Chores are an integral part of your child's development. They help him learn to take care of himself and gain a sense of duty. As he grows, household tasks help him practice responsibility and are essential for handling future school assignments. So don't hesitate to get him busy! Think of his jobs in three ways: personal chores are tasks he should do so he can learn to take care of himself, household chores are duties he should take on as a functioning member of the family, and chores to do together are activities that help him learn a skill while keeping you company. Here’s an age-by-age guide:
- Personal chores: Choose clothes; get dressed; put toys away; stack or shelve books
- Household chores: Feed the family pet; be a "gofer": fetch (safe, lightweight) items from another room
- Chores to do together: Dust; wipe countertops and tables; set the table; cook (for example, she can dump ingredients into a bowl)
Ages 4 to 5
- Personal chores: Everything a younger child can do, plus: put worn clothing in the laundry hamper; put clean clothes away in drawers; make the bed
- Household chores: Bring in the mail/newspaper; fix a bowl of cereal; clear the table; unload utensils (except knives) from the dishwasher; sweep the floor with a child-sized broom; empty small garbage cans
- Chores to do together: Gardening; water plants; separate recyclables; sort laundry
Making Chores Less of a Chore
Hiring a little helper is the first step. Try these ideas for making household chores fun for both of you:
Turn on the music. When you clean, play upbeat music — loudly! Hand your child a feather duster while you clean the windows. Say, "Let's see if you can finish dusting the coffee table by the end of this song." Take dancing breaks every now and then.
Make it a contest. Every morning, see who can get the newspaper first. After a few mornings, let your child "win" and tell him, "You're so quick, I want you to be in charge of getting the newspaper every day."
Play the part. Before the first time you teach your child how to clear the table, take him to a restaurant and point out the waiters. Then at your next meal at home, show him how he can be his own waiter by clearing his plate and taking it to the sink.
- Reward him once in a while. When your child does a good job with a new chore, let him know that you appreciate his help. If he has neatly organized his toys after playing with them every day for an entire week, treat him to a new small toy.