By Lauren McClain
Children want to be involved in our work. Young children crave that togetherness, being part of something seemingly big, and the feeling of accomplishment.
You can capitalize on these needs to teach the value and love of work as well as get things done around the house.
All people need real responsibilities to build a healthy ego. Even children know when the work they are doing is not authentic or meaningful. This goes for school work as well as housework, but today we’re thinking about chores.
Children need chores from a young age
The article in Pathways 58 from Laura Grace Weldon encourages us to start toddlers on chores as soon as they express interest. If they start early, she says, they’re more likely to have big successes in life such as “educational completion, meeting career goals, and maintaining good relationships with family and friends.” Even IQ is positively affected by early responsibilities.
Children who do chores from their first desire and ability to do so will value work and the delayed gratification it provides.
Starting early also means they will see responsibility and capability as part of their life and being.
It may be more work for you
You should know that asking children under about age 7 to help around the house may be more a chore for you than it is a help. If you find this to be the case, do chores together or look at what you’re asking them to do.
I try to pick chores they can handle that will actually help me, but I also value the time working together. If it is more work for you, it may still be worth it.
Do them together
Almost all work goes off easier and more pleasantly when done with someone. It may be that the work gets done faster if you do it all together and then move to the next thing. It feels best when everyone is working, especially on the same task.
We also sometimes make chore partners. The 7 and 3 year old are responsible for making sock pairs together.
Work is part of life, not a set of random isolated tasks
I love that Weldon says work should just be part of how the family operates. It’s not something we have to do, it’s just a way of living. Houses need keeping up, food needs to be made, clothes and toilets cleaned, wood stacked, weeds pulled, and machines fixed. It’s just a cycle of what needs to be done today.
Purposeful tasks are a good place to start
When asking my kids to do something or help with something, I try to explain why. They’re much more likely to clean up the playroom if I say “a one year old is coming over and we need to make sure she doesn’t trip or keep finding things to put in her mouth.”
Because most kids don’t see a good reason to clean their rooms, Weldon uses the firefighter rule for her kids’ bedrooms: “Could the fire department get around in here without increased danger?”
The three year old chore in our house is to put a new garbage bag in the can when we take out the trash. “We need the new bag! Oh no! I have nowhere to put this trash! Thanks you for your help! That’s much better.” Needful work is easiest to sell and get done in a timely manner.
Doing chores builds skills
Even if we have the budget to hire someone to mow the lawn, fix the toilet, or paint the living room, we try not to because we want to know how to do those things. People who were born into wealth tend to lack a lot of cool (and even basic) know-how because they were never involved in doing those things.
When your five year old helps do laundry, he learns how to do laundry. When your 10 year old helps build a shed, she learns myriad construction skills.
It starts as a toddler when we’re still learning how to use our bodies to interact with the world
Chores help little kids develop those motor skills and what they’re capable of.
Chores Ideas for 2 year olds:
Put toys in a bin
Dirty clothes in hamper
Help move laundry from washer to dryer
Bring or hold things for a job
Chore Ideas For 3 and 4 year-olds:
Put clean silverware away
Put new trash bag in the can
Hold the dustpan
Coil up the vacuum cord
Chore Ideas for 5 and 6 year olds:
Clear the table
Get the mail
Put clean laundry away
Empty small trashcans
Lauren is a childbirth educator (Birth Boot Camp) and the author of the Breech Baby Handbook. She owns Better Birth Graphics, a shop full of practical, intuitive birth media for professionals. Her work has been published in Mothering, Holistic Parenting Magazine, Birth Issues, True Birth, Mama Birth, and elsewhere. She lives in Maryland with her family of five.