Prime Time With Kids: Kids And Chores

Stephanie Timmerman and granddaughters Gianna, Jade and Mercedes move and stack logs from a downed tree.

The word was out from the fire marshal in California’s Santa Cruz mountains to remove dry brush, firewood and debris close to cabins and homes, to help protect them from possible wildfires.

My summer neighbor, Stephanie Timmerman, and her three granddaughters heeded the call and worked together to move logs from a downed tree near their cabin porch.

“When we woke up, we were going to go to play at a nearby park,” said 9-year-old Mercedes Lopez. “But we first wanted to help Grandma with the big chore, before she went home to San Francisco.”

All morning long, they hoisted split wood onto a wagon, and rolled larger loads down the hill to the edge of the property.

“Sharing chores is essential to family life,” said Stephanie. “The home is a little community, and there are basic things that need to be done to maintain it. I tell my grandkids that we have to cook and eat, so we need clean pots and pans and dishes and silverware to do that. Neatness and order are important, too, as we complete daily chores, including today’s task of stacking wood. Plus, we have a good time together getting a job done. Maybe you heard us laughing as we attempted to roll those big logs that take a lot of muscle,” she said to me.

Indeed, I had, which made me think about chores and how they are important to building healthy families.

Here are my tips as your family approaches a new spring season. Everyone can share in tasks and celebrate the satisfaction of jobs well done.

Preschoolers: For the under-5’s, work and play are essentially the same. Hanging out with you, whether doing kitchen chores, cleaning the house or tackling yard work is fun. Give them tasks in small doses, and cheer them on with praise.

Don’t be too picky. They’ll develop standards later. For now, let them be proud to be making a contribution.

School age: As they develop skills, emphasize giving them tasks doing things they like to do. Don’t just hand off drudgery chores, especially those you don’t like. Match their passions with a chore. If your preteen likes cooking, teach him how to use a good knife, and let him do the slicing and dicing for your next ratatouille.

Teens: Give them responsibility, not just tasks. Let her make the basic plans for your next vacation. Or, your young driver might take charge of care and repair of the family vehicle.

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Donna Erickson’s award-winning series “Donna’s Day” is airing on public television nationwide. To find more of her creative family recipes and activities, visit www.donnasday.com and link to the NEW Donna’s Day Facebook fan page. Her latest book is “Donna Erickson’s Fabulous Funstuff for Families.”

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