Is there a good age to start childhood chores?
Frustration tolerance, perseverance and self-discipline are apparently not just wired into us at birth, unfortunately. These are things that we all have to actually learn, with most child experts advising that the younger you start instilling a “work ethic” in your little human, the better! For most of us, I think that it is natural that for at least the first year or so of our child’s life we do most things, if not all, for our baby as they are really unable to do anything for themselves when they first enter our lives.
But slowly we start to realise that our helpless little human suddenly wants to feed himself. He wants to try to put on his own little T-shirt or his shoes. At whatever age these attempts at independence occur, one should then allow our child to make these attempts with a little encouragement (and subtle hel p!) and also start making games out of life’s simple little “ chores”.In so doing we will encourage our little one’s independence as well as teaching him a “work ethic”.
So how do we go about this? From around one and a half or two years old you can start making a game of packing away the toys…set a timer and see who can go the fastest – you or your child! (you will probably have to cheat and go a bit slower than normal at first!!). Give lots of praise when the mission is accomplished! (don’t always let your child win, either!). A 2 year old can be asked to find his shoes and socks (and he will probably attempt to put them on….very frustrating if you happen to be in a hurry, but bite your tongue and give minimum help if this does happen! He needs to learn! You can also make a game of placing his dirty clothes in the wash basket and he could try to use a dustpan and brush to clean up some crumbs, although this might not be so successful at first.
The reward will come by the time your toddler is 3 years old as by this age they can pack away all their toys on their own, usually in some sort of order, they can also fold and place clothes away correctly, most can go to the loo on their own (some are stubborn though and much patience is needed!), they can start using utensils correctly and they can more or less dress themselves (maybe not in the outfit you would have chosen for the day, though!!).
By 4 years of age your child can now take on “big people’s tasks” such as setting the table, clearing the table and washing basic items at the sink (you may need to get them a small step to stand on for this!). They can dress themselves properly, pour a drink and make a basic sandwich. At this age you can show them how to make their own bed.
At 5 years old they can do all of the above much better and more efficiently and by 6 to 8 years of age they can assist in cutting up vegetables or salad (under a watchful eye, of course!) and they seem to love helping in the kitchen!! They can clean and polish, sweep or vacuum and they can pack away outdoor items.
Whilst we think of these things as chores, little children love to help. They love to do and learn new things and be thought of as being “big enough” to help. All of these “chores” serve a valuable lesson for your child. Learning these things when they are little enables them to carry them on as a normal function when they are older.
So stop doing everything for your little one and allow them to achieve their independence – rather sooner than later. If you make a game of most of the “chores” then they won’t be regarded as chores to be dreaded by all concerned. Let them try to do certain things, when they express the desire to try. Yes, it does mean more mess on their clothes and around their chair and on the table when they try to feed themselves and their co-ordination isn’t all that great yet.
Every child is different and every parent’s idea of when to ask their children to do “chores” differs. I do think it is important not to expect too much, too soon – if a child of one year old is trying to help put away his toys (but not too successfully!), at least appreciate that he is trying and encourage him to put his toys in the right place by gentle guidance and a big round of applause when he succeeds! As your child grows and his co-ordination improves so he will be able to manage different little chores, disguised as games and will be proud of his accomplishments.
From the age of whenever your child shows a willingness to help, that is when you start making games at the various chores you wish your little one to learn! It could be as early as a year old in exceptional cases, but most toddlers are ready by the time they are 2 years old. And in the end, when your child is grown, you will have taught him how to deal with all sorts of tasks and to do so cheerfully!
Till next week – have a very merry Christmas and be safe!