Too young for chores?

December 17th, 2009 6:37pm
Cleaning can be a fun and productive game for your toddler to play!

Cleaning can be a fun and productive game for your toddler to play!

I have asked myself this question time and time again as my four children have grown each year. As a new mom with my first, I always assumed that 4 yrs old was just too young to be able to help mommy with the chores. With my second, I thought maybe they could help at 4. With my third I noticed that the desire to clean was motivated by the thrill of learning something new and they really seemed to enjoy contributing to the chores. And now, as I watch my fourth, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that children not only have a desire to help as early as 2 yrs old, but they also think it’s fun! And surprisingly enough, they can do a pretty darn good job!

If you are looking to encourage your child to begin contributing to the household chores, here are a few guidelines:

  • The most important thing to remember is to keep it simple, keep it age appropriate and praise, praise, PRAISE!
  • It is also a good idea to remember that the younger the child, the shorter spurts you should work in.
  • Tackle one job at a time. Don’t throw three “to do” items at them at once or they will be easily discouraged and overwhelemed.
  • A chore chart will give your little one an extra sense of accomplishment and a way to have everyone in the family recognize their effort and accomplishment.

Here are some ideas to get you started at the different ages…

Age 2:

  • Wet wipes: It’s pretty simple, give them a wet wipe and point them in the right direction! At this age, kids love the magic of the wet wipe. It’s truly amazing…you find a mess, run the wet wipe over it, and presto! No more mess! Let kids have fun with this one. There really is very little damage they can to with a wet wipe in hand!
  • Organize: This is a great opportunity to teach sorting skills to your toddler. Get several storage boxes and label them with a picture (i.e. car box, people/animal box, craft box, music box, etc.). Get them started by putting a few items in each box. They will get the hang of this quickly and hone a valuable skill in the process!
  • Laundry: Sorting laundry can be a fun learning activity too. Let your toddler help you sort the laundry by color. Have three bins (light, dark, and whites). Put a few items in each bin to start with. You can teach your toddler colors while they help you with your chores!

Age 4-5

  • Laundry: Let your kids help you with the laundry by taking their bed sheets off of their beds and bringing them to you, putting them in the correct color bin. Kids at this age are also very capable and excited to both fold and put their clothes away on their own too. Remember that not all will be as perfect as you might like but don’t nitpick (it’s the quickest way to discourage a child from even trying). Positive encouragement and lots of praise will take them a long way to improvement!
  • Dishes: Yes, though it may sound crazy to give a 4 year old a breakable object and let them walk across tile floor for any length of time, they are very capable of carrying out this task. Our 4/5 year old has become a very skilled “dish put-er away-er” at our house and knows better than my 8 year old where things go!
  • Gardening: This is a fun one for kids. Put them in charge of watering your plants each day. They will love filling the water pot themselves and watching how their plants grow! Pulling weeds, cleaning leaves, and sweeping floors can all be easy activities for these guys.

Age 6-8

  • Definitely ready for some heavy duty work! These little ones can handle any window job you can dish out. Dusting is a definite fun past time (turn them loose in the house with a duster and watch the dedication!).
  • Organizing: ThisĀ is a no brainer for these guys, especially if you started at age 2.
  • Laundry: Show them the ropes of your washer and put them in charge of a load or two. They can also dry dishes with the best of ’em!
  • Vacuuming: Depending on the size of your vacuum and size of your child, this can be a lot of fun.
  • Mopping: Cleaning my kitchen floor is one of my 8 year olds favorite activities!
  • Gardening: With adult supervision and a little help, even lawn mowing and trimming the bushes can be a fun challenge for these guys!

I am not a huge fan of letting kids handle any kind of heavy duty chemical while cleaning…especially if you are not planning to supervise the entire process. A suggestion, most things can be well cleaned and disinfected with a homemade solution of vinegar and water. It’s very gentle and you don’t have to worry about your kids around harsh chemicals. That being said, always supervise your young children, even if the only chemical they walk around with is a wet wipe. The best way to teach your little ones is by example and as they are cleaning alongside you, it will make it more fun and safe for them, less stressful for you and you’ll get a lot accomplished in the process!

Remember, good habits start young. The earlier kids learn to contribute to the household maintenance, the easier it will be for you to maintain their involvement as they get older. Don’t get discouraged and remember that praise goes a lot farther than criticism!

What jobs do your young children do around your home? Share your ideas, what works, what didn’t and everything in between in our forum discussion!

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