Most homes are stuffed full of creature comforts and other engaging items that can be easy to take for granted by your little ones. It’s possible for kids to grow up with a lack of appreciation for these things because, to young children, they just seem to appear magically. Teach kids valuable lessons in responsibility so that they understand the importance of taking care of all those special items that fill up toy boxes, bookshelves, drawers and closets in your home.
1 Create a firm family rule about putting things away after using them. Whether it’s a book, a toy, a coat or a towel, if someone takes something out and uses it, the rule states that the user needs to put the item away properly. This might be placing it back in its rightful spot, tossing a dirty towel in the hamper or hanging a backpack up on its hook in the hallway.
2 Encourage kids to use items carefully and wisely so that things don’t break. Teach them how to turn pages of a book gently -- or put old or important books up out of reach until little ones are older. Demonstrate proper plinking of piano keys, instead of banging on them with a block. Store pencils, pens, crayons and markers out of reach so that little fingers won’t get any imaginative decorating ideas.
3 Show your little tykes how you want them to handle items in your home. Your example is the most powerful teaching tool because they instinctively keep their eyes on Mom and Dad to learn how to do things. When they see you folding clothes carefully, stacking magazines neatly and putting away game pieces in an orderly fashion, kids will follow your lead.
4 Assign basic chores to little ones as they grow old enough to take on household responsibilities. Give a toddler an extra dust rag and have her dust the bookshelves with you. Hand a 3-year-old a broom and ask him to help you sweep around the dog’s food dish. Expect a 4-year-old to make her bed every morning and put her dirty laundry in the hamper in the evening. Assign simple chores to a 5-year-old, such as folding towels, emptying trash cans and filling the dog’s bowl.
5 Offer lots of praise and positive affirmations when your little ones help out around the house with responsible and willing attitudes. You might say, “Thank you for picking up the dirty clothes from your bedroom floor and making your bed. Great helping to keep our house shipshape!”
- Make chores an enjoyable, positive family activity instead of negative drudgery. The process of working together for the common good of everyone can be a bonding and empowering experience. When you finish working together to accomplish a chore, revel in the great success you achieved as a team.
- Resist the urge to pay your kids for helping around the house. Basic responsibility doesn't involve a pay scale, and you can create unrealistic expectations for your kids if you start down this road.
- Respect and Take Care of Things; Cheri J. Meiners and Meredith Johnson
- Colorado State University Extension: Children and Chores
- Terrific Parenting: Teaching Responsibility At Home
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