Gearing up for summer: Playtime counts, but chores must be done




By Sandy Spurgeon McDaniel


The hectic, often insane, scheduling necessary to keep all family members fulfilling their winter commitments suddenly stops when summer vacation begins. Too many kids then become over-scheduled with sports activities, and with that comes the pressure to “do it right” instead of just have fun! With fewer things on the schedule comes lethargy, no desire to help or do anything and an increased attachment to electronic instruments.

Summer is a great time for children to take responsibility for some of the chores necessary to run a home. Call it training for their independence day. They need to know how to clean a house. Write down all the chores for housekeeping. Divide them up, including the parents' chores (father mows the lawn, mother shops and cooks). There is vacuuming, dusting, bathrooms, weed picking, washing the car(s), emptying the dishwasher, to name a few chores that children can do.

Every day each child needs to contribute something to the upkeep of the home; this needs to be done before they can have free time. In addition, each child (from age 4) can fold their own laundry and put it away.

From age 9 or 10, I recommend teaching a child HOW to wash clothes (separate colors, etc.) and have them do their own wash. If you have two teenagers, they will put off doing their wash until the last minute, usually Sunday night, then fight over the machines. Have a sign-up sheet. Have a timer on a cord so the child will be notified when wash needs to move to dryer and then from dryer to his or her room to be folded and put away.

I found that small trash cans make wonderful clothes hampers and are large enough for bulkier boy stuff.

You can leave weed picking as the consequence for not doing an assigned chore. Forgot one chore, get two chores! The main thing to do is to have a consequence that catches the child's attention so the parent isn't a nag! nag! nagger! to get the chores done. Every Saturday morning was chore time at the McDaniel home. Cleaning out the garage was their least favorite on the list, and whittling away at the mess lessened the need to sell our home and move!

One of the things your children need to know how to do is cook. One night a week, a child learns how to cook the meal for dinner by assisting mom. Get a folder or a box, write out the ingredients on paper or an index card, as well as the foods served with the main dish, and keep track of all cooking lessons. This activity needs to be positive in order for the child to want to continue doing it. There will be messes and mistakes. Mistakes are the way we learn. Messes can be cleaned up, and the key to successful teaching is patience.

Lastly, it is vital you contain the amount of time a child spends on electronic stuff each day. Create a “library” where you have the cell phone, chord to the TV or iPad, and have the children check the items out. If each child has eight squares representing 15 minutes each, they can purchase up to two hours of use. I will write my next column on the degree of damage being done to children (and adults) from addiction to the media. Suffice it to say that your child needs to go outside and play, build things, do Legos, do crafts and play board games — and there are always the chores to be done.

Summer is for kids to relax and to play. Our summers are getting shorter and shorter, so be sure and put “down time” on their to-do list.

This is the only summer you will have with this child (these children) at this age. Spend time with each child. Listen to their dreams and they will share their fears. Accept them as they are and let up on always correcting them. Let them share their world with you (which they will do if you don't judge them), and love, love, love them! You have been given the blessing of being a parent, the architect of a human being's life. The investment of “down” time with them helps them to feel valued and appreciated; those are two pillars on which a child will build his/her self-esteem. This time isn't sure to make the most of it now.


Hear Sandy speak from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 16. She will also be speaking later in the year on August 15 and November 28. Pre-register and find each location at



For 54 years, Sandy has been an international speaker and recognized authority on families and children. Author of five books, columnist, founder of, she is a resident of Meridian and loves spending time with her three Idaho grandchicks. Semi-retired, she speaks to schools, churches, and MOPS groups and provides parent coaching sessions in person and on the phone.