Family night ideas – Family fun spot

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Depending on your personality, it can be easy to become too focussed on the mountain of tasks that surround us as Mothers (especially when you are homeschooling many children) to the detriment of our relationships with those children. With 6 children and a newborn in our house, life can get busy and with night feeds keeping me slightly sleep deprived it is easy to let all the fun leach out of life. Relationships take the back seat and jobs take priority.

In order to keep this somewhat in check we endeavour to keep our family “nights” going. Too often though we don’t get around to arranging anything and fall back on the old standby of movie nights. Despite having a very long list of ideas, I just wasn’t getting around to planning any of them. Introducing a family fun spot has addressed this issue for us. It gives us a place to write our family activities and keeps us accountable to actually getting around to doing some of them!

So how does it work?

The children write ideas of things they would like to do in a suggestions spot and Mummy and Daddy transfer appropriate ones onto the “coming soon” space on our whiteboard (adding our own as well) until we are ready to do them. We then transfer a couple at a time to the “fun spot” when we know they will be slotted in sometime in the very near future. We avoid giving a specific time as to when they will happen as a newborn can be unpredictable and we don’t want to make plans that keep needing to be changed and disappointing and frustrating the children. We simply wait for a good opportunity and announce the event as we are ready to go ahead. Once we have been there, done that, the idea is erased and a new one added in its place.

It gives the children something to look forward to with anticipation – a little sparkle in their day. It keeps them in front of me too so I can’t forget and am forced to plan the upcoming events – the children are very quick to point it out if there is nothing written in the family fun spot! The added bonus is that we do some of these type of things as part of our everyday life anyway and our children have it so good that they take them for granted, barely noticing the fun stuff that we do with and for them. Writing activities we were just going to do “because” on the family fun spot helps them to notice the good things we are already doing.

For more info on family nights (the why’s and a great list of ideas) see this post.

Where do your children find their identity?

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We have recently returned from a Growing Families Australia family camp. It was a fun-filled weekend, with activities for the kids, time for fellowship with other like-minded families and sessions for the parents with Norm Wakefield from Elijah Ministries. Norm is a gifted communicator and presented a series of powerful messages for parents (Fathers in particular) across the weekend.

His message on finding our identity is one that we should all be aware of. To find out where we get our identity from, he asks 5 pointed questions:

  1. Who is your power source?
  2. To whom do you look for happiness?
  3. To whom are you connected/belong to?
  4. Who do you imitate in order to connect?
  5. Who is your God?

Is the answer to these questions your husband? wife? friends? children? yourself? God?

What about if we ask ourselves the same questions, but this time with our children in mind. Who are they looking to for their identity? Is it their peers? workmates? boyfriend or girlfriend? themselves? us as their parents? God?

Norm points out that whoever offers the most hope of happiness and identity will have their heart. Whoever has their heart has the most influence. Parents, if you don’t offer your children the most hope and point them to finding God as the only true source of identity, your children will look elsewhere for it.

Scary thought isn’t it? Who has your children’s hearts?

If you would like to know more about how to keep your children’s hearts, I  recommend reading “Family Driven Faith” by Voddie Baucham and “Keeping Our Children’s Hearts” by Terri Maxwell. Taking a Christian parenting class would also be a wise step in the right direction.

Chores and responsibility

Every child who is old enough to participate in even the smallest way has chores in our family. We view chores as a way of fostering an “others centered” attitude, rather than a “self-centred” one. Chores are seen as a way for children to be involved and invested in our family and to understand that we work together to serve and help each other because we are Pascoes and we are blessed to have the family that God has given us.

We also assign chores to develop personal responsibility which we value as an important character trait. What parent does not want to raise a responsible child? Chores are one way to foster this and it is for this reason that we refer to them as responsibilities. Children are asked “Do you have the freedom to come to the breakfast table” or “Are your responsibilities complete?” to keep the awareness on the character that we are developing.

 The children are not paid for the chores that they do, they are simply an act of service that helps our family and are completed because we all work together. Children tend to value what they spend their time on and we want them to invest in this family and value being a part of it. They also do not receive pocket-money. Now, I can hear you all exclaiming that they need to learn to manage their money and how to be good stewards and how will they do that if they don’t get paid?

                                                  (Yes, she is using a dirty floor cleaning cloth; but it’s the thought that counts!) 

It is our opinion that children will value and manage their money responsibly when they have earned it themselves through labour. They need to understand that if they want something they need to work for it and that there is a direct correlation between the amount of work they do, the amount of money they earn and the amount of “stuff” they can then buy. A child who has cleaned windows, vacuumed out cars and pulled weeds to earn enough money for the latest Lego set, will in turn place a high value on that Lego set. They will also then have some idea how much work goes into purchasing the items that they already own or are given and will have a greater respect for their property and the property of others. Money that is earned is shared into 4 money boxes titled tithing, wealthing, saving and spending. 10% for tithing, 10% for wealthing, 10%for saving and the rest in spending or whichever one they choose.

When a bucket of weeds equals $1.00 and the doll they long for costs $30.00, a child who has worked to earn their money will be doing quick addition sums in their head as they place a value on that doll. Hmmm, that doll equals thirty buckets of weeds; perhaps I’ll be content with the 3 dolls I already own. Wise money management!!

Jobs to earn money are always available and are given what we feel is a reasonable rate of pay. Enough so that they can feasibly save up for an item, but not so much that the effort required is negligible. At the moment, the jobs that are available for earning money are collecting snails from the garden, weeding and washing and vacuuming out the car. I accidentally overpriced the snails at 10 cents each the first time, thinking that the children would have to really spend time hunting them down and it would be quite an effort to gather a large amount. In only 20 minutes, the three eldest collected enough snails to cost me $15.70!! Ouch! Snails were subsequently re-priced the following day.

Below are some ideas of the kind of responsibilities (chores) that children may be assigned, remembering that these are the day-to-day acts of family service that do not have a monetary value attached to them. When you are assigning chores, there must be a training process for children to be able to successfully complete their tasks to an acceptable standard. More on that another day.

Obviously all the chores listed below in a younger age category can be given to an older child, although I haven’t repeated the same ideas in each older age group. These ideas are just a start; you will be able to think of others that suit your unique family situation. You may also need to introduce certain chores at a later age or could introduce more difficult chores at an earlier age, depending on your children.

Responsibility (Chore) Area

1-2 yr olds

bedroom/play areas help Mum pack away toys after play, beginning with play pen
bed (once in big bed) PJ’s under pillow, pull up sheets & doona with help
dressing  
dirty Clothes put dirty clothes into hamper
washed laundry pass wet clothes to adult to hangPut pegs away when taking washing off line
folding find matching socks, deliver simple items (eg bibs to kitchen drawer)
food preparation share given items between plates
setting/clearing table put out placemats, coasters, cutlery, unbreakable cups and dishesClear own dishes, push chair in
dishes empty cutlery from dishwasherdry unbreakable dishes (towel system)
rubbish put rubbish into bin on request (not without permission)
bathrooms put out fresh towels & face washer
toilets nappy in bin
floors pick up for person sweeping/mopping & replace items afterwards
outdoor/garden tidy outdoor toys
deliveries deliver given items to their place (e.g. bib to dirty clothes basket)
misc open curtains

Responsibility (Chore) Area

2-5yr olds

bedroom/play areas pack away own toys/equipment after play, tidy own bedroom
bed make bed & strip bed sheets (take to laundry)
dressing get dressed into clothes chosen by Mum
dirty Clothes take all dirty clothes baskets to laundry & empty, sorting dirty clothes into light and dark loads
washed laundry peg items onto clothes horse & bring in dry washing from clothes horse
folding learn to fold all washing, starting with simple items such as t/towels and face washers. Put away own folding
food preparation kitchen helper (e.g. measure ingredients, stir mixture, wash salad veg, peel veg etc.)fill water glasses
setting/clearing table set table with crockery, clear all table items, wipe table, place mats, scrape plates, stack dishwashersweep under table after meals, wipe backs of chairs, spray & wipe kitchen cupboard doors, splash backs
dishes wash unbreakable & sturdy dishesdry all dishes (bar sharp items etc.) unpack dishwasher (barring large breakable items)
rubbish empty rubbish bins from bedrooms and bathrooms
bathrooms wipe bathroom sinks/benches/bathreplace towels
toilets replace toilet roll, restock spare rolls, spray and wipe toilet seat and button
floors dust bust small areas, moving on to sweeping & vacuuming floors
outdoor/garden water pots & garden plantspull weeds (supervised)
deliveries empty delivery basket daily
misc feed pets, wash and refill drinking waterspray and wipe door knobs, light switches, fingermarks off walls

Responsibility (Chore) Area

5-7+ yr olds plus

bedroom/play areas tidy assigned areas/rooms of the house
bed strip & re-make bed
dressing choose own clothes as directed by parent (e.g. put on round the house shirt & shorts)
dirty Clothes load washing machine (check pockets)
washed laundry hang out and bring in full load of washing
folding fold and put away all kinds of washing
food preparation full meal & snack prep under supervision (barring hot areas)independently bake a cake, put bread on in a bread maker etc
setting/clearing table sweep/vacuum/mop meal areas
dishes wash and dry all dishes (bar sharp knives etc.)
rubbish take kitchen rubbish out & replace bin bags
bathrooms full bathroom and shower clean
toilets full toilet clean
floors sweep/vacuum/mop floors (divide house into zones)
outdoor/garden sweep sandpit spills, patiorake leaves, yard work, water larger areas
deliveries  
misc clean up after animals wash pet bowlsclean windows, mirrors, TV & computer screens

Mel Hayde’s Book “Terrific Toddlers” at  US Book Depository has some information about introducing chores with toddlers and the excellent book is “What Every Child Should Know Along The Way” at  Amazon or Growing Families Australia is another great resource.

Terrific Toddlers: Tantrum Free Two's-Almost!: Tantrum Free Two's-Almost!