Giving young children chores helps them understand that they are not just visitors in their homes. Children quickly grasp that they are contributing members of the family and that their contributions matter.
A few key concepts to keep in mind when determining what chores to ask your children to do:
1. Developmentally Appropriate. Don’t ask your children to run before they can walk. Start with an easy task and build upon it. A two-year-old is more than capable of helping to put dirty clothes into the washing machine and pressing the start button. A six-year-old could collect the dirty clothes basket, carry the basket to the laundry room, and load and start the washing machine without assistance. An eight-year-old could be asked to unload the washing machine and place the clothes in the dryer. A ten-year-old could be responsible for the entire process to include folding and putting away the clean clothes.
2. Real and Purposeful. Even very young children quickly understand if their contribution is meaningful. If their chore is designed to just keep them busy it will become drudgery and they will learn to resent contributing to household tasks.
3. Appropriately Sized Tools and Easy Access. To ensure success you will need to make sure that your child has the right tools that are appropriately sized. Asking a two-year-old to sweep up a mess with an adult sized broom would be like asking a plumber to fix your leaking faucet with a hammer. Provide appropriately sized tools and demonstrate how to use them. Demonstrating the entire task from start to finish, to include showing where the tools are kept is essential for success and necessary when setting expectations.
Chores can be a wonderful way to help children develop and strengthen essential lifelong skills like self-discipline, planning/prioritizing, working memory, organization, and independence.