Tech that helps kids with their chores

Even the word “chore” sounds boring. We should call chores something else when we ask our kids to pitch in with daily tasks. Come to think of it, the word “task” doesn't sound much better! As an adult, I don't like to think of what I need to do, my responsibilities, as chores--I think that vocabulary word would slow me down. Yet, no matter what I call my duties, I have to get them done. Maybe chore is the perfect word because childhood isn't all about play--it is also about growing up. Chores do teach responsibility, right?

In her article, “Why your children should do chores,” historian Agnes B. Howard says, “Learning to do chores helps children mature, helps orient them to the common good.” Chores are not meant to be back-breaking work or extra work tacked on at the end of the day for the heck of it. Chores are the tasks that have to be done consistently for family life to run, more or less, smoothly. In other words, when kids complete chores, they are adding to the greater good of the family. Chores for kids can include learning to tie shoes, setting the table, picking up toys, walking the dog, and making beds. Chores more directly benefit kids by boosting their confidence.

Can we make chores more fun with technology? I didn't believe that was possible until I looked at the “All Kids Can...Do the Laundry!” app by HappyTouch. The app player is in charge of a dry cleaner. Customers bring in their clothes and the player then sorts clothes, removes stains, washes, dries, irons, presses, folds and sews. Sound boring? Au contraire. Routine tasks become mesmerizing to “play” when it is in this interactive game. The music is upbeat but not jarring, the color palette is gentle on the eyes, and the graphics are large, so kids can spray a stain remover bottle or move an iron with ease. They can even accept money from the customer. I'm not surprised that TopBestAppsForKids.com gives a positive review to this child-safe app.

But what if a fun game that incorporates chores doesn't translate to an enthusiasm for chores in real life? Try bringing the game itself to real life. ChoreMonster is an app that can motivate kids to complete chores. Parents create a chores list for each kid and set the rewards for completion of the tasks. Plus, kids can collect oodles of funky monsters as they gain more points. Many parents use positive reinforcement to motivate their kids and this app falls in the positive reinforcement category. What's the difference with bringing an app on board? Well, kids like to interact with technology as opposed to a chore board. (Probably for a similar reason, I prefer a grown-up chore app like Busy over writing a to-do list.) And parents can save their energy for playtime with their kids instead of losing their voices from chore reminders. In the end, no one has to feel like a chore monster with this family pleasing app.

If you want to introduce your kids to a reason why chores are important (like putting your dirty laundry in a basket) watch this fun, free video about Noksu the duck, courtesy of HooplaKidz; I watched the video and can vouch the content is perfect for little ones. The vocabulary is simple, the background music is soothing, the characters talk in “inside voices,” the story unfolds in a comfortable pace so kids can follow along easily, and it answers an amusing question: What is a duck to do when he runs out of clean clothes?

Shannon Mullally is an editor for School Zone Publishing, in Grand Haven, Mich. She has a doctorate in Creative Writing. Find her on Twitter @SMMullally. The views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily represent those of her employer.