As little hands grow big, they start to want to copy what they see the adults in the world doing. Their imaginations grow as they play pretend, dressing up, cooking, going on adventures to faraway lands, race car driving, and more. Sometimes, this play turns into a desire to begin participating in daily tasks, though sometimes it doesn’t. Either way, many families have found that age-appropriate chores have many long-term benefits for the child and the family.
Benefits to chores can include:
- instilling responsibility
- opportunities for family bonding
- increasing motor function
- creating life-long good habits
- helping children feel empowered by competing tasks themselves
So what is the best way to evaluate which chores are right for what age groups?
Here are a few thoughts on how to start the habits at any age, and how to modify them as each child stretches themselves to grow physically, mentally, and emotionally:
- Make toys clean-up their responsibility early. Even babies have a sense of ownership. When something is given to them, children recognize their blankets, stuffed animals, and even their family. Toys are something that kids take ownership of quickly. As they learn to walk and their motor skills improve, teaching them part of having toys is taking care of them and putting them away when playtime is done, and demonstrating this behavior can be a good way for them to feel good about putting things away.
- Everyone makes their own bed. As kids age, they will move into a bed. Like toys, beds are a space where kids usually find solace, and encouraging them to make it their space by taking responsibility for it can be a part of that. It is also a daily activity. Someone may only play with a set of blocks once a week, but the bed can be made every day.
- Let them see what chores they are interested in doing. Once a child is ready to try things beyond their own space, give them an opportunity to see where they would want to start helping the adults in the house. Maybe one child wants to help with dishes, while another would be better suited to helping fold laundry – depending on how that chore is done in your house. Let them explore!
- Make chores a way of being independent, and a way of doing for others. When someone feels ownership of something, it is a way for them to feel like they have a healthy level of independence. Explaining how helping with chores in the whole house helps other members of the family and making that a part of the routine is a good way to teach giving, cooperation, and that doing for others can feel good too!
- Pair fair expectations with feedback and positive encouragement. Even as adults doing a task perfectly is pretty much impossible, so be realistic about how your kids will perform their tasks. If they do something really poorly, give gentle, but constructive feedback and be willing to work alongside them for a while. Letting them hear their efforts are appreciated is also important, so household chores do not become emotional chores too.
Knowing the kids in your house will be key to beginning to develop chores as a habit in their life. Should they get an allowance? Should my energetic child really be near the kitchen? Every parent or guardian can create age-appropriate ways to help families become closer and have more time together