Thursday, November 1

little helping hands

Psychological studies tell us that both children and adults thrive - gain confidence and a sense of worthiness - when they do tasks that challenge them but also are achievable.
Every time we do something for our child that they can manage (enough) on their own, we're taking from them that opportunity.

From a very early age, household tasks can be a place where children stretch themselves. As well as; bond with you, strengthen their sense of home and belonging, learn team work, develop responsibility, learn commitment, build skills, feel a sense of accomplishment, discover the value of cleanliness and a clutter-free environment, possibly preserve a future marriage, learning that work is a natural part of life, learn delayed gratification, develop gross-motor skills, increase their chance of 'success' as young adults....

Lovely Jen asked for some ideas on age-appropriate chores for children.
These are loose guides only.

Up to two years
  • Carry small objects to be tidied away by you, or by them with your guidance
  • Wipe, dust
  • Carry some laundry to and from basket and into machine
  • Sweep
  • Stir batter
  • Fluff cushions 
  • Hand you pegs

Three-Four years
  • Favourite thing around this age for mine was spray bottles.
    If you use chemical-free cleaning products this is a non-issue for little ones.
    Clean windows, mirrors, or kitchen worktops - they spray, you wipe.
  • Set the table
    Start with napkins and other unbreakables, then spoons, then forks/knives, lastly glasses.
    Put their own things in a reachable area, and they can reach their own table setting at least
  • Take their dirty dish/bowl to kitchen
  • Water garden
  • Weed
  • Filling dishwasher
  • Emptying dishwasher (spoons, small bowls)
  • Sort laundry into colours and whites
  • Put their dirty clothes in hamper/basket
  • Wash-up unbreakables
  • Putting away groceries
  • Putting books away
  • Crack eggs into batter
  • Knead bread 
  • Prepare veg (scrub potatoes)
  • Chop vegetables (chunks)
  • Throw veg in pot (not boiling!)
  • Remove dirty towels from bathroom 
  • Wipe up their own spills
  • Fill the pet's bowls
  • Refill soap dispensers with guidance
  • Making side-by-side shopping lists (they draw the pics)

Five-Seven years
  • Check mailbox
  • Bring in newspaper
  • Water house plants
  • Plant bulbs, seeds
  • Draw blinds/curtains
  • Help make beds (great chance for games with sheets!)
  • Tidy inside car
  • Change hand towels in bathroom
  • Fold laundry
  • Vacuum
  • Rake leaves
  • Help wash car
  • Pick groceries off shelves, choose fruit/veg
  • Peel vegetables
  • Help with simple meals
  • Wash-up a larger amount
  • Dry dishes
  • Clean pets' bowls
  • Take out trash/rubbish
  • Sort out recycling 
  • Peg their own washing up
  • Help mop floors(with rags they can start earlier)

Some points to consider.

Don't get them helping if you're feeling rushed, they'll sense your impatience. Accept that their 'helping' will make chores take longer.

Forget perfection
It's not about getting things done to our standard, it's about being involved together, and as they become older, doing it so that they feel they're dong it well enough.

If I wouldn't say to an adult who helped me tidy up - 'Good boy! What a brilliant job you did putting books away. You're amazing!', then I wouldn't say it to a child. I don't even say thankyou, unless it was a specific request I asked of her, like throwing something in the bin (trashcan) for me, or if she did something off her own volition. Nobody thanks me for vacuuming, and I don't thank the husband for mowing the lawn. We're simply taking care of our home together. I will say sometimes - 'yay, we did a great job'. Especially after cleaning a big mess, and if she hadn't really being in the mood.

Of course there are plenty of thankyous and appreciative words said outside those times. And we chat about helpfulness.

Fitting chores into your routine, like living in a general rhythm anyway, helps children accept chores as part of the daily life.
If you really are rushed and choose to do something yourself, choose something that they probably won't notice it's been done for them. If a child learns it's optional, that's such an easy way out, for any of us!

I find that just asking a child to do a task can be hit or miss. If I can do something along side them, there's a better chance of success. If I remind Miss4 the toys need tidying, I'll also mention that I'll start lunch. When she was younger, we tidied her toys together.

Be Specific
Tidy up, clean your room, clean that mess, even set the table.... to vague. Try instead, time to place the toys in their boxes, please could you pick up all the dirty clothes from your room, here are the napkins for you to place for each person.
The wording would change, but being specific goes for every age.

I know many people use this word (although in UK we simply say housework), and that many parens are happy to make chore charts, with star stickers, and so on. We do what feels right. Personally, I dislike the word chores, because it sounds, dull, negative. If something is a chore, it's not a thing we choose to do given a real choice in the matter, right? Also, it makes household tasks very separate from the rest of the day. We do have play time, and story time, so also, bathroom cleaning time.

Make it fun whenever possible. This is not child-labour!
We use transitional and work songs (Waldorf style), play (like finding the 'fish' because they need a wash - cutlery. Or putting toys back into their 'homes' for a nap), or just put some fun music on. It can also be a time to chat together.
Children love 1-2-1 time with their parents, so if household tasks means also special time with mum or dad, wow, what a motivator, right?!


  1. Wonderful post and tips, thank you!

  2. Excellent stuff! So many good ideas here. I am still amazed at how much my kids love to help. Every morning, without fail, my three year old son helps me empty the dishwasher (although i quickly take out the nice mugs as he has dropped a few!) and he loves to load the washing machine. And both kids fight over cleaning the mirrors.

    Trouble is, the love to help me with "my" chores but are very reluctant to tidy their own bedrooms, we are working on that...

  3. I love you for this Mon!!!!!!! You rock. Can't wait to read it over and over again! xo

  4. Thank you for this. I've dropped the ball on getting him involved in housework (I dislike the word chore, too). Been meaning to read this book about getting kids to help out...but just been too flustered lately to read much of anything at all. So this helps.


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