Do you remember what it was like to have just gotten your license and drive a car without your parents? For me, I felt so grown up… like I just cut off the strings of parent dependency!  However, that feeling came to an abrupt halt as I found myself confused staring at the gas pump. One minor problem… I didn’t know how to pump gas! In a frantic teenage girl moment, I sobbed to my dad as he gave me instructions over the phone. No one had ever told me that you had to lift the metal lever up for the gas to come out! As simple as that moment may seem, what a difference that day would have been if I could have hopped out of the car and confidently pumped my own gas without the tears and embarrassment.

As parents how do we create teaching moments such as these for our children before they are out of our home? When should we start? How should we start?

 It’s SPRING CLEANING season and the answer is NOW and in the home!


Here are 6 ideas on how to get started today.


I don’t know about you but I have a touch of ADD when it comes to housework. Let’s just say, it is not on my “Top Favorite Things List.”   But in order to teach my children the value of hard work and independence I have to give them the consistent opportunity to serve in the home. Plus, why should I have to bare the burden alone? Don’t I want to teach my children about working together as a team?

This is what I have found helpful in our home and how I created our job lists. First, I made a list of all the things that had to happen in the home to keep it clean and functioning. Then, I divided it up between weekly, quarterly, and yearly items. Then, I put them on magnetic strips to divide out to the members of our family- yes, that includes my three-year-old.


You can download the entire list right here.

 I found these small metal clipboards at a craft store for 50% off along with paper! Yay- I just love a deal!


Then, I glued the paper and added a letter of the name of each person to identify and personalize each clipboard.


There you have it.


Our daily charts. 


I know what you are thinking-  what do do with all the additional magnetic word strips? I just grabbed sheets of metal (only 99 cents each!) and two sided tape from Home Depot and  adhered it to the inside of my cabinet close to where the charts are hanging.




Oh I forgot to mention- I created visual images for my three-year-old since he can’t read quite yet. You can download  those images here.



Now, that you have figured out your system for your family- it’s time to put it on the calendar. Come up with a great big list of all the things you want your child to know how to do before they leave the home. Then figure out at what age you want to introduce them to your child and when it will take place. I recommend doing training during the summer or on the weekends when kids are not busy with school. Plus, what a great Summer boredom buster right?  Then, mark it on your calendar to schedule enough time for the training to take place.




Did you know it takes an average child 8 training sessions to teach a child a task? So, how do we expect them to know how to do something if we don’t teach them how? In the short run this will be a little (or a lot) time consuming… we all know that a job that usually takes 5 minutes for us will take your child twice as long!  But remember in the long run it will eventually pay off when they are able to do things without your assistance.



Sometimes we just assume that our children are too young to do a task. But have you noticed that many teenagers these days are doing just about as much work as a two-year-old? Could it be because we never gave them the opportunity to do small tasks while they were little. Constantly find ways to stretch your children beyond what you think and they think they can do. They will surprise you. Once they have mastered their tasks, don’t be afraid to keep adding to their list. They will learn how and appreciate how capable they really are.

My child was struggling to lift this recycle bag full of paper. I reached out to help assuming it was just too heavy for him, but he was determined to do it himself. It took all my restraint not to hop in there and rescue his attempt while he was struggling to get it up over the bin. But my patience paid off. He finally was able to do it and was extremely  proud of his hard work and determination.

So was I.



Remember, we would so much rather have them learn those lessons early on in a safe environment like the home. So, mistakes are good. Point out the positive things that you see your child doing well and refrain from criticizing or overly critiquing their work. Refrain yourself from redoing their work later! I know we all feel like doing that at one time or other! But remember, that is only sending the message to them that they are not capable of doing quality work if we are remaking their bed when they go to school. If they need to improve in a certain area, just consider that they need a little MORE training time and make the time to teach them in a loving and patient environment with plenty of encouragement.

Since my son was two he has loved to help with the baking. He didn’t always make it into the bowl or crack an egg with out the shells falling in. But I must say through practice he is now able to help without making such a mess. And he love to do it! My plan is to prepare him to be able to know how to prepare meals all by himself for the family before he reaches his teens.  I have to start somewhere right?





Once your training period is over and your child knows how to do the task- BACK AWAY! Hovering over your child is also sending the message that you don’t trust them or they aren’t capable of doing quality work.

One thing I have done in my home when they are just beginning to learn how to do self-help skills is to create a visual check list for them to check off in the morning and at night. It is on a clipboard with velcro images underneath the to do list. I purposely place it at eye level so they can see it and do it on their own. Find out more and download the images here.




So, parents (and grandparents)- my final thoughts are the words of Dorothy Briggs, author of Your Child’s Self-Esteem,  “In successful parenting, you literally try to work yourself out of a job.” – it is time to step out of the way and allow your children the opportunity to learn! Take this time with spring cleaning and summer to teach your child that they can in fact do hard things and feel excited about doing it!

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    1. April 2nd, 2013 at 6:45 am
      Britney Mills says:
      Oh my gosh! This is absolutely brilliant. I think you hit it on the head when you said that kids need to learn how to work but we have to give them that opportunity. It's amazing how many adults don't know how to clean or work. Thanks for this idea....I will definitely be using it in the future!
      • April 2nd, 2013 at 7:17 am
        Cristi says:
        It's so true huh- sometimes we are the ones that aren't creating the opportunities! Glad you enjoyed it!
    2. April 2nd, 2013 at 8:48 am
      Lindsey E says:
      Thank you so much for this creative way to get the kids involved!
      • April 3rd, 2013 at 11:00 am
        Cristi Dame says:
        Sure thing! Let us know about your experience with it at your home!
    3. April 2nd, 2013 at 9:31 am
      Willi Morris says:
      Beautiful! Now, I wonder if this will work on my husband? Seriously, I'm pinning this and we have no kids. :-)
    4. April 2nd, 2013 at 12:12 pm
      Sarah says:
      I love to see my kids cleaning. I have a 7 year old girl and a 4 year old boy. They clean the bathroom, vacuum, and separate the laundry each week. I don't ever have to clean baseboards, doors, or cabinets...since it is my 4 year olds FAVORITE thing to do. My 7 year old will be starting dishes once a day soon. She is SOOOO excited!! It is so important that they not only learn to do it, but learn that it can be a fun thing to do. And you are so right...Why should I have to do it all? :)
      • April 3rd, 2013 at 10:58 am
        Cristi Dame says:
        I love that your kids enjoy doing it! Young kids really feel so grown up when they help. It really can be fun! My son is three and also loves to help. Just give him a wet rag or vacuum and he goes to town.
    5. April 2nd, 2013 at 12:27 pm
      Iza Baswedan says:
      OMG..put this on my to do list! Thank you so much :)
      • April 3rd, 2013 at 10:59 am
        Cristi Dame says:
        Let us know how it goes!! :)
    6. April 2nd, 2013 at 12:27 pm
      Molly says:
      My mom was the best at this! I'm sure I was more spoiled (read: not as well trained!) as a youngest, but she'd teach is in detail all the areas to watch for in cleaning a bathroom, for instance, and then she'd go somewhere else while we cleaned, and she'd come back and point out places where we could have done better / differently. Her approach made me really methodical - like a checklist in my head. e.g. clean from the top down, pull out all the appliances on the kitchen counter when wiping down with a sponge.. you get the idea. I still clean by her rules!

      When I was 10, she had me do all the menu planning and cooking (including bread and granola from scratch) for a summer. What fun! How right you are about not underestimating children.

      Another good idea she had: 20-minute blitz cleans. When she was feeling cluttered, she'd set the timer for 20 minutes, put on some music, and we'd all stop what we were doing and go pick things up and put them away until the buzzer went off. It made a real difference.

      Good luck with your spring cleaning!
      • April 3rd, 2013 at 11:13 am
        Cristi Dame says:
        I love the 20-minute blitz idea! Growing up in our house it seemed like there was never an end to cleaning so knowing that there is a start and stop time is fabulous! I have a rule that I don't spend more than 90 minutes cleaning (including helping with my three year old) and we use a timer and music in our house...mostly to keep myself focused. But I love the idea of short little bursts of cleaning- that is so doable. I think we may try that each night before heading to bed! Thanks for the comment and idea!

        Oh yah and I LOVE that you were menu planning and cooking by the age of 10! I am a huge believer that even YOUNG kids can cook (if we just let them) and think that is something I really want my kids to take turns doing for the family by the time they are 10! Like I said- why should we be doing it alone?
    7. April 2nd, 2013 at 8:30 pm
      Shelley says:
      Gosh I love this post!! I am filling super inspired to be a mother who teaches. Heck, those cute charts almost make ME want to clean. ;) Super duper cute.
      • April 3rd, 2013 at 11:15 am
        Cristi Dame says:
        I am with you on that...I am not a fan of cleaning. The chart is the only way I will actually do it!
    8. April 4th, 2013 at 6:06 pm
      bianca says:
      This is amazing. I am hoping this will work for me and my husband as well! This is now officially my Summer project to get up and running. Thanks for sharing!!
    9. April 6th, 2013 at 6:26 am
      Jenn says:
      My kids like laundry...they sort everything by the colors of the rainbow...even my not yet 2 year old gets in on the fun. They really like making "laundry soup," putting the right ingredients in for each load. Getting them involved is fun for everyone.
    10. April 6th, 2013 at 6:27 am
      Jenn says:
      Awesome board idea! My kids like laundry...they sort everything by the colors of the rainbow...even my not yet 2 year old gets in on the fun. They really like making "laundry soup," putting the right ingredients in for each load. Getting them involved is fun for everyone.
    11. April 7th, 2013 at 5:18 pm
      Carlee says:
      Thank you Cristi! This was exactly what I needed and done with your fun,fashionable Flair! I have been searching pinterest for ideas on teaching children how to do housework, but have not seen anything this cute or clever or as functional, too. Thanks!
    12. April 8th, 2013 at 11:17 am
      Ashley says:
      I really love this. My kids would never have to ask about chores again. Such a great idea. Thank you Cristi.
    13. April 9th, 2013 at 10:00 pm
      Judy Tobian says:
      I can't wait to try out some of these ideas with my kids. Thank you for the great ideas!
    14. April 9th, 2013 at 11:06 pm
      Sharon says:
      Perfect timing! Just this afternoon I as down all of my kids (ages 7,5&3) and we thought of the things that need to be done and I allowed them to choose which ones they wanted to be responsibe for. I jotted it down and it is sitting on my table waiting for THIS post.
      God knows exactly what I need and when I need it!
      It is my plan to keep them assigned to the same chores so they can master them. Then switch after 6 months or so.
      I am wondering where in the worls i can get metal clipboards. I may just afix metal sheeting up for them to see and use.
      Where are your clipboards posted?
      Can't thank you enough for this!
      • August 21st, 2013 at 10:04 pm
        cristi says:
        I got my clipboards at a store called craft warehouse- but I am sure they have other places that sell them!
    15. August 19th, 2013 at 1:10 pm
      Jill says:
      I went to Home Depot to find the metal sheets. I could not find any for 99 cents. I only saw 12 by 18 sheets for 4.97. How big are your sheets. I wonder if I just missed them somewhere or if they just cost more where I live. Thanks!
      • August 21st, 2013 at 10:03 pm
        cristi says:
        the metal sheets I got are 8 x 12 so a little smaller but I can't imagine your size would be much more money. I will have to double check to see if they went up in price.
    16. September 10th, 2013 at 8:19 pm
      Vanessa says:
      Was wondering where you got the strips to do the magnets? This is a great idea. I have all my kids in school now so they need to get some structure. Thank you!!
      • April 14th, 2014 at 9:07 am
        Brianna says:
        I think this website is amazing
      • April 14th, 2014 at 9:08 am
        Brianna says:
        I got my magnet. Strips from walmart
    17. January 25th, 2014 at 12:41 pm
      Amy Moriarty says:
      Thank you! This is wonderfully written and organized. I have been overwhelmed trying to start my chart for my 3 at home! I am downloading, printing and headed to Home Depot today! Great job!!
    18. March 31st, 2014 at 6:30 pm
      Dani says:
      I am one of those kids that never learned. I can tell you now, you are teaching them more than just cleaning with this schedule. Now I'm training myself and my three year old to be self disciplined. It's a fun ride learning all this together.
    19. July 11th, 2014 at 4:59 pm
      maquillage des yeux marrons says:
      I can't wait to try out some of these ideas with my kids. Thank you for the great ideas!
    20. November 26th, 2014 at 8:46 am
      Katelyn says:
      I got the the downloads but the days of the week are not included......are those somewhere else??
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