Chores are a staple of childhood. Doing chores helps children learn responsibility and feel like a contributing member of the family. Chores also teach basic life skills and help prepare children to take care of themselves when they are adults. But at what age is it reasonable to expect children to complete chores? Can young children do chores? Or should chores be something only older children are expected to do?
In my experience, young children, ages 1 to 4, want to do chores. They want to help with everything and are willing to help with anything. Being allowed to help Mommy with daily chores helps them feel like they are big and an important part of the family. Also, having young children help with chores from an early age creates a habit and an expectation that chores are done on a daily basis—“It’s just what our family does.”
What chores are appropriate for these young children to do? Well, honestly, there aren’t many chores a one year old can do alone. All chores assigned to a one year old are “help Mommy” chores. This means that Mommy works right alongside the child, encouraging the child to work, but doing the majority of the work. Mommy does about 80 percent of the chore, while the one year old does the other 20 percent. In time, these ratios shift, until ultimately the child is doing all the work for that chore. It’s a learning process that can take months to years, depending on the difficulty of the chore being done.
Some chores my one year old does around the house include taking the laundry out of the dryer, picking up her toys, taking things to other places, and setting the table (she usually hands the other children the place settings – and yes, we dine in style on plastic ware.) Most of these chores are completed with the help of Mommy, or a sibling – but the trick is to let the child do as much of the chore as possible.
Chores are a progression in our home. These simple chores that the one year old helps with are usually mastered by the time the child is 2 or 2 ½ years old. We also add other simple chores when the child becomes two. These chores include taking diapers, or other trash, to the trash can, picking up dirty clothes and placing them in the hamper, picking up toys and shoes, and getting dressed. Some of these chores still need a helper for the 2 year old to complete. As the child grows older, the child will be capable of doing more and more of the chore.
Three year olds are capable of all the other lists with greater independence, and can help with other household chores. Some of the chores our three year old helps with include: rinsing the dishes, taking out the trash, picking up the front room, and making her bed. These chores require a helper for my three year old to complete, but again, she’s learning the skills so that later she’ll be able to do the chores independently.
Chores are part of life in our family. If I didn’t have the help, the housework would become overwhelming. Do you give your children chores to do? Let me know what works in your home in the comments below.