In an average day, how many chores do you do around the house? I wake up, grab a cup of coffee (sit and have a sip to fully wake up), and then grab the broom. I sweep the kitchen floor because that’s the one chore in the evening I’m just too tired to do. Next I gather up any loose laundry I see laying around. Let’s face it, not everything makes it into the hampers. If I have a load ready to go, I start the washer. Now I unload the dishwasher so I can start loading it with the dishes we use throughout the day. Wipe down the kitchen table after breakfast. (refill coffee cup)
….and that’s just my morning. It’s a constant cycle of picking up, putting away, and wiping down. And? It’s just a part of life. Unless you have a live-in housekeeper, these are things you have to do on a daily basis. Don’t have kids? Guess what, you still have chores to do. And that’s sorta my point here. It’s never to early to teach our children to pitch in and do chores around the house. Not just to ease some of our household burdens, but to set them up for success in life. Do you one day want to visit your child’s dorm, apartment, or house with their wife or husband and find it’s a complete stye? Probably not.
So what age is a good age and what responsibilities are appropriate to expect out of your children at those ages? Great question.
I believe 2 is a good age to start, however I would not say you can ‘expect’ any sort of responsibility out of a child at this point. This is just where you lay the foundation. At two I started singing to my kids, ‘I’m pick’n up my toys and putt’n'em away!’ to the tune of ‘I’m bringing home a baby bumblebee’. It’s fun, cute, and makes the process feel like a game. I’d grab a plastic tote, scoot it all around the room and we’d gather up all the toys together. Anything that they got out to play with that day, they put away before bed. This includes book, pots and pans, and bath toys. Can or will they do it all by themselves? No, and I don’t expect them to. But getting down with them, showing them what to do, and encouraging them along the way is an excellent way to lay the groundwork.
At three children are usually learning colors. This is a great time to get them started on laundry skills, while reenforcing the colors they are learning. I had my son separating whites and reds into two different baskets. Easy enough. He was also putting away his own socks and underwear at this age. I had open faced cubbies so that these items were at eye/hand level. (were they laid perfectly? no, but it’s the point that he’s doing it. technique can come later)
Four is a great age for dishes. Like everything else, start simple. Place the silverware basket on the counter, or in a place where it can be reached, and after taking out all the sharp knives or any other utensil you don’t want your child to touch just yet let them put away the rest of the silverware. This chore also incorporate basic matching skills. Placing the big spoons with the big spoons, smaller spoons in their place, and separating the long and short forks into their proper setting. The other great thing about a preschooler doing silverware is that it’s usually a quick chore, so they won’t get bored or frustrated too quickly.
This brings up another point; keeping chores, in the first 5 years, short and simple allowing them to be done quickly will also help to eliminate the negativity your child will feel towards chores. This may still happen eventually, but as long as you are laying the foundation for helping out around the house and involving your child in the daily activities of the household, make sure that there is as much positive encouragement as possible.
Now that my son is five, he is still doing the chores mentioned above as well as clearing his dishes from the table, rinsing the dishes with me as I load the dishwasher, and bringing his dirty clothes down from his room and separating them into their washing piles. Still all minor chores that take just minutes to complete, and leave him feeling proud of his accomplishments. As mom or dad, you know what your child can handle and what they can’t, but don’t be affraid to challenge them once in a while either. Their abilities just might surprise you. Incorporating their involvement in household chores with the family doesn’t just help lighten your load, but it also sets them up for success later in life, and gives them a great sense of belonging as well as pride and confidence in their own accomplishments.