I am a big believer in teaching children to do chores from a young age. It teaches them responsibility, life skills they will need, how to contribute as a member of the family, and how to work. And if you teach them while they are young, they are more likely to enjoy it rather than complain and see it as a burden.
So here are a few ways to start them off young:
- Feed pet. From the time our son was 2-1/2, he's been helping to feed the pets. We stored the dog food in a sealable rubbermaid tub in the garage and he was allowed to step out there with a plastic cup, fill it up, and bring it into the house to pour into the pets' bowls. He thought it was a great task to get to participate in and it helped instill both work in him and the necessity to take care of pets.
- Clean up toys. All toys must be put away before bedtime. That's the rule at our house. In my mind it is more peaceful if we go to bed with a clean house so that is what we see when we wake up. =) Everything in our house has a location, so it is easy to let Patrick put away his toys in their labeled bins. I won't pretend it's perfect, as there are nights that he still does not want to clean up his toys. If he's been good and just is too tired, I will often "help" him by letting him do most of the work. However, if he is just being hard-headed, I offer to put them away myself, but with the caveat that if I put them away, he will not see them again for a while. That usually gets him moving.
- Clear the table. Once a meal is over, he throws away napkins, remnants of food, and any paper plates that he might have used. He places all washable items on the kitchen counter on the "dirty" side of the sink.
- Fold towels. You can teach basic folding methods for items such as washcloths, dish towels, and bath towels. I remember folding towels as the age of 4 for a family of 6...and it was a full time job, as my mom did not allow reuse of a bath towel in our house, so each day 6 new towels were dirty. I was soon promoted to bigger and better things to fold, but towels are easy enough for any pre-schooler.
- Dust (socks on hands). So you don't have to give them a can of spray furniture polish, but you can put old socks on their hands and let them dust the furniture. It can be a game until they figure out it is housework, but that usually takes a while. =)
- Wipe up Messes. The rule in our house is if our son makes a mess, he cleans it up. That includes kicking over the pet water dish, pouring pet food in the floor rather than in the bowl, spilling drink on the kitchen floor, or splashing water outside the tub during bath time.
- Carrying/Putting Away Groceries. They can certainly carry in the lightweight ones. Patrick gets a kick out of putting all of the pantry items into the pantry in bags. We even give him a bag or two of stuff on the lower shelves that he can put away. Since he's an organizational freak like mom, he likes to make sure they go where they should. Regardless of whether they get put in the right place, he feels like he is helping and that adds to that "big boy" feeling he loves.
- Weed Garden. If you don't try to cultivate anything exotic, you can get your kids to pull up weeds in the flower beds or around the trees and/or shrubs. Make sure they are either in a location where there are no flowers to confuse for weeds or that the flowers are in bloom and easily discernible from the weeds. This is time well spent with your little one outdoors.
Do you have your little ones do any other chores?
Photo credit: Three if by Bike