As a parent for over 20 years, and now having a new “family” of little ones, as well as preschool administrator I have found that there are some tried and true chores that you can introduce to your children from a very young age. Try any one of these, and you will find that your children enjoy participating in the family responsibilities as well as are very very proud of their abilities to do a task that they see as a “big girl or boy” task.
1. Empty dishwasher: I put away the glass and breakables, leaving her cups and bowls as well as utensils. She can put away all the utensils and putting her cups together with their lids makes for a fun matching game.
2. Mini Sweep Up: My daughters love to sweep the floor and follow mom around trying to take the brook away from me. So, I purchased two small hand held brooms and dust bins so they can practice sweeping up messes. They miss a lot, but their effort really counts.
3. Trash Time: As children may be changed from their diapers, are done with their napkins or have used paper towels to clean up messes help them learn to put their trash in the trash container. My children also help with recycling, I fill small plastic bags with the recycling and each of us carry a bag to the recycling container.
4. Clean Up Clean Up: Everybody everywhere, this song can be played on your computer through playlist.com. Just type in Barney and set it on repeat. It repeats as your children clean up their toys. Some helpful hint: use this song to indicate that toy time is ended, or to transition to the next activity whether it is moving on to coloring, or just to put toys away and move on to blocks. Soon, when the children hear the song, they know to start cleaning up their toys, and parents and caregivers can use that instead of their voice to instruct.
5. Laundry: Even small children (my 18 month old) can help with laundry. One activity you can try is to have them help you sort, this also teaches them matching and color skills, such as whites and colors. After drying your laundry they can help sort into the family piles, in our house, several people have to fold and put their own clothes away, I sort them into their own baskets. The toddlers and preschoolers in your family can help sort clothes for their brother’s and sister’s baskets or for dads. They can also help put their own clothes away, match socks, and put away bibs or kitchen towels.
6. Clean up after meals: You may want to save this one for 2 years and older, but even the younger ones can bring you their sippy cup after meals. We use non breakable dishes for the children, so they can bring me their plates and utensils also after meals, then I clean and rinse and place them in the dishwasher. They can also help wipe off tables and place the place-mats back on the table after clean up, this one is a favorite. My daughters also like to be the ones to choose which place-mats we will use next.
7. Dusting: As you are dusting your way through the house, give your children a dusting rag. You can purchase them for $1.00 a package at the dollar store. You may not want to use dusting cleaner on their towels, but they will enjoy following after mom or dad and helping to dust off coffee tables and end tables just like the grown ups. It’s more fun than help, but it is a beginning.
8. Feeding and Caring for Pets: Children love to be involved with their furry friends in the household. They can be involved in feeding the family pet (be careful of sharp edges if using a canned food). You may want to simply let them carry the food dish to the eating area. Treats are also a way to involve the children in the care of the family pets.
9. Making Beds: Children can not make their own beds, but after I make my daughter’s she places all her throw pillows and stuffed animals on it. It really does not matter where she puts them, but at least they are off the floor. For day-cares, ask your children to place their blankets in the laundry basket at the end of the week for washing. My daughters also think it is fun to put the decorative pillows back on mom and dad’s bed.
10. Dressing and Undressing: You may be sorry when you start allowing them to do this. For dressing, the next step is picking our their own clothes, and you may not want them to wear the Christmas turtle neck sweater with their strawberry colored shorts that day. Also, they have an amazing ability to undress as quickly as possible whenever visitors are at the house. You can also direct them to put their dirty clothes in the laundry basket, not on the floor.
Why Introduce Chores?
Children can learn from chores several things: they can learn to be confident and responsible, they can learn to care for others, and completion of chores and positive reinforcement can lead to higher self esteem and independence. The most important thing to remember as a parent is to find those chores that your children enjoy and no matter how they perform them (so the bed spread is not straight) give them lots and lots of praise and encouragement. If it really bothers you wait till they are out of the room and fix it.
Using chores to teach your children life skills helps the whole family. It makes the family stronger as it learns to work together to perform tasks as well as encourages a feeling of trust and responsibility. I can not emphasize enough, the need to praise and encourage during and at the end of each task. Make sure your child knows how important their help is and how happy and pleased you are that they want to help. You may even want to introduce a chore chart or an award chart, so they can not only see how many things they do to help, but you can use it to provide incentives as well as rewards for jobs well done. Take them out for an ice cream or rent a movie, go to the library for a treat to show them how much they are appreciated and that chores like mom or dad’s job “pay off” in the end, with a cleaner and friendlier house as well as more time for the whole family to enjoy these treats together.
Be careful of the cleaning supplies you use around children, and never allow them to use or touch the cleaning supplies. Use “green” cleaners whenever possible, you will be surprised at what lemon juice can accomplish.
Avoid the use of “magic eraser” type products with your children, as some children have has a skin infection and reaction to the chemicals contained. Whenever allowing children to clean, use cotton cloths or paper towels.
Always supervise your children when they are doing chores around the house.
If allowing children to feed the pets, remove the pet from the area, many animals become aggressive regarding thee food and water and this will allow your children to be safe and learn to care for others.
Save mopping for when children are asleep, the wet, slippery floors can cause serious injury.