Ah, my least favorite chore. But that’s why we had kids, right? To do all the chores we hate. No? Well, at least get them to help out a little. I say as soon as kids can stand up, they can help with the dishes. Toddlers can hand you forks out of the dishwasher (and in fact they love doing it!) and preschoolers can sort silverware. Elementary age kids are capable of rinsing and loading the dishwasher on their own. Here’s a tip I learned from other moms: store kid dishes in low cabinets or drawers. Then it is easy for kids to unload dishes and also get plates/silverware for setting the table.
Doing the dishes is a life skill, so the earlier the better! Plus any family chore teaches them about responsibility, which in turn builds their self-esteem. Letting kids handle age-appropriate tasks and praising them for success will increase their confidence. Finally, getting everyone involved in the after dinner clean-up creates a sense of teamwork and “we’re all in this together” attitude that will benefit them for the rest of their lives. All that from doing the dishes? Yeah. Or at least that’s how I’m selling it to my kids.
Choose one or two of these ideas the next time you want to
force your kids to do your chores teach your kids while doing the dishes. Okay, the job might take a little longer…but it will be more fun!
(Common Core Standards appear in italics. They correlate with specific standards in different grade levels. These standards are used in almost every school in the country. Click the Common Core tab above to learn more.)
Toddlers and Preschoolers
- Use a step stool so they are able to stand in front of the sink. Let them explore the different textures of water, soap, brushes and sponges.
- Build motor skills by scrubbing plates.
- Increase vocabulary by naming the objects you wash. Use lots of adjectives like the big, red, round plate.
- Rinse cups by filling them up with water and dumping it into a larger container. Talk about capacity. How many little cups of water will it take to fill up the big bowl? Estimate and check.
- Try to guess objects in a bubbly sink by touch instead of sight. Um, don’t play this with knives. 🙂
- Count objects as they are washed. You can start counting and see if they can pick up where you left off. (kindergarten- Count forward beginning from a given number within the known sequence (instead of having to begin at 1)
- Compare the number of objects you are washing. Do we have more plates or cups to wash? (kindergarten- Identify whether the number of objects in one group is greater than, less than, or equal to the number of objects in another group, e.g., by using matching and counting strategies)
- Play “I’m thinking of something in the kitchen.” Once you have something in mind, the other player asks you yes or no questions to identify it.
- Be silly and make up a story involving the dishes. What would happen if the dish ran away spoon? Who would come to its rescue?
- Ask math problems related to the dishes. We put away seven spoons and nine forks. How many utensils is that in all? (first grade and second grade- Represent and solve problems using addition and subtraction)
- Try more difficult problems on older kids. If there are five people in our family and each meal we use a fork and a spoon. How many forks and spoons will we need to wash at the end of the day? (third grade- Represent and solve problems using addition and subtraction)
- Time the task. Ask your kiddo to tell the time before you start unloading the dishwasher and then again when you are finished. How long did it take? (second grade- Tell and write time from analog and digital clocks to the nearest five minutes)
- Use the opportunity just to talk about their day or school.