Are you feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work it takes to keep your house clean? It’s time to put your kid’s to work. Most experts agree that chores are good for children and they can really help lighten the load. My daughter is 5-years-old and I feel like just as I get one room clean I walk to the one she’s in and it’s now a disaster. It is time for her to help.
Author Jim Fay explains that chores are essential for children. In addition to our needs for physical and emotional safety, love and affection, and healthy amounts of control, he says, we also all need to be needed. That’s because we’re pack animals by nature.
“If your child never has to raise a finger, that basic need has been stolen away,” says Fay, co-founder of the parenting philosophy found at the web site loveandlogic.com. “Children need to feel as though they’re a cog in the wheel. But they can’t feel that way if they don’t have chores and make contributions to the family.”
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As an only child with many chores to regularly complete I know had a better understanding of what it took to run a house than some of my friends that had to do less. Though I didn’t appreciate it at the time it did establish helpful habits and a good attitude about work in me (especially when I also saw my parents doing their chores). This prepared me for the real world, taking pride in doing a good job and eased my transition to adulthood.
I’m all for my daughter contributing and preparing her for her future. I’ve been experimenting with what she can do so I recently tried having her wash dishes. Yes, she is young and it takes patience to watch what she’s doing but since I don’t have a dishwasher (How did that happen?) I will take what I can get. It is a slow process. Sometimes she loves to “help mommy” and other times she’d rather not. Sure, she uses too much water (plus gets it everywhere) and the dishes aren’t as clean as they could be but you’ve got to start somewhere. I stay in the kitchen wiping down countertops and then dry the dishes as she washes. Family fun! That way I can immediately see her process and show her when there is food that wasn’t quite washed off on dishes, give her tips AND tell her what a great job she’s doing.
Tip: Don’t rewash them yourself especially if your child is present as it can make them feel they didn’t do a good job and can demotivate them. Older kids may realize they can get out of doing the chore if they do a bad job.
At her age some of the dishes are a little unwieldy. She has to wash the outside of glasses by putting her fist inside then washes the inside while it sits on bottom of the sink. You may choose to only have your preschooler wash plastic dishes or metal pans instead of entrusting them with everything. It’s up to you. Get them started by having them put away some of the dishes or load up the dishwasher. Clearing the dinner table is something that is easy for almost any child.
Make sure the chore is something your child can handle but don’t underestimate them. If they can figure out a complicated video game they can probably handle a task that is one, two or more steps.
- Provide a wide berth with deadlines. You give them a framework and they can choose when it works best for them with that timeframe.
- Be specific with instructions. Example: ‘Put your clothes in the closet, books on the shelf, dishes in the kitchen, and toys in the toy box.’
- Ease into chores for children. First, demonstrate step-by-step. Next, let your child help, then supervise them. Then it’s up to them.
- Offer periodic praise.
- Go easy with reminders. You may want to have a chore board or use the “when/then” technique, such as, “When the pets are fed, then you may have your dinner.”
And, as your children grow up and get busy, don’t let them off the hook, says Fay. He says to tell them, “I hope you get so quick with your chores that they don’t interfere with everything else.”
Here is a list I found that can be helpful in dividing up chores for kids of any age.
- Put toys away.
- Fill pet’s food dish.
- Put clothes in hamper.
- Wipe up spills.
- Pile books and magazines.
Chores for children ages 4 to 5
Any of the above chores, plus:
- Make own bed.
- Empty wastebaskets
- Bring in mail or newspaper.
- Clear table.
- Pull weeds.
- Use hand-held vacuum to pick up crumbs.
- Water flowers.
- Unload utensils from dishwasher.
- Wash plastic dishes at sink.
- Fix bowl of cereal.
- Sort laundry.
- Sweep floors.
- Set and clear table.
- Help make and pack lunch.
- Weed and rake leaves.
- Keep bedroom tidy.
- Pour own drinks.
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