A Lesson in Chores :: When the Animals Come First

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Chores are certainly not at the top of your toddler’s to-do list. But encouraging him or her to help feed the animals teaches selflessness and independence.

Every night it’s the same routine: Feed the dogs, cat, chickens, and horses. We live on a small ranchette near Weatherford, Texas, where most folks have livestock or farm animals. Our nightly chores are a simple process made time-consuming by my toddler, and sometimes it can be maddening to wait for her to catch up to me as we fill buckets of feed and walk across our property. My husband and I could get done so much faster if one of us watched her while the other knocked out our evening chores! 

So why should parents bother with making their kids help with chores? It could be easier and way more efficient to just do it ourselves, but there’s something about doing the “not fun stuff” that makes “fun time” more enjoyable. Plus, the world doesn’t revolve around individuals, and simple tasks like cleaning and filling the dog’s water bowl every day is a humble reminder of that. 

Life Lessons in Animal Chores

When I stop to think about it (often with a bucket of grain in hand, encouraging my daughter to follow me instead of play with a single blade of grass that suddenly became interesting), I’m encouraged by the lesson we’re hopefully instilling in our child. 

Yes, we need to provide for our daughter, and her health and well-being override anything else in our lives. On the other hand, I want her to grow up understanding others depend on her, too. Pets and livestock require us to feed and water them on a daily basis. It’s our responsibility to nurture and tend to their needs before we sit down and fill our stomachs with supper.

Teaching selflessness and motivation go hand-in-hand, and it’s a rewarding trait that will take children far in life. 

An Unintended Perk

When my daughter can’t seem to tear herself away from that fascinating blade of grass, I leave her. Now before anyone freaks out, our property allows me to keep a watchful eye on her the entire time. I’ll feed the horses and other animals while she explores outside. 

See; it’s a win-win. If she chooses to go with me, our daughter can witness what goes into caring for animals. Oftentimes she wants to help, which we gladly allow and advocate. However if she wants to play in the dirt, stomp in puddles, or pick dandelions from the yard, it makes my heart flutter knowing she’s outside and using her imagination, not to mention build up her immune system! 

As we finally sit down to eat, it’s with a peaceful heart and mind. Knowing the animals are happily munching on their food and going to sleep with a full belly allows this mama to be present at the dinner table, not mentally distracted by a nagging to-do list. 

When I ask my daughter every night if she wants to “help Mama feed the animals” and she eagerly nods her head, I smile and grab the buckets. If chores take a bit longer with her tagging along, that just means we get to spend more time together, too. 

Where we live, most people have a small backyard farm. Still, I’d like to think that most families encourage this mindset. What chores do your kids have? 

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