage in the garbage, carry our empty cup and dirty cutlery to the counter by the sink.
That is it. A very simple routine but the children work with it because it is not confusing and they know what needs to happen before the next thing can happen. Now within this simple routine there are a few "rules" or "guidelines" if you may, that help it to function smoothly.
1. Everybody helps. From the oldest to the youngest. Yes, even my 11 month old in the dayhome, with my guidance and encouragement, is very capable of throwing a few toys into a box.
2. There are some baskets or boxes for specific things. We have one box specifically for dolls, stuffies, pillows and blankets, one specifically for cars, trucks and accessories, one specifically for large toys that do not fit on the shelves, one specifically for lego, one specifically for "kitchen" items, one for construction and tools, and one for dress up clothes. Toys that don't fit into one of these categories, just go into containers on the shelves. This serves multi purposes rather than just throwing things into a couple of large toy boxes.
-It helps the kids to keep some semblance of organization with the toys and helps them to find specific toys when they want them. Which totally cuts down on frustration for both them and me.
-And, believe it or not, it helps to make clean up that much faster. It is amazing how quickly they learn which box is for what. I used to label them but find I really don't need to.
-it makes the toys more accessible to even the littlest ones.
3. Because they are preshcoolers the wisdom of line upon, precept upon precept, certainly does apply and must be remembered by myself. It is a process of learning for them. They will need guidance and reminders. They will try to get away with not participating. But for the most part even the three years olds know what to do.
4. If they are in the midst of building or playing intensely with something, and they ask to leave it set up, I need to be flexible and allow them that. However, end of the day cleanup is total. All toys must be put away.
5. This rule is for me, the adult: I need to leave enough time for them to be able to do this. At preschool age it will take them more time to accomplish the task. There is nothing more stressful for both the children and for me than to not allow enough time and then have me nagging at them and rushing them along.
6. Another rule for me the adult: Praise, praise, praise! The kids are so proud of themselves and really do like to please you, praise for a job well done, makes them more likely to want to do the chore rather just do it because they have to.
So there you go Katherine, I hope that answers your question and wasn't too rambling of an answer. Hopefully it helped somebody out. I know it's for my dayhome, but really, it works within a home also. The fact is, preschool kids thrive and can find success in routine. For some awesome tips on chidren and chores visit Katherine here and here.