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Stop Doing Everything for Your Kids: a 4-Week Challenge

Welcome to Day 1!

Week One: Introducing Kids to the Process of Mealtime

This week is all about FOOD, ya’ll: meal prep, cooking, cleaning up — all of it.

Eating is such a fundamental part of human existence. It used to be that kids took an active role in most aspects of mealtime… then came the Industrial Revolution.

These days, many kids have been allowed to treat their parents like short-order cooks.


The Goal This Week:

  1. To begin to cultivate an understanding in our children that food and snacks and meals are not just something that “happen,” but something that we, as families, prepare and actually partake in.
     
  2. To begin to establish small habits and routines that reinforce the notion that mealtime is a family responsibility and that everyone has a role to play — it’s about normalizing everyone’s contributions. 
     

Task du Jour

We’ll start out simple on the first day: carve out 5-10 minutes to talk to your children about food. Basic stuff. This includes:

  • the fact that it takes time and thought to prepare and cook food;
  • that getting ready for (and cleaning up) after a meal are everyone’s responsibility;
  • that you, as a family, will be be sharing in the work of mealtime all week (and hopefully beyond!)

After all, this is how families in most cultures around the world function. 

You can tailor this conversation to your child, and make it as in-depth or as light as you want — the aim is simply to starting a dialogue about everything that goes into mealtime.

Bonus points if you can build up some anticipation about all the fun stuff your kiddo is going to get to help out with this week. 😉

Head over to our instagram #TheUpkeepChallenge to follow along with this journey, as well as to share the ups and downs of your own.

Happy 2021, friends. Let’s do this!


Day 2: Create a Kid’s Drawer or Cabinet in the Kitchen


Task du Jour

Create a kid-friendly cabinet or drawer in your kitchen that your child can easily access, and introduce your child(ren) to it.

If you are prone to over-childproofing, the mere thought of doing this might have you running the other way, but try to resist and let go a bit. The aim here is to enable your children to access some of their (non-breakable) things — cups, spoons, plates, placemats, silverware, etc. on their own. 

Self service, kiddos!

Yes, it may get disorganized quickly, and you (like me) may get annoyed at sharing control of anything in the kitchen, but there are many advantages to this: 

  • Before a meal/snack, you can ask that your kids get out their own dishes, etc. (and even set it out on the table — imagine!);
  • When your child is thirsty, for example, they can help themselves! 
  • Children can help empty the dishwasher when they can access “their” cabinet (yes, they can, really!);
  • Kids LOVE having their own little space (seriously, I guarantee you’ll be the big hero… for at least three minutes); 
  • When a child gets to pick her own plate/cup/straw/etc., no more complaints about giving them the “wrong one” – HA! 

**If doing this makes your skin crawl, think about giving it a try at least for the duration of this challenge — chances are, having a kid’s drawer with kid’s things is going to facilitate some newfound help with the minutiae of mealtime befores and afters.

Let us know how it goes, and don’t forget to share your #TheUpkeepChallenge pics on Instagram.

Cheers, gang!


Day 3: Set the Table Together with your Children

Task du Jour

Today, pick any meal (just one!) and explain what “setting the table” means and entails (kids don’t intuitively know these things, so fancy yourself the teacher here). Next, set the table with them. 

You can remind your kids about their special new drawer and either play the lead or the chorus, depending. Feel it out and do what works.

Oh — and don’t forget to pile on the thanks and praise — it really ropes children in. Seriously, their cute little faces light up like a Christmas tree when they know they’ve made you proud ☺️.


Don’t forget to share your #TheUpkeepChallenge pics on Instagram.

Cheers!
 

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Day 4: Mealtime Cleanup

Task du Jour

Pick any meal today and include your children in the clean-up. Before they eat, you can explain to them what you expect, and then walk through it with them afterward. 

You can make this as involved (or not) as you like — here are the various tasks:

  1. Bring dishes to the sink
  2. Put food away
  3. Help load the dishwasher
  4. Wash the dishes by hand? (I salute you, brave parents, if you go this route)
  5. Wipe up the table (this is an easy one for the littles)—

We encourage you to imagine what you might want/expect your child to be doing a few/several years from now to help out after a meal.

Don’t forget to share your #TheUpkeepChallenge pics on Instagram.

Keep up the good work — it will all be worth it in the end!

Cheers –


Day 5: Meal Prep


Task du Jour

Pick a meal (or snack) today and include your child(ren) in its preparation.

Again, we recommend explaining what you’ll be doing, and then inviting your little helpers to actually help.

Depending on your child’s age, this may simply be watching along and talking about what you are doing, or perhaps there’s something they can actually stir or pour. Do what feels manageable. Even if your older child just follows along, that’s something!

BTW, if your child is in school, helping pack their lunch counts!



Remember, try not to treat this like your child’s helping is an intrusion. If we act like they’re in the way… they’ll think they’re in the way. Remember that your kids will adopt your own mindset; they’re much more likely to be excited — and want to come do it again — if you are too.

In other words, make the experience as positive as possible, even if (deep down) it isn’t the way you would normally do things… Bottom line: try to let go a bit. 

*Bonus points if you can combine this^^ with either setting the table or cleaning up (or both!).

Don’t forget to share your #TheUpkeepChallenge pics on Instagram.

Cheers!

~ Brit and team at Lucie’s List


Day 6/7: A Recap of Mealtime Chores with Kids

Here’s everything we covered this week:

  1. Talk to kids about where food comes from, what it takes to make and clean up meals, etc.;
  2. Learn about a new drawer or cabinet — just for them! — with all their special dishes in it;


    Photo Credit: @prosperadvocacyservices via IG
  3. Set the table;
  4. Clean up after a meal; 
  5. Follow along or help with a meal prep. 


Pat yourself on the back, parents — nice work! Just remember to keep it up! New years resolutions and all that…


Photo Cred: @sunnyrunner via IG

This weekend, see how many of the week’s tasks you can layer together each day — don’t forget to share your #TheUpkeepChallenge pics on Instagram — and thank you to everyone who has submitted their Challenge photos!!

Next week, we begin our next chapter: Cleaning (oooh, ahhhhh)… I’m getting excited just thinking about it.


Welcome to Week Two: Household Cleaning!

Week two’s focus is cleaning, friends. You know: dusting, wiping, vacuuming, tidying, and all that jazz.

I don’t know about you all, but it seems like the neverending story in my house… it’s like shoveling in a snowstorm. With a spoon. 



Here’s something I didn’t know: toddlers and little kids actually love cleaning. They really do, I swear. The problem is: they’re just not that good at it. So, more often than not, we shoo them away and do it ourselves.

WELL, this week we’re all gonna let in more help than we want, hah, and… it probably won’t actually result in cleaner homes. Not YET, anyway, but soon!
 

The Goal This Week:

  1. To begin to teach our children to respect our homes and contribute to its maintenance, and that an orderly home does not happen by magic — it has to be kept
  2. To begin to establish small habits and routines that demonstrate to our children that keeping up with the household is not just mom’s job — it’s everyone’s. 

Day 8
 

Task du Jour
 

Carve out 5-10 minutes to talk to your children about household cleaning. Keep it simple. 

This includes:

  • Which “things” or areas in your home need to be cleaned, how often, and WHY;
  • That it takes time to clean a home;
  • The benefits, as you see them, of having clean spaces in which to enjoy your time;
  • And that you, as a family, will be focusing on this^^ all week.

Remember to tailor this conversation to your own child — you can make it as serious or as silly as you like. Our aim right now is simply to commit to starting a dialogue about everything that goes into maintaining a household. 

Same as last week: bonus points if you can build up some anticipation about all the fun stuff your kiddo is going to get to help out with this week. 😉
Don’t forget to share your #TheUpkeepChallenge pics on Instagram.


Day 9: Bed Making ~ Starting Every Day with a Clean Slate

Task du Jour

Today, we are going to make beds with the kid(s). To me, making the bed is something I never “got” as a kid, but as an adult, I find it such a delightful way of starting a new day and creating a clean slate for the bedroom.

Walk your child through how to make the bed (yes, they really need the step-by-step breakdown, we’ll spare you the same…) and talk to them as you do so about making this part of the daily routine. Even if you don’t do it every day… it’s good for them to know the drill.



If your mornings are #insane right now, do it later in the day. It doesn’t matter when!

Making a bed (especially a larger bed) is inherently a great thing for two (or more) people to do together. You might say to your child “pull the other side up like this”. Ahhhh… the symmetry is so satisfying!



This can be a tough task to motivate children for (I mean, how many of us adults don’t see the point?), but I like the “strategy” of telling my kids that if their beds are made at bedtime, they get to be tucked in a special way (throwing them in, the classic burrito roll, etc.).

Do whatever works for you. 

And don’t forget to share your #TheUpkeepChallenge pics on Instagram.


Day 10: Clean a Surface

Task du Jour


Pick a surface, whether it’s shelving, dressers, or counter space in your home and clean it together with your child (however you like — dusting, vinegar spray, a soapy sponge, whatever you fancy…).



In our experience, kids are so eager to dive in with this — they love it! And it helps that you can often prompt them to literally see what they’re picking up. Either way, we encourage you to explain what “dusting” or “wiping”  actually is, and why you’re doing it.



Be forewarned: my first go ‘round with this, back in April, my daughter used half a roll of paper towels while I was helping my son in another space. Given that paper products might as well have been lucky charms at the end of the rainbow back then, I was… peeved. Soo… keep an eye on those precious paper products 😂.

Don’t forget to share your #TheUpkeepChallenge pics on Instagram. Thanks to everyone who has submitted photos so far!!

Keep up the good work, friends!!


Day 11: Take out the trash, together with your kids

Task du Jour

This is another simple task that’s easy for kids to do (even toddlers) on their own. If you have an older child who can seriously “empty the trash” in true 1950s-the-husband’s-chore style, go for it.



If you have a tot or pre-K kiddo who’s not quite ready for that yet, maybe you just bring a couple items out to the bin, or empty the smaller trash cans in your bathroom(s) and replace the bags. 


photo credit: howdoesshe.com

Talk it out. It’s a nice place to talk to kids about the issue with trash (it all has to go somewhere!), recycling and the importance of conservation. 

Good job, parents, for teaching your kids such useful real-world skills. I swear, I had a wealthy roommate in college that had never cleaned anything in her life. That was…. fun.

Don’t forget to share your #TheUpkeepChallenge pics on Instagram.


Day 12: Pick a floor — any floor! — and clean it with your child

Task du Jour:  Clean the Floor

I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’m cleaning my floors all the time. They need it, especially if you have a dog at home in addition to young children.

Today, pick any floor area in your home and clean it however you prefer — you can sweep, Swiffer, vacuum, mop, etc. — along with your child. Like wiping down counters— kids love this too!
 

Be advised: watch out for flailing cleaning instruments! A broom in the hands of an over-eager 3-year-old is no ordinary broom: it’s a destroyer of wine stems sitting on the counter. 



If your child turns out to fall in love with cleaning the floors, it may be worth considering a child-sized broom set, a dustbuster, or — my favorite — a carpet sweeper. Yes, this was the first thing I put on my daughter’s “wish list” for her birthday this year #yourewelcomekid.

Meg’s kids love using the stick-vac — yes, they fight over it. This is what we want!! It’s a bit of Huck Finn. 



Don’t forget to share your #TheUpkeepChallenge pics on Instagram or comment on our website, at the bottom of the page.


End of Week 2: Recap of Cleaning and Halfway there!

Day 13 & 14
 



Here’s everything we covered during this fabulous week o’ cleaning: 

  • Discussed what it means to respect the home, what needs cleaning in the home, and how they can and should help;
  • Made beds;
  • Cleaned a surface;
  • Took out the trash or recycling; 
  • Cleaned the floors 

Over the weekend, see how many of these tasks you can layer together each day — and share your success via #TheUpkeepChallenge on Instagram.

Next week, you’re going to be amazed by how your kids can help out with their own laundry. Congrats on halfway, everyone! 


Beginning of Week 3:  Laundry, baby!

Day 15

We’re halfway through the challenge, everyone, and it’s LAUNDRY week — oh, goody! Considering laundry is many people’s least favorite task, spreading the workload of this seemingly never-ending task is well worth the effort. 

To indoctrinate kiddos into the practice of laundry, we’ll be breaking down a single load of laundry into mini-steps over the course of the week. 



Try paying attention along the way to what your child likes best so that you can emphasize that piece of it moving forward. (I.e., if your kiddo is a born folding machine, maybe that’s how he pitches in, etc.).

The Goal This Week:

  1. To begin teaching our children that having clean clothes is a privilege, and that laundering clothes takes time and care. 
  2. To begin to establish small habits and routines that decentralize the work of laundry and to emphasize that it’s everyone’s job. 

Have this conversation in a way that you think will most resonate with your child. Example, if your child is particular about choosing his/her own clothes, this is something else you can play up (because you can’t wear what’s not in the drawer…). 



Don’t forget to share your #TheUpkeepChallenge pics on Instagram or comment on our website, at the bottom of the page.

This week, you’re going to be amazed by how your kids can help out with their own laundry. It’s all about letting go a bit.


Day 16: Collect and sort the laundry

When time allows, get a basket and start collecting a load of laundry with your child. If you’d like, you can also collect towels, dish towels, wash cloths, etc., to highlight how all of these types of “things” need washing too.

If you’re struggling to motivate your child, you could even make it into a game — laundry basketball, anyone?

If you’re the type that separates lights from darks (me!), the game of sorting is also a fun thing for little ones. You get to play the game of “is this a light color or a dark color?”.

Gathering the laundry is half the battle (well, maybe not half, but it’s a good start). Tomorrow, we’re going to wash it 

💃

🏼. Baby steps.

Don’t forget to share #TheUpkeepChallenge pics on Instagram or comment on our website, at the bottom of the page.  

It’s going to be a great week, everyone. I just have a feeling 

😉

Day 17: Run a load of wash

Find the time to see a load of wash through with your child, from start to finish, and explain each of the steps as you go along. 

There are several fun ways they can pitch in, including…

1. Stuff the clothes in!

Yup, just about anyone can do this part, especially if you have a front-loader. 

2. Pull the clothes out! Ahhh.. so nice and warm. 

Other popular tasks along the way include “press the button” or “turn the dial” or “pour in the soap”! 

Kids love all these little things. Heck, mine fight over who gets to press the elevator button, so let them help out however they can.

*Now is a great time to talk about detergents, as in “never ever try to eat or drink this stuff”. Keep detergents and laundry pods out of reach of young kids. 

The more of the laundry process they can see, the better. It helps them understand that laundry takes time (as in — “your tutu does not get cleaned in two minutes”).

Don’t forget to share your #TheUpkeepChallenge pics on Instagram or comment on our website, at the bottom of the page.


Day 18: Folding Fun

The first time I folded laundry in the mere vicinity of my kids, they started unfolding everything and chucking it across the room as fast as I was working. It was so infuriating that I pretty much hid from them while I folded clothes for the next year and a half. 

I don’t think I’m alone in this.

It worked well (for a time) because it was getting done. Then my daughter “caught” me sneaking and folding, and begged to help with such ferocity that I relented and slunk out from my hiding spot.

My strategy was this: I just started handing my two kids little things (hand towels, their underwear, etc.) and said, “here you go, you can fold this.” Only at the end did I realize that they’d been balling things into little bundles and piling them into a clothes mountain.

Point being: kids don’t know how to fold clothes! Teach them as you go. 🙂

Don’t forget to share your #TheUpkeepChallenge pics on Instagram or comment on our website, at the bottom of the page.


Day 19: Put Clothes Away

We joke that the first part of this task is called “getting acquainted with your dresser”. If your child is used to being dressed by you, there’s a high chance they’ve never peeked inside their own dresser. Now’s a great time to show them around 😉

If your kids are too little — and thus, too tempted to go into their drawers and pull all their clothes out (because THAT game is super fun!), then bypass this task.

Noooooooo!

When kids know where their clothes live, it will also empower them to select their own outfits when getting dressed for daytime or for bed. 

Kids love being the “leader” on this one, so we recommend letting them — try not to cringe when they stuff things in all lopsided and messy. The “being neat” part can come later. For now, let them own it.

Don’t forget to share your #TheUpkeepChallenge pics on Instagram or comment on our website, at the bottom of the page.  

Keep up the good work, parents. Next week is all about TOYS.


Day 20 & 21: A Recap of Laundry Tasks

In case you missed any days this week, here are all the things we did with our children: 


via @Laurakatmax on IG #theupkeepchallenge

  • We taught our kiddos that access to clean clothes is a privilege, and something that takes great time and effort. To that end, we did the following:
  • Collected a load of laundry;
  • Ran a load of laundry;
  • Folded a load of laundry; 
  • Got acquainted with our dressers and replaced clean, folded clothes in their drawers. 

Over the weekend, see if you can run through another load together (or any of the broken-down steps) — and share your success! 

Don’t forget to share your #TheUpkeepChallenge pics on Instagram or comment on our website, at the bottom of the page.  

Stick with us — one more week left! And then it’s just the rest of your life! (kiddingnotkidding)


Week 4: Keeping Toys and Books Permanently Clean

We saved the best/hardest for last, y’all: TOY CLEANUP.

If you are a parent of young children, you know that trying to manage everything your kids play with — toys, stuffed animals, books, Barbies, trains, legos, blocks and all the rest — is a constant challenge. 

I don’t know about you, but I find this problem gets about 10x worse after the holidays.
 

 

The Goal This Week:

  1. To help our children understand that taking care of their toys is an important responsibility — of theirs
  2. To begin to routinize toy cleanup at a time and in a way that works for your family. 
     

Day 22:

Carve out 5-10 minutes to talk to your children about toy cleanup and the importance of keeping their toys and books clean.

Another big part of prepping for this week is figuring out where these toys and books are going to live. Yes that’s right, dealing with toys is SO MUCH EASIER when everything has a home.



Like I’ve said all month, kids aren’t born knowing how to clean up and organize their toys, though for some it will come more naturally than for others.

It’s a lot simpler when you can say “the legos go in here,” or “the Toy Story figures live here,” or “the puzzle pieces go in this box,” etc. It gives them a script. 

If you realize you don’t have enough storage space for all the things you have, there’s a very high probability that you need to cull and get rid of some toys. 


Extra Challenge:

If you have time today: spend an extra ten minutes sitting down with your child to identify and review different containers as homes for specific toys or toy categories. 

Ideally, every toy would be in a nice container or basket, but that’s often a project in itself (which we encourage you to do at some point this week — see my colleague Marissa’s suggestions for toy organization and storage), so don’t get bogged down with that right now.

In a pinch, you can even use paper bags (or anything else!) and simply make sure everything has a designated home. If you have items that “don’t fit,” consider purging a bit. Remember that the fewer things you have, the fewer things you have to clean and organize. 

Don’t forget to share your #TheUpkeepChallenge pics on Instagram or comment on our website, at the bottom of the page. 

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