7 Summer Chores to Put a Stop to 'Mom, I'm Bored!'

Jul 19, 2017 at 4:00 p.m. ET
Image: Milton Cogheil/EyeEm/Getty Images

Midway through the summer, you may start to feel like you’re running a cruise ship. You are the captain, the medic, the chef, possibly the lifeguard and almost certainly the entertainment director. What parent doesn’t feel a chill up the spine, like that experienced when hearing fingernails on a chalkboard, when the word "bored" is uttered for the hundredth time?

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You know what? Cruise ships need staff and yours is no exception. It’s time to put your crew — I mean, kids — to work. Go online and you’ll find plenty of pros and cons of chore assignments. But if you’re worn out from wearing all the hats, give it a shot. Try assigning these tasks that feel more like games. You’ll simultaneously lessen your load and eliminate the B-word (or at least decrease its frequency). Plus, you just might end up with a house that’s — dare we say — ship-shape.

1. Swab the decks

Have the kids put on their oldest mismatched socks and skate around any tile, hardwood or laminate floors. This works much like a Swiffer (picking up dirt and dust, either solo or before mopping), except it wears them out into child-shaped blobs of jelly. You can repeat this with a new set of socks on hands and accomplish dusting, if you trust that your kids won’t drop absolutely everything they pick up.

 2. Hoist the sails

OK, so this is more pirate ship than cruise ship (although that analogy might feel accurate as well, depending on how long school’s been out). If you have a clothesline, have a race to see how fast dry laundry can be taken down and wet laundry can be hung. If you don’t have one, you can create a similar activity by racing to hang clean clothes up in the closet.

Side note: Just about any task becomes a kid activity when timed. You can count out loud, but if you really want to go big, use the stopwatch feature on your phone.

3. Man the galley

If your child is old enough to use a vegetable peeler, today might be the day for potato salad — put them to work getting ‘em skinned. Avoid skinned fingers, however, by not timing this one — instead, they can sort the potatoes by size, number of bumps, etc.

Kids who aren’t old enough to use a peeler can use a sponge to wipe off canned goods from the pantry and then put them back. If you want them replaced in any kind of order, you can have them first label the shelves with categories (either words or pictures).

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4. Port of call

If you have a trip still to come this summer — or even sometime later in the year — delegate some related tasks: wiping off luggage, going on a scavenger hunt for those small items that always seem to disappear in between trips, checking and updating toiletry bags with new items to replace missing or used-up ones.

5. Ship’s purser

Give your child your local grocery store flyers (or point them toward their websites online), a grocery list and a grocery budget. Charge your child with coming in under budget for the items included on the list. If you want to have any hope of putting this list to use and you’ve given the child multiple stores, don’t forget to instruct your purser to include the name of the store next to each item.

6. Maintain the grounds

Cruise ships don’t look beautiful all by themselves, and neither does your yard. This works especially well if you have more than one kid — pit them against each other in a landscaping competition. Give each a small plot of ground — potentially as small as a gallon bucket — and several small plants. The least expensive ones from a home improvement store are just fine here. Have them draw out their landscaping plan and then execute it. Once they are finished, have them take pictures of the final product and send them to grandparents or other relatives.

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7. Plan the fun

Finally, hand over the reins— if they’re so bored, what would they rather be doing? Arm them with a local entertainment guide or newspaper — or again, give them a few specific websites to use if you prefer to send them online — and a calendar, either electronic or paper. Give them any specific parameters — such as “not to exceed $5 per person” or “not involving water parks under any circumstances” — and then see what they come up with. Even if the calendar ends up being an opening salvo and you compromise between their proposal and your approval, the glorious part is that you didn’t have to do all that initial planning. Additionally, anything that you greenlight is almost certain to be met with enthusiasm since it was their idea in the first place.