When we were growing up, my siblings and I had a number of chores that we were responsible for. Some of them were mandatory (cleaning our rooms, clearing dishes etc…) and others were rewarded with pocket money (washing the car) and as we grew older the chores changed appropriately. Now I have to admit that a lot of the time we didn’t particularly like doing our chores (especially when we were teenagers) however despite this I strongly believe that having chores when we were younger contributed positively to who we are today.
Chores have been shown to teach children a sense of responsibility and as a result of doing their chores (and doing a good job) leads to a higher self-esteem. I have also come across many articles both online and in print that emphasise how doing chores helps children process and deal with delay gratification, which as you can imagine, is hugely beneficial as they grow older.
Tidy up time.
So, with this knowledge in mind and remembering my own childhood I decided to start introducing my little ones to chores. Now, they are only 2 and 4 so I only wanted to start with a couple small tasks (they aren’t child labour after all) and so off I went to Pinterest to have a look for a starting point.
I found a number of different charts with lists of chore ideas for the various ages and while I didn’t agree with all of the items I decided to select the following for each of my children:
• Put toys away
• Get undressed before bath time
• Clean spills
• Put dirty clothes in the laundry basket
• Help put clothes in the washing machine
• All of the above chores plus
• Put dirty dishes in the dishwasher
• Set table
• Use hand vacuum to clean up small messes (crumbs etc…)
• Help sort socks, underwear etc…
I was a bit apprehensive at first and I expected all sorts of resistance from the little ones however I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly and easily they took to doing them. My 2 year old loves cleaning up spills (yes, most of the time I have to go and clean up her clean up as there is a lot of smearing) and doing the laundry has become a fun weekly routine for us (she still hasn’t grasped colour separation though – yet)! My 4 year old thinks setting the table is great fun (although it does take a bit longer than usual) and I have to race her for the hand vacuum when cookie or muffin crumbs end up all over the couch (she does a pretty good job).
Making the bed.
I know that the sense of responsibility and learning to deal with the frustration of delay gratification will come with time, one of the almost instant results that I noticed (apart from slightly less work for me) was a sense of pride in my 4 year old. It was quite amazing to watch her run and tell her dad that she set the table for breakfast and decided where everyone would sit, she was so happy and it made her proud to think of herself contributing to the family in a meaningful way. I was beaming!
Loading the washing machine.
Now, getting the children to do their chores hasn’t been plain sailing, believe me and while vacuuming and laundry are a hit, tidying toys is not. I have often found myself embracing bribery, a naughty step and shouting a lot to get this one done, argh! I have ditched all of those now though in favour of the good old start chart. We used the star chart with our eldest while potty training her and found it hugely successful and so I thought that if it worked once before then hopefully it would work again.
The results, it does with my eldest and she loves filling up her squares with stars (or whatever other stickers she manages to con me into buying) however it is taking a bit longer with my younger daughter. This is as expected though as she is only 2 however we will keep working on it.
All in all though I have found this to be a very worthwhile experience and I have enjoyed watching my little ones enjoy taking on the responsibility of their chores and how proud they are when they get a kiss and some encouragement (who doesn’t love a hug and a high 5) for a job well done. I think that it also paves the way for introducing things like pocket money later on.
If you want some ideas on chores for children Pinterest is a great place to start. Here are my search results. They contain a mix of printable charts, age-appropriate tasks and ways to make chores fun.