Why My Kids do Chores in Summer
School’s out and the kiddos are back with their main teachers, their parents, for summer. As a parent, I’ve always wanted my kiddos to refresh, recharge, and have fun in summer, but I also take the opportunity to reinforce some of those skills that may get overlooked during the busy school year. Today I’m sharing the ways I’ve tried to balance fun, learning, and responsibility for my own sons during the summer months.
Summer Bucket Lists
One of the first things we do is have the kiddos make a summer bucket list. We encourage them to include both small things (making s’mores) and bigger things (going on a road trip), but to make sure they are things we could legitimately do. Most years they have checked off every item on their list by August. This give them fun things to look forward to all summer, and also helps them look back and see how being intentional about their dreams makes them reality. Well, usually.
Our Summer Chore System
Our kiddos have always been expected to step up and do extra work around the house during the summer. They do some chores throughout the year (keeping their rooms picked up, taking care of the dog, taking out trash and helping with mealtimes), but everything else tends to go by the wayside because we’re so busy. I applaud those parents whose kids do these sorts of things all year long: I just don’t have it all together to make that happen.
We set it up so the kids have a set of daily, weekly, and occasional “chores” (for lack of a better word) to complete in summer. We tie earning allowance, a set amount of screen time per day, and extra pay into chores, and I like this because there are multiple ways they can be in charge of their “income.” Plus, then they have some “hard-earned” money (and screen time) to practice budgeting and managing on their own. Before any screen time is allowed, all daily (and assigned occasional) chores for that day must be completed.
I modify and adapt our chore system each year based on the age of the child, any summer priorities from school to prepare for the next year, and what we need around the house. Here’s what my 10-year-old son’s chore system looks like this summer (FYI: “Chai” is our dog). Click for a printable PDF of this list.
This is the “system,” and then each day I specify which “occasional” chores must be done that day. For the “once per week” items, I let the boys choose when those will be done as long as it works with the rest of our schedule of activities. I like that they have to be responsible for initiating and accomplishing the once per week items. If they haven’t done their once-per-week items by the weekend, they have to do them first thing Saturday morning. Sometimes they wait until then, but usually they want to have everything finished before the weekend so they’re totally free.
Once my older sons were in high school, their chores were scaled back a bit because they had required summer reading and math assignments to do for their honors English and math classes (they worked on these for their “education” time). Plus, both had summer sport practices and camps (which counted for their “exercise” time) and eventually got part-time jobs. However, they both still had required chores to do around the house (usually cleaning and laundry), just more flexibility in when they completed them. I like the fact that all three of my sons will be capable of cooking, cleaning, managing finances, and doing laundry…whether or not they choose to implement those skills regularly is up to them. LOL
One of my biggest concerns that is CONSTANTLY reaffirmed (because I’m a teacher and see its impact first-hand) is the effects of too much screen time. Every kid is different: some kids can do a little screen time, then shut it off and move on to something else. However, if any of your kiddos lose track of time “staring at squares” as I call it, whether phones, computers, game systems, tablets, or TVs, you’ll need to set up more structure to help them set limits. Our kids could earn a certain amount per weekday once chores were done. This amount changed based on their age. For example, my 10-year-old does not yet have a cell phone, but he can earn up to 2 hours per day of computer/tablet/video game/TV time. He also gets 2 hours per day on the weekend, but he doesn’t have to earn those.
Extra Screen Time
Sometimes my kids want to earn some extra screen time. This usually happens when they’ve used up all of their time, but friends come over and they want to play a game with them. Last summer I started allowing my then 9-year-old son to earn more screen time by doing push-ups and sit-ups. For every push-up + sit-up, he can earn 1 more minute of screen time (e.g., if he does 30 push-ups AND 30 sit-ups, he can earn a total of 30 more minutes of screen time). This really worked well! Lots of times his friends would do the push-ups and sit-ups with him, or hold his feet, or even just encourage him while he was doing them. We’re going to keep this going this summer, too.
How Effective Is It?
I’m not going to say this is a perfect system with no hiccups. There are days when chores aren’t done WELL, when my sons have played with Legos or other toys, or outside, all day and had to finish their chores in the evening (or not at all and then just had zero screen time). Although they usually hit their lists with a pretty good attitude right away in the morning to get them done, there are days that involve grumbling.
Also, this tends to work really smoothly throughout June and the first half of July, but by mid-July I find myself getting more lackadaisical about the whole system myself. By August, we’re usually not as good about the whole thing. And rainy days are sometimes an exception because I’ve always loved curling up on the couch with my boys, a good movie, and a big bowl of popcorn on a rainy day.
I have to say, though, that during June, my house is the cleanest it will be all year long. Between me being home from school and the boys eagerly doing chores, it’s pretty amazing!
Do you have a chore system for your kids that’s different in summer? I’m always looking for new ideas and modifications for our system.