Monday, February 7, 2011

What Chores Can Kids Tackle?

Probably more than you'd think.  Beginning with toddlers, who incidentally are the PERFECT candidates for household chore help...what with their almost overflowing desire to please adults and "Eelp!" mom, our job as parents is to instill the importance of keeping the house in working order as well as responsibilities...all while fostering a sense of empowerment in our children.  Now, ALLOWING the help may take you longer.  It may slow you down.  But the boost of confidence it gives your munchkin to be a valuable part of the family (everyone, including a child, loves to feel needed), the look on his face when he gets it right, and not to mention the magical event of a self-cleaning room (kind of) will be well worth your efforts.

So how to go about doing it?

Here are some age appropriate chores too divy out to our little angels:

AGE 2-3:
-Help make their bed.
-Pick up toys (with supervision)
-Help sort laundry (big clothes and little clothes)
-Dusting (perhaps start by slipping Daddy's sock over his hand and teaching him the basics)
-Food prep (mixing batter, helping "measure" ingredients, frosting cookies, etc.)
-Setting the table (plastic, please!)
-Sweeping and vacuuming alongside mom
-Putting away groceries (learn about all sorts of shapes and colors in the process!)

NOTE FOR PARENTS:  At this age, sticker charts may not be necessary, but be sure to LAVISH on the praise! always, make sure your number one helper is out of the room before you start filling in spots he missed while dusting. :)

AGE 4-5:
-Getting dressed
-Making their bed with little parental help
-Matching socks in the laundry
-Hang up towels in the bathroom
-Clean the floors with a dry mop
-Carrying and putting away groceries

NOTE FOR PARENTS:  For our adorable little lovers of new adventures, the thrill of learning something new may be reason enough to make chores fun.  Physical rewards at this age are very motivating.  A sticker chart or, for some preschoolers, a small allowance may be just the ticket to make chores into something fun and give the kids a wonderful sense of accomplishment.

AGE 6-8: (In addition to the chores already laid out above)
-Make their beds by themselves
-Brush their teeth
-Choose their fashion-forward outfit for the day and get dressed by themselves.
-Be responsible for taking care of a pet
-Vacuum and mop (for reals :)
-Take out the trash
-Put away dishes from dishwasher
-Answer phones (with supervision)
-Fold (with supervision) and put away laundry
-Write thank you notes (love this one)

NOTE FOR PARENTS:  Kids, at this age, most likely won't have that budding excitement to "help" as they did before.  Instead, that is replaced with an overwhelming desire to be independent.  "MO-OM!  I can do it myself!"  At this point, make use of a chore chart to keep track of responsibilities.  The chart will also be a gentle reminder without you having to nag (as much).

BUT...and that's a big BUT...every child's different.  And millions of moms have been using millions of combinations of ingenuity, patience, and discipline to get this whole "chore" machine well-oiled and working throughout the years.  The most important thing is to DO IT!  Chores are invaluable for instilling confidence, a healthy attitude about work, and basically how to be a good adult in the future (which really is our ultimate goals as parents, right?)

So now, I'd like to hear from all you brilliant guys and gals...

What have you done with your own kids?  And what kinds of new ideas are you forging to make your current system work even better?  


On The Go Family said...

The Parenting Break-Through by Merrilee Boyack has some GREAT tips on this topic. It's one of my favorite parenting books.

One of the tips from her book that has always stuck with me is that a child usually needs help up to eight times after learning a new task. In other words, most of us probably give up too early when our kids don't seem to be mastering a new chore!

She has an awesome schedule for what kids can do at every age (starting with three up through age 18). And I just like her approach, which is to get kids excited about the new things they get to learn. I know it has worked with my brood!

Laura said...

The thing that works well for my three-year-old (when I've got it together myself :P) is consistency. We clean the playroom before lunch. We pick up toys before we get different toys out. When we get dressed, pajamas get put away. After a handful of reminders and helps, my daughter will most often just do it herself without my even asking--yay!

I also try to base her "chores" on what I've seen her do herself. If she can get the blankets in her doll's bed all straight, she can probably handle making her own bed with help. If she can get all the clothes out of the dresser, she can definitely put them all back in. :)

So I guess I would say my two big things are consistency and cleaning up after yourself, whatever that may look like.

The Fishes said...

I've done well with my oldest - he is an awesome helper! Can clean his room on his own, without reminding even :) But my little 2 year old is a different story - she always has her older brother to do it for her, some of my other mom friends are finding the same problems with the second child - I try to be consistent, but any suggestions here? I think I just need to be a better teacher sometimes - maybe I just expect her to pick cleaning up the same as her older brother, hmmmm

Tannie Datwyler said...

I love this post! So good. I'm with Laura, consistency has taught my 4 year old a lot. She knows that we clean up all toys before nap time and that we clear our plates after dinner and we put our PJs away after we get dressed.... etc. She is an AWESOME helper now and since I'm 8 months pregnant has been invaluable helping me clean up toys and she gets out the broom for me and moves chairs around the kitchen so I can sweep. I started early with her and it's paid off. Hopefully her 2 year old brother will follow in her footsteps!!

Delia said...

Great ideas. I think it's important to tailor them to your child. My son when he was a 4-5 year old was very capable at making his own bed without my help. Did I like how it ended up looking? Not really. He really likes to lay his blankets in a weird mosaic and his pillows were perpendicular to the bed. But...he was capable and now that he's 6 his bed making is starting to look more normal.

On the other hand. I don't think he would be able to do half the chores listed in the 6-8 list.

Other chores we like:

Switching the clothes from the washer to the dryer. I pull the clothes out {that way I can check the things that need to air dry} and plop them on the floor. Both my boys are able to pick them up and put them in the dryer. I admit it is a little too easy for my 6 year old, but it is perfect for my 2 year old.

Picking up the toys before I vacuum. My 6 year old is a pro at this. He clears the floor for me so I don't have to break my back doing it. This has another benefit of keeping my boys busy while I am doing my own chores. When my attention is else where, my kids tend to quarrel with each other. So if they are busy doing their chores while I am too, then they are too busy to fight...most of the time. :) And if they don't want to do it, then I "keep" whatever toy they don't pick up for a day. My 6 year old has lost his toys this way enough times that he knows I am not messing around and he does it without me even asking...I just have to turn on the vacuum and he knows.

My 6 year old also will vacuum his own room. I am picky so I don't let him do the living room or a place I want clean to my standards.

That is important for me personally. I am kind of a clean freak so in order to not want to step in and correct him thus crushing his budding self-esteem, I have to pick and choose. Sometimes I let the mirror go dirtier than I like and other times I just "don't go there." I instead choose something for him to do that I will be able to keep myself from fixing later. Like mop {when I pretty much do it every other day anyway so I don't stress about it too much}.

Oh and The Fishes comment on child #2 getting out of chores. Amen. Mine seems like the master at taking advantage of the situation when everyone seems to busy to make sure he is on task too. I need some advice in that area pronto.