I’m sure we can all agree on the importance of teaching our children the life skills they will need to be fully functioning adults. This may seem to be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be because you can teach these essential life skills with household chores for kids.
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Why Should We Have Chores for Kids?
I will readily admit—I’m a bit of a high-strung mom. I like things done a certain way and would rather do everything myself instead of risking someone else doing it the ‘wrong’ way.
This annoying personality trait has definitely waned over my years of motherhood.
My oldest son is 25 years old, my second boy is 15, and the twins just turned 6. By the time the twins came along, I was A LOT more laid back and more than willing to let others help.
But, one of the many parenting mistakes I made with my first-born was not teaching and expecting him to be age-appropriately-independent.
I thought that being a good mommy meant doing everything for him and focusing on his complete and total happiness at all times and in all circumstances.
Let me just say that this well-intentioned parenting plan did not serve him well and caused so many struggles for his life.
If you think I’m being dramatic, take a look at this Harvard study.
My over-parenting and not expecting him to have chores and responsibilities as a child, has resulted in him now having to learn these basic life skills in a sober living house—1,500 miles away.
When we don’t expect our kids to have household responsibilities, we are doing them a HUGE disservice that will negatively impact their future.
Oh how I wish I would have had the parenting knowledge and wisdom that author Julie Lythcott-Haims shares in her book–How to Raise an Adult.
This should be required reading for every single parent!
At What Age Can Children Be Expected to Clean?
When thinking about chores for kids, chronological age isn’t as important as the child’s level of development.
Many children can begin completing basic cleaning tasks when they are as young as one!
In fact, you will probably catch your little tot imitating you with cleaning tasks. He will watch you wipe a spot from the floor with a towel and will want to do the same.
Toddlers think it’s great fun to be mommy’s helper!
But, many kiddos aren’t ready for cleaning tasks this early.
Parents must take into consideration each child’s unique development and capabilities.
My twin boys are a perfect example of the discrepancy that can occur between age and the level of development.
Beckem was born with an extremely rare disorder called KAT6A that was diagnosed just after his first birthday.
His first year of life was challenging. He had many lengthy hospital stays, surgeries, invasive tests, feeding intolerance…it was rough.
All of these struggles combined with his disorder, delayed his development in almost every area.
Adler, on the other hand, was the picture of health and his development was advanced in almost every area.
At age 2, Adler was capable of folding a washcloth, but Beckem lacked the motor planning to complete such a task. But, this didn’t mean that Adler was the only one to have all the housework fun!
When it was time to fold washcloths, Adler might fold 5 or 6 independently and Beckem might fold 2 with my help.
This differentiation ensures that Beckem is practicing age appropriate life skills that are modified in a way that he will be successful.
What Do Kids Learn When Doing Chores?
There are so many things to be learned and gained when kids help with household tasks—besides simply lessening mom’s workload.
Having your children take responsibility for chores at home develops skills that will benefit them from now on.
At the most basic level children are gaining:
- an understanding of words and language
- fine motor strengthening
- development of gross motor skills
- motor planning development
- enhances sensory development
- builds attention and concentration
- balance and coordination
- sorting and categorizing
- understanding of cause and effect
RELATED: Teaching a Child to Share
What are the Other Benefits of Chores for Kids?
- sense of pride and accomplishment
- functional skills (life skills) needed to live independently one day
- self discipline
- ability to follow directions
- strong work ethic
- problem solving skills
- sense of responsibility and being a team player
- time management and self control
- healthy sense of obligation and connectedness to parents and the family
- development of social skills
But I Don’t Have All Day to Wait For My Toddler to Sweep!
I hear ya. This was my biggest struggle, especially when I was still working. After a long day of teaching, I wanted to toss those clothes from the washer to the dryer as fast as possible.
We must have realistic expectations when teaching our very young kids how to do chores. We should only focus on teaching the basic steps of very simple cleaning tasks.
What cleaning tasks can my toddler realistically help with?
- dishes/clean up after meals
- cleaning windows
- put away toys
- clean floors
- care for personal items
- straighten bed
WORD OF CAUTION: Please make certain children are using non toxic cleaning supplies.
This is the Non Toxic Cleaner that I have been using for almost a year and highly recommend.
How in the Sam Hill can a Toddler do Laundry!?
I’m so glad you asked! 🙂
Even very young toddlers can begin to help with many of the laundry chores.
And you can simplify your laundry routine with these laundry tips to make this dreaded task more manageable with little ones helping.
I don’t let toddlers help sort or handle the laundry when it is dirty. They don’t get to help until after the wash cycle.
I take the clothes out of the washing machine and place them into a laundry basket and the helper puts the clothes into the dryer and closes the door.
This seemingly simple laundry activity is packed with beneficial learning far beyond just learning how to do chores for kids.
Here’s how doing the laundry might go down with an 18 month old:
“Time to get the clothes out of the washer! The clothes were dirty so it was time to clean them. The washing machine cleans our clothes for us!”
“The lid is closed….let’s open the lid.”
You can hold your child so he can see the lid if you have a top loading washing machine or let him stand on a small stool. I would also sign many of the words in bold as I say them…especially when a child has delayed development.
“The lid is open….can you say open?—ooh…look inside. Do you see all the clean clothes?
“Okay, time to get the clothes out of the washer so we can put them in the dryer.”
Now hand your child an article of clothing.
“Here’s Beckem’s blankie….feel it? It’s wet….feel the wet blankie? Put the blankie in the dryer. The dryer will get hot and make the blankie dry. Then it won’t be wet anymore! We wouldn’t want to go to bed with a wet blanket would we?….no way! We want our blanket to be dry!”
Now as he is feeling of the blanket and putting it into the dryer, I will put the rest of the clothes into a laundry basket so he can put them in the dryer.
“Good job putting the blanket in the dryer! Now, put more clothes in the dryer…can you put a sock in? Now find a red shirt to put in. Okay…this one’s tricky….can you find something you wear to sleep in and put it in the dryer? Great job! You put shark jammies in the dryer!”
Chores for Kids That are Age Appropriate
As you can see from the example above, you can modify just about any household task so you are able to include even very young children.
While teaching essential life skills to your very young child, you can also focus on other concepts and skills he is ready to learn.
Then you can adjust the complexity of the task as your child is ready.
The twins just turned 6 years old and they not only put their clothes into the dryer, they put shirts and pants on hangers and put them away as well as put away all of their pajamas, socks, undies, etc.
Gavin is 15 and he does all of his own laundry from start to finish including his bedding and has been for several years.
But, Gavin didn’t wake up on his 13th birthday and decide to start doing his laundry. He has been taking part in the household responsibilities since he was a toddler. You definitely want to start chores with kids as early as possible.
My Kids are Past Preschool Age—Is it Too Late to Start?
It’s not too late, but it’s not going to be easy. This book gives practical parenting advice and realistic strategies you can immediately begin using if you’ve been too permissive with your children.
How do you manage chores for kids in your home? I’d love to hear in the comments below!
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