My children are currently seven, five and three. I always knew I wanted to raise well-mannered children, and to teach my kids good habits about chores. I had memories of chores I did as a kid: helping cook dinner, yard work, shoveling, loading and unloading the dishwasher, and other similar jobs. But when I had my own kids, I was stumped. How do I transition over fifteen years from the newborn who can't even hold his head up to the teenager who contributes around the house?
What I found is that from a very young age, you can start to teach your kids about chores and helping around the house. As an added bonus, when your kids are young, chores are still fun for them! So, what kinds of chores can your kids do, and at what age?
1. Clean up after themselves (2+)
It's a bit much to expect your kids to do this unprompted, but children as young as 2 can start picking up and putting away their own toys. What worked well for me was making the decision that if I had to put the toys away on my own, the kids would lose the toys for a while. This may seem harsh (there were days when I hauled massive boxes of toys down to the basement), but it's really done for the kids, not for the parents. By taking away the toys that are hardest to pick up (puzzles, games with lots of pieces, blocks), you make it a lot easier for them to pick up the next day. Once you find a level they can handle, you can start gradually re-introducing toys. My three year old can now clean up his train tracks, blocks, and puzzles with minimal adult support.
2. Setting/Clearing the table (5+)
By the time kids are 5 or so, they can understand the rules of table settings. While my kids can't reach the cabinets to get the plates down, they can distribute the dishes and glasses, get out forks, spoons, and butter knives, and put them around the table. Might they occasionally break a plate or glass? Sure. But they'll learn to be more careful. They can begin clearing their dishes even earlier, at 2 or 3.
3. Collecting mail/taking out trash (5+)
My kids constantly want to go outside. Why not turn it to good use? I'll ask my son or daughter to run to the end of the driveway to get the mail or to carry out a trash bag and put it in out big outdoor can. It's a thrill for them, and it saves me a trip outside.
4. Laundry (7+)
Kids as young as seven can be responsible for their own laundry. As soon as they're able to carry their laundry basket to the washer/dryer and reach the bottom and back of both, they can handle their own laundry, and they will probably be incredibly proud of their accomplishment. If you wait until they're older, it will seem much more of an annoyance, and less exciting for them. Be warned: your kid may end up doing laundry every day for a while, until the novelty wears off.
These are just a few ideas, but there are dozens more to consider. Here are several that my kids do regularly:
5. Mixing salads for dinner
6. Feeding pets
7. Making beds
8. Wiping down the sink after toothbrushing
9. Dusting (get a good feather duster, and they'll love it!)
10. Raking/Shoveling (in small doses)
What do your kids do?