I had a really great childhood. I had 3 older brothers, a dad that worked and a mom that stayed home to care for us - your typical middle-class, 1960’s-1970’s family. While we had some tough situations from time to time, my life was pretty darn great.
We were all expected to make our beds each morning, to keep our rooms reasonably clean (which I failed at miserably), and to polish our shoes on Saturday night.
We each also had assigned chores. As typical for families of that time period, my brothers were given chores like feed the dogs, rake the leaves, and mow the grass,, while my assigned chore was to empty the dishwasher. I HATED emptying the dishwasher and always imagined that I would be much better at mowing the grass - at least then I could be outdoors!
As an adult, of course I can see the value in doing chores and I do believe that it is important for all children to contribute to the well-being of the family, but I no longer believe that we need to adhere to gender-specific chores. Chores help to create an independent nature in children, allowing them to become more self-confident in a variety of skills. Young children are often eager to help and feel important having their own important jobs to do.
What chores are actually appropriate for young children to do? The list below suggests some chores that are appropriate for even the very youngest of children (Yep! Even a 2-year-old can do some of these!)
5 Chores For Young Children
Laundry - Young children are usually excited to help match socks, fold washcloths and put away small stacks in their drawers (be sure to have specific spots of each item). They can also put their dirty laundry in a hamper at bath time.
Meals - Let children set the table with forks, spoons and napkins. After meals, they should carry their dishes to the sink. Using a small broom & dust pan like this one, they can also sweep up any crumbs left on the table or floor.
Bed-making - This is a personal preference, but I think that rooms automatically look neater when the bed is made. Teach them to pull the sheets up, straightening wrinkles and to pull up the cover. Most kids enjoy arranging the pillows or stuffed animals on top.
Pets - Even very young children can help fill the food and water bowls for pets. Plan to have them do it at the same time every day. They will enjoy the responsibility and your pet will look forward to their friend helping them.
Trash - Many children are fascinated by trash trucks, so this one can be fun for them. Young children can empty the small trash cans around the house or add recyclable objects to the correct bins, while older kids can take the receptacles to the street and bring them back in.
Our house is clean enough to be healthy, and dirty enough to be happy.
Remember that children are not born knowing how to do these chores and we must first show them how to complete them while keeping in mind reasonable expectations for their age. They may require some assistance to complete some tasks, while they may be totally independent in others.
Chores are an important part of being a family and even very young children can help out. As a family, you can decide which chores are the most important and which they would like to begin with. Allowing them to participate in the process will help them to have ownership over the chore itself. You might even want to try a sticker chart to serve as a reminder and mark their progress.
Good luck and don't forget to rotate the chore list from time to time so that everyone gets a chance at each one!
Until next time!