Following on from the last two posts (Part 1 & Part 2) about using the opportunity of lockdown to teach your children key life skills, today we’ll look at how you can encourage your children to take more accountability in helping care for their home and possessions, combined with ideas for involving them in planning your free time together.
Kids enjoy helping to fix things and do maintenance-type jobs around the house and garden, be it:
- changing a lightbulb
- getting a stain out of a carpet
- hammering a nail to fix a broken drawer
- painting the garden fence
- bleeding radiators
- mowing the lawn
- jet washing the patio
- hanging up a picture
- oiling a noisy hinge
- digging up weeds
- watering plants
- mowing the lawn
- chopping logs
they love to be involved. It might take you that little bit longer but making a commitment to showing them how to do it and letting them have a try will be worth it to see the sense of achievement on their faces.
The same applies to giving them responsibility for their own bike maintenance. Sadly, we live in a throw-away society, where we’re more likely to chuck stuff in the bin than try and fix it, and the idea of maintenance is fairly alien. In light of this, it’s even more important to teach the next generation to have respect for their possessions, properly maintaining and fixing if needed, so that they outlive their owners rather than being consigned to the dump. Bike care is a great way for children to practice this.
Before bike rides, encourage them to check their brakes, how well their tyres are inflated, and that any bolts or quick releases are not loose. After particularly dirty bike rides, encourage them to wipe down the bike to stop rust developing. Show them how to apply a thin layer of oil to their chains to keep them running smoothly.
Every few months, have them wash the bike more thoroughly and lubricate all the moving parts. After each ride, ensure they store their bike correctly out of the sunshine and rain and away from any heat source. Finally, if there is a puncture, show them how to take off the tyre, find the puncture in the inner tube, repair and then replace. I guarantee they’ll rise to the challenge and revel in the new-found responsibility.
You could also show them how to complete some general car maintenance – checking there is sufficient windscreen wiper fluid, water level in the radiator, oil level in the engine, and that the tyre pressures are where they should be, pumping up if needed. They could also clean the car both inside and out for you to earn a few extra pounds for their savings!
With all of us being at home all of the time, the house is taking much more of hammering than it usually does. So, on top of their normal responsibilities of tidying up after meals, I’ve decided to drag the children into the weekly cleaning routine. Many hands make light work and all that. Plus, they do need to be able to do it for themselves one day and scarily that day will roll around far quicker than I would like!
Sometimes, we just blitz a room together, all doing different tasks, with us modelling how to do various jobs (my two seem to have a peculiar obsession with using the wood polish!). Othertimes, I allocate a specific room for them to deep clean together. There are always a few grumbles at first, but once they get into it, they enjoy themselves, taking a real pride in their work. Another added benefit here is that they seem to take more care (certainly initially) in not getting areas dirty that they’ve just cleaned. Hmmm, might have to get them to do the whole house then!
Laundry & Ironing
Sorting the clothes by colour; making sure there are no tissues in pockets (one of my biggest bug bears); setting off the washing machine; sorting out how to dry the clothes, tumbling some and hanging out the more fragile; folding; ironing (where necessary – we have VERY few clothes in this category!) and putting away in cupboards/wardrobes are all great skills to teach your little ones.
The Beans also make their own beds once the sheets need changing. I’m embarrassed to admit here that my mum had to come and sort out all my clothes washing in my first year at university and I’m not sure I washed my sheets once in each eight week term…(I’m hanging my head in shame!). I don’t want to be doing the same for my children once they fly the nest!
Organisation and Care for Possessions
In the last few weeks, with the children’s help, I’ve had a spring clean and sort out of each of the Beans’ rooms. They moaned at the prospect, but in both cases, are thoroughly chuffed with the results, each finding books, precious things, games or activity sets they’d forgotten they had amidst the piles of mess. In line with the message mentioned above about taking more ownership, now their rooms are sorted, they have a responsibility to keep them tidy and look after their things, which they’re doing willingly. And it was worth the time investment for me, as they play in there more often, and when I go in at night to tuck them up, I feel a sense of calm rather than slumping my shoulders at the sight of the mess.
Getting them to put back items they’ve been playing with, reading or using all over the house, into their right places (you know, rather than just dropping them on the floor when they’ve finished with them…) is something we’ve also been working on (definitely work in progress). Their involvement in the spring cleaning process was instrumental here, as every item now has a home and they’re aware of exactly where that home should be!
And finally, since being taught to use a sewing machine by a lovely friend of ours, they both fix any holes that appear in their clothes or ours! As a non-sewer, I’m seriously pleased with their abilities in this field. Let me be honest, the results are far from perfect, but that doesn’t matter. They’re having a go, taking care of their stuff and reusing rather than chucking and buying something new.
OK, so we can’t go abroad or even to another part of the UK at the moment, but that’s not to stop us having a staycation instead. When you have a run of fine days, take the time to teach your child how to put up the tent in the garden. Do it once together, take it down and then ask them to do it on their own with your guidance if needed.
You could even suggest they imagine they’re the parents planning a camping trip for their teddies. Get them to write a list of everything they’d need to pack in the “car”, including the camping stoves, cups, food, drinks, sleeping bags etc. Ask them to collect everything and pack it in an area of the house. And then, once the tent is up, have a camp out for as many nights as you fancy (so nice to be able to bail to the warm comfort of the house if needed!). With your help, they could make breakfast and cups of tea/coffee over the camping stove, make sandwiches, or even try cooking a main meal in a Dutch oven over a fire, as mentioned in a previous post. Or, if you’re feeling really adventurous, you could build a simple shelter in the garden, and if the weather is warm enough, sleep out under it in a bivvy bag.
Walk/Bike Route Mapping & Navigation
We try and get out of the house once a day either for a walk or a bike ride. It’s great to involve the children in the planning of these trips, either in the decision of which route to take or finding and navigating new local pathways. We walked a new route on Saturday (it’s amazes me and shames me slightly that we’re still discovering new and beautiful footpaths on the doorstep of our house), in which the Beans took turns using the compass and various reference points (such as pylons, woods, rivers and contour lines) to orientate themselves and determine where the footpath should run. Once they’d stopped arguing about whose turn it was (yep, things are never perfect!), they each had a great time being the routemaster!
The Beans also love to map out their journeys on the On The Go Map site, so they can track their mileage. Keeping a cumulative tally of how many miles they’ve hiked and biked over a certain period can be very motivating too, and you can always ask them to track this on an Excel spreadsheet, thereby improving their computer skills at the same time. As I’ve mentioned previously, one of our yearly family goals is to walk, bike, run or cycle 732 miles in a year (2 miles a day – we’re smashing this at the moment!). The Beans find this very inspiring and enjoy keeping the spreadsheet up to date.
Holiday/Day Trip Planning
Although we can’t travel at the moment, there’s no reason why you can’t get them involved in planning a trip to take together in the future. There is so much opportunity for learning in this seemingly simple task, from sourcing and comparing the best deals, to where to find holiday houses/hotels, to budgeting, to prioritising favourite activities to do together and so much more. This could be UK based – we have a few short UK-based breaks scheduled in which we may or may not be able to do. But even if we don’t and they’re rescheduled to some later date, I plan to get the children involved in deciding what we’d like to do and visit on these holidays together. Someone also posted a lovely idea on Facebook of creating a jar of wished for days out for when lockdown is over.
Or, for further afield, you could include them in planning a big trip to some far-flung destination, one that you may need to save up for over a few years (and let’s face it, it may be that long before the airlines are back to normal).
My two are obsessed by the Race Across the World series that has just been on TV, in which teams race across continents for the cost of an airfare but without using any flights. They even have plans to enter together when they’re old enough to do so. If you want to work on some geography skills, you could use the starting, end and checkpoint locations from this programme, and get them to research how to move from one to the next in the quickest way, working out how much it would cost them, what amazing sights they would see, and how much work they’d have to do along the way to keep within the budget. Having suggested this to the Beans, they’re super excited at the prospect – we may well need a change of work plans over the next few days!
Today’s key focus has been about encouraging children to take an increased accountability in caring for their home, garden and possessions, as well as a greater ownership in how you spend your free time together. Practising these from an early age will make the transition into adulthood that much smoother.
Tomorrow’s post will be about a range of fundamental, but less concrete skills, such as self-directed learning, communication and critical thinking. Join us then!