I'm a writer and consultant living in Brisbane who loves travel in Australia, Asia, the Pacific and elsewhere.
Published October 20th 2013
Turning kids into good little household citizens
The old saying that you should start as you mean to go on is a wise one. Teaching kids from an early age to contribute to doing jobs around the house and yard is a great way to instil good habits and make them more self-sufficient when they grow up to be men and women. This is not about turning children into slaves. Some jobs are fun, give a real sense of achievement and build self-esteem. If you incorporate jobs into family routines they become part of normal life and shouldn't be cause for kids whingeing.
Kids love gardening - planting and picking their own herbs, fruit, vegies and flowers
Teaching a child to grow plants and especially food is a great activity. Whether you have acreage or the tiniest flat, you can grow something. It's a thrill for kids to watch tiny seeds grow into seedlings and fully grown plants and truly satisfying to be able to eat what you've grown yourself. Growing flowers can also be terrific for kids.
Pots or small garden beds are easy. Pick out an area with good sunlight for much of the day. Buy some potting mix suitable for what you decide to grow with your kids. Great plants to start with are herbs. Ask at your local gardening shop or hardware about plants in your area. Gradually try new varieties or larger areas if you have room, perhaps building and cultivating a substantial veggie patch to supply your kitchen and your neighbours'.
Take note of the directions on seed packets or seedlings on caring for your plants. Protect them from wind and pests, water them and fertilise if needed. If failure strikes explain how this can happen then plant the next crop together.
Make harvesting your crop with kids a special occasion at first, gradually giving them more responsibility for caring for and picking the produce. This will become a regular habit as your fruit, vegetables and herbs grow and ripen.
Simple recipes that don't require many ingredients or steps like pizza and baked potatoes are a great way to start. Talk to your kids about where the ingredients come from, how they are produced and healthy eating. Be careful with hotplates and ovens around littlies.
Food preparation ideas that don't involve cooking include fruit juice ice blocks and easy salads. You might even discover a budding chef in the family.
Cooking can be fun for kids with a few ingredients
Meals are a key connecting time for families, even if there are just two of you. Clearing clutter from the dining table or breakfast bench is a good start. TV and other electronics should definitely be off so you can sit down together and share your day, plans for tomorrow and other topics.
Give kids the task of setting plates, cutlery, glasses (or plastic cups) once they have washed their hands, showing them at first where these go. Cleaning up after meals is another job they can gradually take on.
Caring for Pets
Kids love to bring home gorgeous puppies, kittens, guinea pigs, budgies, chickens or other pets. They promise faithfully to look after them – feed, groom, clean hutches, take them for walks. And then the backsliding starts – if you let it.
Guinea pigs are popular pets but kids need to clean hutches
Make caring for pets part of their routine. Stick reminder lists on the fridge and start off with a rewards system like gold stars and a special treat as an incentive at the end of a month of good pet caring. Never reward poor performance. Do not be tempted to let them have more pets if they haven't looked after the ones they have.
Cleaning and tidying
Taking responsibility for their own rooms, making their beds, putting dirty clothes in the laundry basket, cleaning up after meals, tidying up playthings. These are all basic jobs that kids can be taught from a young age to set expectations and encourage them to be good household citizens.
Playtime is great fun, but then comes cleaning up time