Habyts has a new focus! Learn more.

The Mary Poppins Approach to Getting Chores Done


Very few people love doing chores, but they need doing.

As my children grow older, I’ve started asking them to help out a bit more.

I’m not talking workhouse levels, but just clearing up some of their own mess and more recently helping a little with a few other bits and pieces too.

Although initial responses when asking for tasks to be done are usually rather negative, getting the children to help out around the house isn’t as difficult as it might sound.

First things first

As an adult, there’s nothing more discouraging and off-putting than being confronted with a seemingly never-ending to-do list or a task that seems insurmountable.

For a child it can seem even more impossible.

So, first off, make sure that any list or task you give is realistic and achievable. Break down big tasks into smaller, more manageable ones. Of course young kids don’t want to tidy up the entire room, that’s really hard work and they won’t know where to begin.

However, if you can be specific about the tasks that need to be done and each one is fairly easy to complete then hopefully it’ll all add up to what you wanted done in the first place.

Add an element of fun

“In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun and snap, the job’s a game.” – Mary Poppins

That fictional nanny was right: make tasks more of a game and it really does help things along. Some ideas to get you started:

  1. Multiple task challenge – Just how many tasks can you tick off the list? How many socks can you pair up? How many items have you put out on the washing line? Wow, I think that’s a record! Most children seem to thrive on a bit of competition (with themselves). Stickers for jobs completed can also help encourage younger ones.
  2. Whistle while you work – My children all love music. We now stick an age-appropriate music channel on the TV or play a Spotify playlist whilst they’re getting stuff done. It really helps get them motivated
  3. Counting (aka the stock take) – Can you count how many bricks/dolls/cars you have as you put them away?
  4. Against the clock – a challenge comes into play again here.This time it’s all about how much can be achieved in a designated time. My eldest will set the stopwatch on my iPhone. All three love this against-the-clock competition.
  5. Responsibility – Give a more ‘responsible’ type chore to do that is within their capabilities.

i) When I asked my younger two, who are four, if they wanted to clean the bathroom sink with a special wipe (bathroom wipes) they jumped at the chance. The fact that they had to wear gloves and didn’t usually do this type of job meant that it was instantly more fun.

ii) If you have an older child who is anything like mine then they’ll love being given some extra responsibility. For example my eldest will be very enthusiastic if I say: Can you do x as that’s more difficult and you’re really good at it? Or if I ask her to make sure that her little sisters do y and z, or ask her to help them with something that’s really tricky.

A spoonful of sugar

So it’s back to Mary Poppins and this time her spoonful of sugar. I don’t tend to go in for bribes or rewards such as sweet treats in return for chores, but they can ‘earn’ privileges such as TV time and iPad time in return for a job/s well done.

Now we just need to work on the put one thing away before taking out another thing…

0 0 vote
Article Rating
Return to the Habyts Blog
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x