Children and Chores
By Christy Wilson Millard
“No! I don’t want to.”
I have just asked my three-year-old to pick up her blocks. Like a scene from the Old West we face off, arms crossed, expressions fierce, bodies rigid. She’s certain she isn’t picking up her blocks. I’m equally certain she will pick up her blocks – even if we stand here until suppertime!
Getting children to help around the house is not easy. Certainly, it’s faster to just do the work ourselves.
So, why bother training your preschooler to help with chores? Because, the rewards are great. By doing chores, your child learns responsibility, teamwork, respect for others and for possessions. In the process, your child gains confidence in his abilities.
Start training your child to do chores early. Once a child can walk, he is able to help with simple tasks. But training can begin even younger. Babies enjoy watching mommy wash dishes or sweep the floor. Use this time to explain what you are doing. “Mommy is cleaning the dishes. Before long, you will be big enough to help.”
Toddlers are naturally curious. They want to do whatever you are doing. Find ways to let them help. “Mommy is folding the laundry. Would you hand me a shirt from the basket?”
Your child’s responsibilities should be based on his abilities. Although, abilities vary greatly from child to child, generally, a two-year-old can help mommy carry laundry, put away toys and stir the cake batter. This same child will need mommy working alongside, keeping him focused.
Three-year-olds can do these same things, but with more autonomy.
Four-year-olds are beginning to do things on their own. They can be given daily responsibilities, such as making their bed and keeping their room clean.
Five-year-olds are capable of more detailed tasks such as: feeding the dog, cleaning off the table after supper and putting away their clean clothes.
Training children to do chores can be challenging but the rewards are many. Make your job easier and combat your child’s natural adversity to work, by making chores fun! Try these ideas for stimulating your pint-sized task force:
- Make it like a game. Huddle up. “Davy, you get the clothes out of the dryer and into the basket. Then Alice, you get the clothes from the washer into the dryer. Ready? Hands in. Go team!”
- Beat the clock. Time chores to see how fast a job can be finished. Write it down and try to be faster next time.
- In the Army. Have a daily room inspection. Develop a routine. This might include checking under beds for toys or bouncing a quarter on the bed. Make this age appropriate and more fun than strict.
- Make expectations clear. Children need to know what’s expected. If they have daily chores, make a list and hang it in plain view. Better yet, use a chalkboard so chores can be checked off when completed.
- Extra chores = extra cash. For older children, post an extra chores list. This could include things like cleaning out the car, pulling weeds from the flowerbeds or anything not done on a daily basis. Beside each item, list the amount of money you will pay for the job. Enterprising children will seize this opportunity to earn extra cash.
- The great toy round-up. To motivate children to pick up toys, get a small wagon. (Or attach a short piece of rope to a sturdy cardboard box.) This is the garbage truck. Help your child "drive" his truck through the house, loading it with toys. Once filled, pull the truck to the child’s room and unload.