“Find ways for your children to help around the house. This applies even when their helping isn’t helpful. Let them work with you in the garden, even if they pull the carrots before they are ready. Allow them to help you clean the house, even if the house ends up messier than when you started. Humble yourself to the reality that you will not be as productive as you’d like but remember that some of what you’re producing is a child with confidence, skills, and resourcefulness. A child with these qualities cannot help but share them with others, and that’s worth a whole lot more than a few carrots or a clean house.”Ben Hewitt, Home Grown
Welcome! Thanks so much for tuning in! If you’re just joining us, here’s what you’ve missed of Housekeeping Week thus far:
Housekeeping Week Day 1: CLEAN SWEEP
adventures in dusting, sweeping, vacuuming, and window-washing!
We all love the idea of having our kids help out around the house, right? Most of us are so busy (not to mention exhausted), that having some help with the household responsibilities would be awesome.
And so, we readily give our kids chores, not only to give to them some responsibility, but also to lighten our loads!
But how often do we take the time to put down that laundry basket and actually TEACH our kids to clean house; breaking down each skill one at a time?
And have we ever bothered to try and make it . . . fun, or playful?
Have we accidentally passed on a sense of dejection and misery in our housekeeping; an attitude of just slogging through?
Or have we succeeded in instilling joy in the tasks of housekeeping?
Well, that’s what today’s post is all about.
We’re pushing pause on checking off that list of household chores and instead practicing and even playing with them!
So what do you say, friend? Will you join us as we play house together?
Skill Supply List:
*please note: you do NOT have to have all the items on this list to play house with us!
- child-sized broom and dustpan for kids under eight, or full-size for older kids
- a small handful of white flour or baby powder
- handheld vacuum or push vacuum
- cheap rice or cheerios
- coins/chocolate coins/small wrapped candy or other small prizes
- spray bottle
- white vinegar (for kids over five)
- dry erase markers
Dusting is not an easy task for kids right off. Firstly, dust is kind of hard to see sometimes. Secondly, it’s a tedious task (especially when blinds are involved). And thirdly, dust is just gross! I was maybe seven or eight when I first heard about dust being made up of mostly dead skin cells, some of which are thousands of years old 😨, and I’ve pretty much been scandalized ever since. And to be honest, I don’t love having our kids stirring up and hacking on dead people day in and day out . . . even if they look cute holding that death-covered feather duster, and even if eradicating dust is a necessary life skill. I guess I’m just not ready to subject them to *real* dust yet. Call me overprotective (which is probably true!), call me idealistic (which is definitely true!), but I want their little lungs to be filled with fresh air, laughter, and singing . . . not with flaked off skin.
And so I have come up with a somewhat absurd Skill School activity for practicing the task of dusting. It makes me think of Amelia Bedelia when her mistress instructs her to “dust the furniture” and Amelia proceeds to cover the house in what I believe was face powder 😆 . In short, this activity borrows from the loveable and looney Amelia Bedelia by actually “dusting” a surface before we “dust” it.
SUPPLIES FOR THIS ACTIVITY:
- a table top or smooth surface
- a few spoonfuls of white flour or baby powder
- a clean feather duster
- Sprinkle a table top or other surface with a very scant amount of white flour/baby powder. This activity is best if done outside.
- Give your child the clean feather duster and show her how to dust from left to right, and top to bottom.
- Allow your child time to practice and play dusting, and be warned: if you have a toddler, she may EAT a fair amount of the flour “dust” . . . well, ours did anyway.
I was in high school when I realized that my sweeping skills were subpar. I was visiting my then eighty-something-year-old grandfather at his work —an exotic bird pet shop— and I was following him around as he helped customers and directed employees. As we entered the “Buy Room” (the room where to this day my grandpa in his mid-nineties sells live exotic birds to a fascinatingly strange bunch of people), we came upon a young guy maybe in his late teens or early twenties pitifully sweeping with a push broom. There were streaks of dust all over the floor as he feebly streaked it around even more. My grandfather was utterly disgusted. Not being the most mild mannered of men, my grandpa barked that his granddaughter (meaning me) could sweep better than that! I think the main kick of this comment was my being a girl 😆 . He was right, of course. I am a girl. And also, I could have swept up better than that guy was. But to be fair, my six-year-old can sweep better than that guy was.
But what happened next is something I’ve never forgotten. My grandfather snatched that broom (again, not so mild-mannered) and proceeded to sweep up the entire birdseed-covered “Buy Room” in what must have been less than forty-five seconds. To this day, it is by far the most impressive sweeping job I have ever witnessed.
It may sound absurd, but I remember actually practicing my sweeping when I got home. I couldn’t believe that my eighty-something grandfather could kick my butt at something as simple as sweeping, and to be honest . . . I felt a little intimidated. I remember thinking to myself how strange it was that I had never really learned how to sweep before. After all, I was in a college-prep high school, taking honors classes, attending National Honors Society award ceremonies, performing in theatre and choir . . . and yet . . . I had never been taught to sweep. I had done a lot of sweeping. I’d just never been taught to do it very effectively.
So, in approaching this activity I have spent some time thinking about how to best teach a child to sweep. The main issue to overcome with a young child is that the usual dirt and dust on the floor is just not noticeable enough to them. It is necessary when learning to sweep to see where you’ve been and to see where you are going! And so . . . just like we “dusted” the tabletop above, this activity involves sprinkling extra debris on the floor 😆 ! Remember, we’re practicing cleaning!
SUPPLIES FOR THIS ACTIVITY:
- a child-sized broom and dustpan for kids under eight or full-size for older kids
- rice or cheerios
- Sprinkle the floor in rice or cheerios.
- Show your child how to sweep everything to one central spot, working from all angles to that centralized location and to pay special attention to only stepping where he has already swept.
- Demonstrate how to sweep the gathered rice or cheerios into the dustpan and dump in the wastebasket.
- Give your child plenty of time to practice this skill because he will most likely at first be clumsy in his efforts. Give him time to struggle and walk away if you find yourself about to lose it and snatch up that broom! Remember: we don’t want to be able to kick our kids’ butts at sweeping when we’re eighty 😆 !
- Make a game of it by telling your child that he will get a treat or some other surprise if and when EVERY grain of rice has been swept up and dumped in the waste basket.
I know, I know. . . kids should do their chores without the promise of reward just for the satisfaction of fulfilling their responsibilities to home and family. I agree, I really do. But I guess I’m just a little bit of a softie and truthfully a sucker for fun, cause when it comes to vacuuming I really think a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down in the most delightful way! All I’m saying is there is a reason why parents have been hiding coins around their homes for decades, and that is this: having the kids willingly and enthusiastically vacuum the house is totally worth a dollar or two a week and fudging on the rewards rule.
SUPPLIES FOR THIS ACTIVITY:
- coins, or chocolate coins/wrapped candies, or some other small prizes
- handheld or push vacuum
- Hide a handful of coins or prizes around the house in places that are not easily seen but in which you would like your child to become in the habit of vacuuming.
- Give your child a handheld or push vacuum and show him how to methodically vacuum with it. For a push-vacuum: show your child how to vacuum an entire room, beginning on the edges and working to the middle, or working from left to right in a vertical pattern. For a handheld vacuum: show your child where you would like her to routinely vacuum; window sills, edges of the room, hard-to-reach corners, etc.
- Send your child on a treasure hunt! Just make sure she knows that the prize will only be earned if the vacuuming is truly done.
Window washing is our son’s favorite chore. There’s something about that squeaky squeegee that is just oh-so-satisfying to him. Add some dry erase markers, I have found, and window-washing becomes positively irresistible to kids!
Today as we were washing windows, two of the neighbor boys saw and ran over to join our Skill School. “What are you DOING?” they asked. “Making the window dirty and then washing it!” our son answered as if letting them in on a delicious secret. As this band of window-washers proceeded to spray and squeegee and bargain for extra turns, I quietly faded into the background and smiled to myself as I thought of Tom Sawyer and his white-washing crew. And I was Tom.
SUPPLIES FOR THIS ACTIVITY:
- a squeegee
- a spray bottle with pure water for littles or half vinegar half water for kids over the age of five
- a few dry erase markers
- Give your child the dry erase markers and let him draw on the window or “make the window dirty” as our kids like to say!
- Show your child how he can spray the window and then squeegee it, either pulling from as high as he can reach straight down, or pulling side to side working from the top down.
- Give your child plenty of time to play window-washer! And invite some friends or neighbors to join in the fun! Our kids will wash the windows in this way for up to an hour. So grab a book and a cup of tea, mamas and papas! I even got a bit of yard work done after I snapped these pictures today 😁.
Tune in tomorrow for Day Two of Housekeeping Week: WASH DAY WITH “DOLLY DEAR”!
Thanks ever so much for reading!
Love, ~Our Holistic Homeschool~