8 great chores for elementary schoolers.

– Diana Hembree


While toddlers and young kids are excited — even delighted — to help out, once kids reach school age, you’re likely to get a few grumbles when it comes time to take care of household chores. So keep the tone light and fun, and emphasize that chores are something you do together.

Luckily, first through fourth graders like to show their independence. If it appeals to your child, a chore chart or app can help him keep track of his areas of responsibility. But cleaning up together whenever possible will reinforce that you’re all in this together as a family. Keep in mind that participation is the goal, not perfection. Above all, don’t turn chores into a power struggle that involves tears, scolding, or arguments.

“Chores shouldn’t be set up as a dictatorship,” says Rona Renner, a parenting expert and the author of Is That Me Yelling? A Parent’s Guide to Get Your Kid to Cooperate Without Losing Your Cool. “You can have family meetings to talk about what’s needed and how you’re going to get it done. If one child hates sweeping the kitchen, maybe find something else for him that’s more enjoyable, like watering the plants.”


Here are some age-appropriate chores to try

  1. Setting and clearing the table

    Kids can count and distribute plates, silverware, and napkins and then help clear the table when the meal is finished. Just don’t let them carry too many plates at once.

  2. Helping prepare meals

    Kids can help by getting things out of the fridge, measuring ingredients, rinsing produce, and doing safe meal-prep activities, like shucking corn, using the can opener, and draining beans.

  3. Picking up and putting away

    The endlessly ongoing task of putting away toys, games, and art supplies and reshelving books is easier when there are clearly designated places for your child’s belongings. Learning to put things in their places is an organizational skill that will help your child keep track of schoolwork, too.

  4. Helping take care of pets

    While not yet old enough to take full responsibility for a pet, your child can feed animals, and help in other ways, like brushing the dog, changing the papers in the bird’s cage, and fishing out the goldfish while their tank is being cleaned.

  5. Sorting and helping fold laundry

    Younger kids can match socks and stack underwear, while older kids can learn to fold simple things, like pants and, eventually, shirts, too.

  6. Dusting

    Armed with a feather duster or a dusting sheet, your child should be able to make tables, chairs, bookshelves, and other surfaces shine. To make the chore a bit more meaningful, talk to your child about what dust is, and how it can affect people’s health.

  7. Gardening

    Working side-by-side with you, your child can help pull weeds, rake leaves, and plant new things in the garden. Tending to plants they’ve put into the ground is an especially rewarding “chore.”

  8. Tidying their rooms

    Your child is now old enough to make their bed every morning, put their dirty clothes in a hamper, and either fold their clean clothes and put them away or lay their clean clothes flat in a designated spot so that you can put them away. Praise and positive reinforcement can help make these two things into a routine that your child ceases to think of as a chore!


Use these five unusual tricks to get your teen to communicate.

-Christine Burke

It’s an age-old trope: teens, by nature, don’t communicate and it’s impossible to get them to open up once they turn 13. You hear rumours from other moms that raising a teen means accepting that he or she will clam up for the entirety their teenage years.  When my kids approached their teen years, I braced myself for having to talk to them through closed doors and learning to decipher eye rolling code.

Thankfully, I am happy to report that my teens, for the most part, are pretty good about communicating. Mostly. However, we do have our challenges as they are declaring their independence and spreading their wings. We have had our fair share of days where one of my teens sits sullen silence in the car and it’s impossible to crack the ice.

Luckily, I have figured out a few ways to break the sometimes seemingly impenetrable teenage communication ice.


When I was a teen and I was upset at my parents, I used to put pen to paper to sort out my feelings. Somehow, writing my anger out helped me more clearly tell them why I was upset. Though my teens occasionally resort to digging out an actual pen, more often than not, my teens will text me when they are hurt or annoyed. If we’ve had an argument or disagreement, inevitably, one of us will open the lines with a short text that leads to a bigger conversation. And, usually, after several texts, my teen will come out of his room with a cooler head and we can make up.



I know this sounds ridiculous but, the next time you are having trouble connecting with your teen, send her a funny meme on a topic you both enjoy. Memes have been a way for my teens and me to connect during the day.

Sometimes, out of the blue, my son will send me a meme that makes me laugh out loud when I’m standing in the grocery store. It’s his way of saying, “Hey, Mah, I saw this and I know it’ll make you laugh.” And, when he follows the meme with a heart emoji, it makes my heart smile.

Meme conversations aren’t deep and they won’t change the world but sending your kid a little bit of humour now and again is always a fun way to keep the lines of communication open.


Harry Potter (or any other book series)

Though I read the Harry Potter books years ago when they first came out, I had a renewed interest in the characters and wizarding world created by J.K. Rowling when my teens devoured the series. We shared the books, often reading them chapter by chapter together so we could discuss, and, to this day, my daughter and I love to discuss all things related to Hogwarts.

Though Harry and his friends are fictional, the connection my daughter and I have found is very much based in reality. And, on days when she and I are not in sync with communicating, sometimes saying, “Wanna watch a Harry Potter movie with me?” is just what we need to be on the same page again. 


Driving. (Even if it means taking the long way home or driving to another state if need be.)

I don’t know what it is about being in the car but my kids will unload all sorts of information when I’m driving them around town. I don’t know if it’s because our eyes are focused forward and the onus to look eye to eye is diminished or if my teens know I can’t really yell when I’m behind the wheel, for some reason, the car is where we’ve had our deepest, most eye-opening conversations. Whether on a quick trip to the school or an hours-long road trip, the car has been the catalyst for many a connection between me and my teens.

I am wistful about the days when my kids start driving because these days, the passenger seat is my gateway to their lives.


Washing The Dishes Together. (Yes, by hand.)

Let’s face it: when you live with teens, your kitchen sink is a disaster 24/7. You can never find cups or forks because they are all in your teen’s room and the number of plates they use in one day is mind-boggling. Not to overstate but, at the end of every day, my kitchen usually looks like an explosion at a mattress factory. And, of course, I could yell and scream at them to be more responsible about filling the dishwasher, but the truth is that a dirty sink is my best secret weapon when it comes to talking with my teens.

I turn on some music we both like and I ask one of my teens to choose a task: wash or dry. And then we tackle the pile of dishes together. Some nights, the conversation is terse or perfunctory because they want to get back to texting their friends but, other nights, dishwashing devolves into a full-on dance party, right next to the sink. And, just like with driving, when you are both focused on a task, honesty and forthright communication flows.

I’m certainly not an expert on communicating with teens (Lord knows my kids have slammed plenty of doors with teenaged angst around here) but, at the very least, I’ve managed to find some pretty hilarious memes to send to my friends when my teens ignore my texts.

Is it normal for your preschooler to hurt animals?

-Adizah Eghan

Most kids love animals and feel protective of them. But harming animals happens. The key is to recognize why your child is doing it and whether or not the harm is intentional.

If a small child accidentally hugs the pet rabbit a little too hard or chases the cat to see what it’ll do, it’s something to address, but not something to worry about.
But intentional harm is different. Hurting animals intentionally isn’t normal — it’s also behaviour rarely seen.

Why animal harm can happen

The preschool years are a time when children imitate others and learn to represent other people’s perspectives in their own minds.

So when your child pulls at the pet’s ears, he’s making sense of actions he witnessed and doesn’t understand — or has yet to experience. Often, children are acting out something they saw on TV. Since that is inevitable, try giving your child safe ways to act out those experiences. They need to learn that they can act that way with a doll or a stuffed animal, but they can’t act that way with another living thing, like a dog or pet.

Helping your preschooler understand his actions

Focus on the context of your child’s violence and help him understand his actions. To illustrate, Immordino-Yang, a human development psychologist, describes how she made it clear to her son that he was hurting the family dog, Sandy. “When my son was about 4, we got our first dog,” she says. “He just loved this dog so much that he’d squeeze him and hug him really hard.” So she explained the situation to her son in simple terms. “If you squeeze Sandy and you’re hugging him, you might think you’re really showing him how much you love him; but if you let go and then he runs away from you, that’s a sign that he didn’t like it.”

That was her test. If the dog runs away when her child lets go, her child needs to find a gentler way to show love.

Signs of trouble

As a parent, you know your child best. Immordino-Yang suggests watching your child with animals and asking yourself the following questions: Are they doing it for a show? Or are they actually engaged in pretend play where they are acting violently? “Trust your own gut as a parent and look at the child and see why you think they are acting that way,” she says. ”It’s a normal reaction for kids who are abused to act that out on pets because they are trying to act out those actions.”

A child who deliberately hurts animals — in play or real life – and shows no remorse should get help immediately. It should even be in the same category as hitting and biting. It’s very uncommon, and it could indicate a serious emotional disturbance. The child needs to get therapy right away.

If children don’t naturally or empathically experience other people’s (or in this case, animals’) pain, then they need to learn rules and acceptable behaviours to keep others around them safe. She suggests working with a child psychologist early on to help your child learn what’s okay — and what isn’t.

Making fitness a family affair

-GreatSchools Staff

Children learn from the example that parents provide: If you read, they’ll read; If you eat healthy food, they ‘ll eat healthy food; and if you exercise regularly, so will they. Or better yet, why not get everybody to engage in physical fitness activities together? The key to successful family fitness is to keep it simple and fun for everyone. Make your activities a family tradition that everyone will look forward to.

Even moderate physical activity (combined with a healthy diet) will help protect members of your family from heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer. Physical fitness activities are a great way to relieve stress (i.e., fewer sibling fights) and send oxygen to the brain, which means exercising regularly could help keep peace at home and boost academic performance.

Before you start on your renewed commitment to fitness, be sure that everyone in your family has the go-ahead from your family doctor. Always increase your physical activity gradually to avoid straining muscles and injury. Be sure to stretch and drink plenty of water, too.

Simple activities for getting fit

You don’t have to join a gym or spend a lot of money to stay fit. All you need are a good pair of athletic shoes, and if you must, some inexpensive equipment — a ball, rope, and stick — and off you go! Get the whole family involved in these simple and fun physical fitness activities in the great outdoors.

Aim for 10,000 steps a day

It is recommended that everyone walk or run at least 10,000 steps a day. What a great way to use your math skills while keeping fit!

Buy a simple pedometer and have each member of the family wear it for a day and then compare notes on how many steps you walked. Talk about how you could gradually increase that number. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

When possible take the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator. Walk instead of driving, especially for short distances.

Don’t park too close to your destination. When you go to the mall or the grocery store, park far away from the store in the parking lot. This will force everyone to walk a little more.

Do chores together. Wash the car, rake some leaves, work in the garden.

Take the family on a walk. Make a habit of taking a family walk in the neighbourhood, in or around a park or to a destination (the mailbox, your school, a friend’s house). Or incorporate one of these types of transport into your neighbourhood tour: roller skates, rollerblades, bicycles or skateboards. (Be sure to wear helmets and the necessary padding.)

Take a walk or run on a local school track. Count your laps!

Get on your bikes and go. Biking is a great family activity. You can start out on short neighbourhood rides and build up to rides on local bike trails. Be sure everyone wears a helmet for safety.

Go on a treasure hunt in your neighbourhood. Compile a list of “simple treasures” to hunt for on your walk: a leaf with beautiful colours, a shiny penny, a can to be recycled. Or make a list of things to notice as you walk: Find a house with a red door. Look for a specific kind of car parked in a driveway. What else might you hunt for? Have everyone in your family contribute “treasures” to hunt for on your list.

Play catch. It may sound simple, but try some of these variations or create your own:

  • Play catch with different sizes and shapes of balls, or a Frisbee.
  • Play catch at gradually increasing distances.
  • Play paddle ball.
  • Have an old-fashioned egg toss. Start close and gradually increase your distance in throwing the egg from one person to another.

Motivating the unmotivated student

-GreatSchools Staff

Is your child completely uninterested in school? Refusing to even consider going to college? Are you at your wit’s end? How can you motivate the unmotivated student? Of course, as a parent, you recognize the value and importance of higher education to your child’s future. Academic apathy can be a complicated issue, however, and generally, no amount of lecturing, pleading, or threatening will change a child’s point of view. First and foremost, then, you need to understand the causes behind this lack of motivation. Once you have a better idea of the source of the problem, you can more effectively develop a strategy to help combat your child’s seeming indifference toward education.

What causes a lack of motivation?

Low self-esteem

Kids who have a poor self-image avoid activities that they deem beyond their capabilities. Even if they can actually complete a given task, these students engage in self-defeating behaviour to protect the little self-worth they do possess. For them, it is better to withhold effort or to procrastinate rather than risk trying, failing, and feeling even worse about themselves.

Lack of support at home

The home environment shapes the initial attitudes that children hold toward learning. In a home where curiosity, questions, and exploration are encouraged, children are given the message that education is worthwhile and personally satisfying. These kids are more likely to take the risks that are inherent in academically challenging pursuits. On the other hand, in a home where learning is not encouraged, children are given the message that education is of little value and that they lack the competency and ability to learn.

Low expectations in the classroom

Students mirror their teachers’ attitudes. If teachers believe that their students can learn, their students are more likely to trust in themselves and their abilities. Such teachers assign challenging, meaningful, and achievable tasks that promote motivation and link effort and success. Conversely, if teachers take the stance that they are the source of all knowledge and that their students are incompetent, their students are more apt to tune out, stop trying, and fail.


Many unmotivated students are simply responding negatively to pressure. Whether the tension is perceived or real, these kids rely on defence mechanisms to protect them from the discomfort pressure generates. Through procrastination or avoidance, these students are trying to escape from their fears of failure and inadequacy. In time, they come to accept the consequences of their behaviour, so they appear nonchalant and composed, even as the pressure they are trying to dodge mounts.

How to motivate your child

Provide an encouraging and secure home environment

Children need to feel that their parents value learning. Show your kids that academic exploration is worthwhile and education is important, and they are likely to develop similar attitudes. So sparks their curiosity about everything. Further, let your kids know that failure is often a part of the learning process, and let them fail without penalty. Kids who are not afraid to fail are more willing to accept scholastic challenges and less likely to sabotage their own academic efforts.

Use rewards carefully

Students who possess intrinsic motivation take on activities because of the feelings of enjoyment and accomplishment they evoke. Students who possess extrinsic motivation perform to gain a reward or avoid a punishment. Students with extrinsic motivation will generally put out the minimal amount of effort to complete tasks in the easiest way possible. In addition, external motivation only exists as long as there is external compensation. In other words, extrinsic motivation is likely to result in limited progress that vanishes when the reward disappears. So be discerning when offering rewards for good work.

Avoid power struggles

Realistically, you won’t be able to take on every struggle that comes along, so choose your battles wisely. Make a clear-cut list of unacceptable behaviours and resulting consequences. For instance, a failing grade in a class might result in the loss of a favourite privilege until the grade is raised. Resist the temptation to ground your child indefinitely or to take away all prized possessions. If you act reasonably and calmly, there is hope that your child will follow suit.

Build on strengths

Find an area in which your child excels and focus on it. Constant failure is certainly unmotivating, and when the primary focus is on weakness, self-esteem and motivation will undoubtedly be lowered. If your child can find success in a nonacademic setting, you can work together to determine the elements of that accomplishment. Perhaps you and your child will be able to formulate a recipe for success and apply the ingredients to the educational setting.

In conclusion, unmotivated students do want to succeed, but they are being held back by some sort of obstacle. With patience, understanding, and hard work, you can help your child find a path to academic achievement.

9 curiosity killers – and how you can cure them!

– Leslie Crawford

You want your child to be curious, right? Of course, you do! After all, curiosity is the drive to gather new information and experiences and it’s at the very heart of learning. Studies show that kids who exhibit a higher level of curiosity are at an advantage at school and beyond, benefitting socially, emotionally, psychologically, and intellectually.

Curious souls tend to exhibit a wide range of positive adaptive behaviours. They’re more likely to be open-minded, emotionally expressive, have strong coping mechanisms in daunting situations, and they’re predisposed to unconventional thinking (think: innovative problem solving).

Whether it’s your toddler furiously exploring every inch of their new world, your 5-year-old asking “Why?” about everything or your tween becoming myopically obsessed with the goings-on of their peers, curiosity is an inherently human trait. It’s fueled by dopamine, the same reward-seeking neurochemical that’s behind the desire to eat and procreate.

In younger kids, information-seeking abounds. One study found that between the ages of 2 and 5, kids ask about 40,000 questions. But as kids get older, this insatiable desire to know can lose some of its urgency.

Just as curiosity can be successfully fostered in any child it can also be squelched, often by the very well-meaning adults tasked with educating them. In fact, research shows that kids whose intrinsic curiosity is comparatively low are the ones most sensitive to social cues that inhibit or encourage exploration.

While no parent or teacher would purposely set out to thwart a child’s natural inquisitiveness, they often do so unwittingly. Curious to find out how grown-ups discourage curiosity (and conversely, how they can foster it)? Here are nine sure-fire curiosity killers and how you can avoid them.

  1. Freaking out over messes

    OMG! What happened to your kitchen? It’s been transformed into an 8-year-old’s version of a scene from Breaking Bad. There’s unidentifiable white powder all over the counters and floors, bright blue and orange fingerprints on the cabinet counters, and jars and vials overflowing with weird goo. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury: this crime scene is none other than curiosity channelled into the best form of creativity. For parents who are new to slime-making, the white substance is probably cornstarch, and it’s really, really hard to clean up! The Day-Glo fingerprints are from food colouring, also a bear to remove. What’s a harried parent to do? Let them make messes! The slime-makers of today might be the scientists, engineers, inventors, and artists of the future.

  2. Choosing a school for orderliness and calm

    One would think that a neat and tidy classroom (or bedroom) is preferable to the one that invites measured chaos. Think again. What attracts people’s interest, including children, is something more complex and unpredictable. In studying what inspires creativity in classrooms, Children are most interested “in the rooms that had wild and complex things that didn’t act in predictable ways,” be it out-there art on the walls, terrariums housing all manner of creatures, and spaces throughout the school that invite experimentation. In a 1984 study, it was found that while kindergarten-age children asked 27 questions per hour at home, that number plummeted to only about three when they were at school. Some of this drop-off is unavoidable because kids at school don’t have the opportunity to ask questions endlessly as they might at home, but it’s not inevitable if the school environment tolerates a curious child.

  3. Stamping out gossip

    Gossip, it turns out, is a natural expression of curiosity in both kids and adults (which is why you go straight for magazines at the hairdresser). People get kind of highfalutin about gossip. But if it’s done without malice, discussing complex social relationships can be a healthy and natural way to satisfy one’s curiosity about what other kids are doing. Especially in a school setting, where so much of the day is prescribed, kids relish talking to each other in ways that are unscripted and unexpected.

  4. Overscheduling kids’ time

    It’s the curse of the modern parent — we want to schedule every nanosecond of our child’s day to make sure every moment counts. But guess what: strategic neglect is a better approach to fostering curiosity.

    Let them be bored. Unstructured time can, after the initial whining, lead to the most fruitful exploration, whether a box gets turned into a car or there’s a rainy-day discovery that painting is your child’s great passion.

  5. Choosing what your child should learn

    You’ve schlepped your 10-year-old and his best friend to the local science museum to see the special exhibit on the Big Bang. The exhibit, which will only be there a month, is an outstanding learning opportunity! But all they want to do is climb the trees in front of the museum. These are valuable teachable moments — for parents.

    You can’t legislate curiosity. The secret to encouraging curiosity is to avoid holding on so tightly to what you think your child should learn that you don’t allow them the latitude to explore where their inquisitiveness leads them. So if you don’t make it inside the museum this time, don’t fret. Your child is getting an education out on that branch even if he isn’t learning anything about the Big Bang today.

  6. Celebrating achievement

    Perfection, it is said, is the enemy of innovation. Of course, it’s terrific if your middle schooler wins her fifth consecutive soccer game or your teen gets into a top college. And there’s nothing wrong with being happy about that. But take care that you’re not hyperfocused on the award, grade, or accomplishment. Carol Dweck, author of Mindset, explores how praising the process (the hard work it took to get there) rather than the person (as in, “You’re the best soccer player!”) makes kids more likely to seek out challenges and take intellectual risks.

    The goal of success is often in opposition to the inquiry. Many parents who care about curiosity find themselves conflicted when they have to make a choice between encouraging their child’s curiosity and wanting their child to ‘do well.’ Most of us want our children to get the right answer and the good grade. A good grade is nice, but really wanting to learn something, and being so interested that you can’t let it go, is a much more powerful and enduring experience.

  7. Having all the answers

    For Einstein’s sake, answer the question already so you can get some peace! Not so fast. When your child asks you a question the best thing you can say in response is, “How can we find out?” It’s also fine to admit you don’t know the answer. In fact, what’s far more important than having the answers is to engender an environment in which question-asking is the norm. Information-seeking through questions can be thwarted or encouraged, depending on how parents engage with their kids.

    Mothers who asked a lot of questions had children who also asked a lot of questions. By implication, children may be influenced by messages they receive about how to have a conversation. If their mother uses language to gather information, they are more likely to do the same. So, if you are curious about why ladybugs are called ladybugs or why colds always feel worse late in the afternoon or why Pluto isn’t a planet anymore, go ahead and ask! Out loud! Role models have a big impact on kids. When kids are around curious adults, they are more interested in things around them.

  8. Putting safety first

    A big reason parents may unwittingly discourage curiosity is that it can be dangerous. The hard truth is that curiosity and the need to resolve uncertainty and the unexpected is not without risk. Your bold and inquiring tween might decide to see what happens if she zaps a magnet in the microwave or how speedily she can navigate her bicycle down your steep street.

    The curious child, the one thirsty to seek out the new, even at some risk, can have an intellectual advantage. It’s a parental balancing act, to be sure, to keep children out of trouble while giving them room to grow intellectually. Parents have to balance their tolerance for potential harm with their interest in giving their children room to explore. Children are better than we think at taking care of themselves. And kids need to learn how by doing it.

  9. Putting “encourage curiosity” on your parenting to-do list

    As a parent you don’t necessarily have to do anything. Supporting curiosity as a parent is more about letting it happen. Celebrate it and share it with your child but don’t add it to the list of ways you can improve your child’s prospects. Since curious adults and kids both tend to be happier than those who aren’t, parents who begin to pursue their curiosity a little more self-consciously and become just a little more attuned to their children’s questions and urges to explore will probably be doing more than enough to promote their children’s curiosity.


– Anonymous

Today in a “school parents” Facebook group, a little discontent broke out. It occurred after a very proud parent posted a picture of her son’s grades. She was beaming through the keyboard I am sure, sharing the good news of straight A+ on his exams.

I think it’s great that her son kicked academic butt. And if you’re the type to share those kinds of personal achievements in a social media parent’s group, hey, that is great!

But after that initial grade sharing post, plenty more of the same followed, until one parent chimed in with, “I thought this was a support group for parents, not a bragging group?”

I hear you mom. I hear you loud and clear.

Like many others, I too am concerned with the grades my kids are receiving, but maybe the years have wised me up a little, because my perspective on their success is not what it once was. While I think it is great that her student was able to master Arithmetic while doing his own laundry for the first time, I’d like to know if he also did some of this…

Did he sit with a classmate or neighbour who was stressed? Did he calm them down, make them laugh, join them for lunch, or walk to the library with them, all while knowing he had studying to do himself, but remedying their sadness was more important?

Did she take class notes for a sick classmate?

Did he smile and give a nod of thanks to the staff member or helper for assisting him with something?

Did she take out her room’s garbage without being asked, even when it’s not her assigned room chore?

Did he share his lunch with the classmate that forgot to bring their lunch?

Did she take a friend to the health centre or sickroom when her friend fell down and hurt herself?

Did he comfort a classmate that got lower grades and wanted to help them get better grades next time?

There is no report card for any of that.

There is no grading rubric for being a decent human being.

Parents, it’s awesome you’re proud of your kid’s grades! Shout it to the world!

But it’s also awesome to remember that a academic report card does not define a life, or even a portion of it.

An “A” in Arithmetic is great, but a metaphorical “A” in kindness, graciousness, and unselfishness is, well, you can’t put a grade on that kind of success.

The writer wishes to remain anonymous.