Drawing children into doing their chores

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

An important part of growing up is participation in the mechanics of living -- otherwise known as chores. The approach can reduce some of the groans, even make it fun. It's a matter of communication. Communication doesn't always have to be oral or written words. Pictures are great communicators.

I grew up with illustrated chore lists. Although not blessed with my mother's artistic talent, in raising my own family I discovered even the crudest drawing served the purpose.

All age groups appreciate such a way of saying ``your help is needed.'' Those too small to read can relate to pictures, while those just learning to read can practice associating drawings with printed words. Even if you have to sit down and play a guessing game to interpret the list, that's fun, too -- togetherness and a lead-in to the chores themselves.

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If you're still balking at the idea of drawing anything, remember -- children aren't art critics. It takes very little to amuse them and get the message across. They'll more than meet you halfway if your attempts merely suggest what you're trying to say. You can always supplement your drawings with arrows and labels to make sure they're understood. It's the message that counts and you're actually getting two across -- the work assignment itself and the fact you cared enough to go to all this tro uble.

You can also collect appropriate pictures from magazines and newspapers to illustrate chore lists, or look for usable stickers. It may take longer, but it's an option.

Where you put the list is another way to liven up chores. Family bulletin boards act as art galleries, a place to put notices and reminders, things you've found and want to share with others like cartoons and pictures, sayings and quotations. Pick a theme for decorating them each month using a seasonal idea, national holiday, or family event.

Magnets, ranging from a simple smiling face to realistic foods, are ever popular. These make the refrigerator door another logical place for chore lists. And what better place to catch a teen-ager's attention than inside the refrigerator? Tape the list to a milk carton or (encased in a baggie) mix it in with the pastrami he'll reach for when making an after-school snack. The cookie jar is another good place.

Illogical places make it into a game. Where will the chore list show up this time? Tape it to the mirror, wrap it around the toothpaste tube, put it on a string across the bedroom door, in an empty cereal bowl, on the TV screen, inside a shoe. The unexpected is exciting.

Appreciation is often the oil that keeps the wheels rolling without complaint. Along with the ``please do this'' message can be a thank-you for some chore recently well done. I-love-you notes are welcome to all age groups, and this includes spouses.

Pick-a-slip is another creative way for getting things done. Write out the chores on small slips of folded paper. But -- don't make them all chores. Throw in a riddle or trivia question, instructions to hop around the room on one foot, sing a song, or anything quick that won't hold up the work project too long. If more than one child is involved, it might keep things more harmonious to have two containers of slips, ``chores'' and ``stalls,'' with alternate choice. Eliminates the possibility of one getti ng all the chores!

Try an ``extra money'' list with things that aren't on the weekly agenda: polishing silver, cleaning out a drawer or cabinet. This one should be posted in a permanent place so when some event requires more money -- buying a gift, going to a movie or concert -- plans can be made ahead.

Yes, it takes longer to be creative, but oh what it does for atmosphere and attitude. And added to the joy of accomplishment is the planting of ideas for other forms of creativity. Everybody's a winner. Try it. You'll be surprised at what you can do.

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