- Family and Parenting»
- Parenting Skills, Styles & Advice»
- Parenting Advice & Tips
Importance of Chores - Age appropriate chores for young kids
Why should children do chores?
Doing chores is good for our children – so next time your toddler asks to help wash the dishes, say ‘yes’, even though it will take twice as long. Encouraging your child to help with chores from an early age will instil a sense of responsibility in them as well as make them feel like part of the household team. It will also help to develop their confidence and self-esteem as they learn new skills.
The good news is that you won’t have to coax your toddler into helping. They are avid learners of everything new at this age and will be very eager to get involved in helping with chores. In fact they will often look on it as play rather than work as there is very little distinction between work and play in the early years. However it is important to give them age appropriate chores that they can manage relatively easily or they will become frustrated and disheartened.
Young children also learn many skills along the way as all chores will help them to develop new physical abilities. For instance, learning to pour when watering the plants will develop their physical dexterity as holding a jug and learning to pour carefully is actually a step in helping them learn pencil control.
Praise your Child's Efforts
Throughout the years of giving my children chores to do I have learnt through trial and error which ones suit best at which age. Of course all children develop at a different pace so what one child might manage at a certain age might be too challenging for another. The important thing is to give your children plenty of praise for their efforts. If the floor is still dirty or the dishes are not quite as clean as you would like, resist the temptation to ‘help them do it properly’. Even very young children will interpret this as negative feedback and will get the message that you don’t trust them to manage the task by themselves. Another big no-no is to attempt to redo the task while they are around. If it really isn’t up to your standards of cleanliness and must be redone then wait until they are out playing or in day care.
Does your preschooler help with chores?
Age Appropriate Chores for 2-3 year olds
Children of this age have quite a short attention span so chores need to be simple enough to complete quickly. The following chores are ideal for this age group:
Putting dirty clothes in the laundry hamper: Even very young children can help with this one and it can become part of the daily routine. After they get dressed in the morning, ask them to put their pyjamas in the laundry basket. You will be surprised how quickly this becomes a good habit, with your child automatically doing this task without being prompted.
Watering plants. This is a favourite chore that both younger and older children will enjoy doing. It will give them a sense of pride to see the plants flourishing as they nurture them.
Laying out clothes for the next day. Ask your child to choose an outfit the night before and lay it out carefully, ready for putting on the next morning. Most children of this age start to have very definite preferences over what they like wearing. It gives them a sense of independence to allow them to have a say in what they wear. I had a child who was really indecisive when choosing what to wear and we really didn’t have time for that in the morning. Introducing this task at night time really helped. She enjoyed being able to decide what to wear at her leisure and it never seemed like a chore.
Hanging their coats up on hooks. Provide coat hooks so that children can hang up their coats immediately when they come home.
Tidying away toys. Even children under 2 years of age should be encouraged to help put away their toys after using. Make this simpler for younger children by providing storage boxes that toys can easily be placed in after using. I always had a rule that one set of toys had to be put away before any others could be taken out of the cupboard.
Age appropriate chores for 4-5 year olds
Children of this age have much better coordination skills so can manage more challenging tasks and being able to handle the chores all by themselves will make them feel very ‘grown up’. At this age and stage of development they are also still quite willing helpers. They will enjoy doing the following chores at this age.
Dishes. At this age my children would volunteer to do the dishes and although I knew it would take twice as long and that there would be a fair amount of water spillage, I let them help with this chore. A four year old is still in play mode when doing the dishes and will happily spend half an hour at this task. Make sure there is a jug and colander in the sink too as this will make the task more fun and allow them to experiment with the properties of water.
Making their own bed. Children should be encouraged to attempt to make their own bed every morning. It doesn’t have to be very neat and at this age they won’t have the physical dexterity to make a perfect bed yet anyway. It’s all about getting into the habit of doing the chore regularly.
Putting away groceries. This is another chore that there will plenty of volunteers for. They also learn about sorting items into categories, i.e. chilled foods go in the refrigerator, tins in the cupboard and so on.
Looking after pets. From about 4 years old, children can help with feeding and watering pets. This chore in particular will teach them a lot about responsibility and you can talk to your child about the consequences of not carrying out this essential chore. For instance, what would happen if Mum kept forgetting to feed the rabbits?
Helping to load the washing machine. This is another great chore where they are learning sorting skills along the way. Teach them to separate lights from darks and coloureds and explain why we do this.
Chores learned at a young age are life skills learned for life.
Children are not just learning chores. They are aquiring basic life skills that they will need as adults. When children learn chores from a young age, they become good habits that will stay with them through to adulthood. Furthermore, parents will find young children very eager to help around the house. Most of them won't need any motivation to get started although there are plenty of resources such as chore charts if you happen to have a child that is less than willing. Older kids in particular tend to procrastinate when it comes to doing chores. You may find using charts, timers and other such gadgets useful in getting them motivated. However, introducing chores while they are young will hopefully make this less of a battleground later on. So in the early years take advantage of that lovely willingness to learn anything new.
Help your child to stay on task with this great time management system.
Melissa & Doug Responsibility Chart
A Best Seller on Amazon, the Melissa & Doug Responsibility Chart is the idea tool to encourage children to take responsibility for their own chores around the house as well as being an effective tool to promote good behaviour. It comes with lots of magnets that have tasks/chores that children can aim to achieve including load/empty dishwasher, put clothes in wash, clear table, put toys away, etc. In addition, you can encourage good behaviour in your little ones with rewards for 'showing respect' and 'stop whining'. You can also use the wipe clean board to add your own chores and targets on. Over 500 reviewers on Amazon give this an overall score of 4.6 out of 5.