Chores were something I was expected to do as a child, I remember feeling proud when I was old enough to stand on a chair to do the washing up, being allowed to walk the dog by myself and then as we got older swapping scheduled chores with my sisters, learning the important skill of negotiation as well.
Part of the job we have as parents is to create self-sufficient humans and to do that I think we have to start them young so that they know firstly how to look after their things and secondly how to live in a shared space. Starting chores at an early age, around 3-4 years old, can provide academic, emotional and professional benefits. Chores are so satisfying once they’re done and if it’s a team effort that feeling multiplies so I think it’s a really good idea to set chores for children.
Recently we entered new territory with Annie, she’s started to enjoy tidying up. This is pretty much life-changing and of course I’ve been embracing it to the fullest. Don’t get me wrong, Evan’s still behind her trashing the place but having one child helping out is amazing. She loves showing how grown up she is and will show Stu everything she’s done when he gets home from work. Here’s what chores she’s been doing (aged 4, almost 5):
Tidying toys away
This is something we’ve tried to instil in Annie since an early age, as soon as she started understanding what we meant really, she’d have to help tidy something away before getting something new out. Evan is almost 2 and doesn’t do this yet but Annie will, so long as she’s reminded. Like I said, she’s actually enjoying it at the moment but it’s still something we have to do together to make sure everything goes back in the right places.
The feather duster is perfect for a 4 year old, it’s something she can do on her own and it’s something she can use to tickle anyone she passes, turning it into a game.
Cleaning the windows, kitchen cupboards and worktops
We were recently sent some Shadazzle by Ideal World which is perfect to use with children because it’s made from natural ingredients. It’s really easy to use, you just sponge it all on and then wash it off, drying with a cloth afterwards. Annie and I cleaned the whole kitchen with it – windows, worktops, cupboards and the floor and I was really pleased with it, it has a bit of a lemon scent so the whole place smells beautiful. It was something nice and productive to do on a rainy day while Evan naps and it was lovely to see how proud she was of herself, I’m hoping it’s something she’ll help me out with regularly now!
Keeping her bedroom tidy
This is a work-in-progress, she keeps her lego in her room and will play happily by herself but when it’s time to put it all away she’d rather close the door and come downstairs. When I notice that it’s a mess she will clear it up so long as I help, trying to get her to do it by herself would take too long and would mean I’d have to be more strict than I want to be. I’d rather show her that it’s nice to be helpful than make her do it alone. Her dollshouse is also in her bedroom and she loves to keep that tody – organising it is one of her favourite things to do.
Watering the plants and picking flowers
Not exactly a chore but there’s something lovely about having fresh flowers in a clean house, she’ll water the plants inside and out and we’ll pick flowers from the garden together to put in the house. We grow sweetpeas every year so that there’s something all summer long for her to pick.
Walking the dog
I’ve mentioned before how much she loves Bob and it’s good to be in the routine of walking a dog, although she only takes the dog lead in quiet areas because she wouldn’t yet be strong enough to stop him pulling if he decided to chase a cat or something. This is something she can’t wait to do by herself but it’ll be a few years yet before she can walk him on her own!
She’s not quite strong enough for the real hoover yet but we do it together (if I’ve got time!) or she will use the toy Dyson and copy what I’m doing. Evan likes doing this too but when he’s about I’m still using my cleaning cheats, such as not bothering to tidy up the living room until he’s in bed!
Putting things in the bin
Annie’s been doing this for a while – it’s probably the first ‘chore’ she ever did, putting a yoghurt pot in the bin and a spoon in the sink (yes we lost a lot of spoons this way!) – but I wanted to mention it here because this is what Evan’s just started doing. He got very emotional earlier when I wouldn’t let him take his half-eaten apple back out of the bin, so be prepared for toddler tantrums when you start encouraging this!
Let me know in the comments what chores your little ones are doing.