When is the right age to start your children on a chore chart, and can it actually help them understand food allergies? This two part question begins with an answer of "depends." The right age to start your child on a chore chart depends on your needs and your children's abilities and maturity. However, we have found that a good rule of thumb here is to introduce regular chores once children start school. The chore chart becomes a part of our children's regular routine just as does homework. As for the second part of the question, the answer is yes! By including chores in the chart that involve food allergy awareness, you can help your food allergic child and siblings understand the basics of food allergy management without a lecture.
Our family chore chart does not list off all the items that my children must do around the house. They are expected to pitch in when needed, and have some chores such as "make the bed" that are expected and not listed on the chart. The chores that we list on the chore chart are ones that they will get payed for and are not a part of their regular day. Some parents choose to keep the chores the same each week, and that can be useful in setting expectations. We have found that it works better for us to have alternating chores each week that take into account our child and family activities.
So, as requested by a Twitter follower, I am sharing my chore chart template with you all. We have found that we need a day without any extra chores each week and have chosen Sunday as that day. Sunday is also the day the children are paid for their "work week." If a chore goes undone, their pay is deducted appropriately and that chore is added to the next week. We choose chores for each child based on their age, and we basically rotate through the same ones. However, when picking a chore for each day, we take into consideration the after school activities they have that day and any family commitments.
With that being said, chores don't have to be the traditional "clean your room" type. We include "make dinner with Mom" as chores. These type of chores not only give you one-on-one time with your child but also offer up an opportunity to teach your child about cooking for the food allergic. Choose a recipe where substitutions are made and teach your child how to make them. Work in a little lesson about avoiding cross-contamination, if you can. Another idea is to have a chore for your child to go grocery shopping for dinner items with you. Show him or her what items you buy to make allergy friendly dinners and where to find them, as well as the items you avoid using. I advise to take only one child at a time with you, and to limit your shopping to items for only one or two dinners. If you don't, the trip could easily turn into just another errand.
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