Children and Chores

boy and dishwasher
When my first child was born, I knew I wanted to raise a self-sufficient adult who would know how to run a dishwasher and wash clothes. I jokingly told my husband, “I don’t want their spouses to think I never taught them how to help around the house!”

Of course, to raise a self-sufficient adult, you have to start young. I am a firm believer that children should help around the house, either for payment or simply because they are part of a family. As soon as my babies were able to toddle, I showed them how to pick up their toys. They couldn’t clean a whole room yet, but any “help” was met with praise. They followed me around the house, shadowing my movements and watching as I did my work. Soon they wanted to help, and would hand me plates from the dishwasher or clothes from the dryer with a smile. As they got older, they graduated to loading the washing machine with their own clothes and doing bigger chores around the house.

Children as young as 18 months can have their own “chores.” They need to be supervised closely, but helping a parent with household tasks can bring a sense of pride and accomplishment. I keep the kid-safe plates and sippy cups in a drawer that is within reach of my youngest two, so they can easily unload their own items from the dishwasher directly into the drawer. They also love to hand me clothes from the washing machine. Yes, it takes so much longer, but they are so proud to be helping me!

My school-age children are able to perform almost any chore the adults can, but with supervision. They vacuum, load and unload the dryer, dust, mop, sweep, and so on. They don’t always do these willingly or with a cheerful attitude (then again, I don’t either…), but they do them!

When the kids and I do our chores, I have to remember a few things:

  1. Safety first! — Always supervise children when they clean, especially if they are using cleaners. Keep cleaners locked and out of their reach until you are ready to help them. I use natural cleaners (mostly various combinations of Dawn, vinegar, water, and Eos), but my kids know not to touch the cleaners until I give one to them. Any screwing around, and I take the spray bottles away.
  2. Model, model, model — I need to show them what I want done, from beginning to end, multiple times before they can do it on their own.
  3. Work WITH your children — It’s important to be close to your children not only for safety reasons, but also because working together strengthens the parent/child bond. Sometimes we work in peace and quiet, sometimes we rock out to iTunes, but we are always together.
  4. It won’t be like you do it — It might not be perfect, but if they put in solid effort, it’s good enough for me! Work that is obviously sloppy has to be redone, but a few streaks in the mirror, where the child can’t reach? Fine. (And, yes, I resist the urge to redo their work because I think it sends the message, “My best isn’t good enough.” If I need something done perfectly, then
    I do it.)

I don’t love chores. In fact, most days I wish my family would become nudists so that I wouldn’t have to do one more load of laundry! However, I love working with my children to keep “our” house clean for all of us!

About The Author: Laura

Walden Mommy: Life Behind the Red Front Door My NPN Posts

Laura is the mother to a herd of four small children, wife to her Engineer Husband, and owner of a pesky dog. She blogs about her life in the Midwest at Walden Mommy: Life Behind the Red Front Door.

4 Responses to Children and Chores

  1. Emily B  

    This is SO TRUE. We actually moved Baz’s cups and dishes and silverware down to a cabinet he could reach so that he can put them away and retrieve them as needed (we also have water station set up so he doesn’t have to rely on us when he’s thirsty.) And the sense of pride he has when he’s able to do things himself – why *wouldn’t* you want that for your child?

  2. Janine  

    Great tips, and I love the bit about not going over their work to make it perfect. That is important for spouses and roommates too! If you go over what they do, they will just as well let you do it yourself the next time.

    I love watching my 2-year-old model my cleaning. He is actually practiced enough to clean up drink spills without any assistance or even prompting. Unfortunately he isn’t too keen on putting his own toys away without some incentive. Funny how as soon as there is something to gain he suddenly knows what I’m talking about when I ask him to put something away! Shocked at how early that develops. But hey, ya gotta look out for number one. 😉

  3. Momma Jorje  

    Good tips. It can be so hard to let it go when it isn’t done to your own standards, but I agree that it is so important not to follow behind re-doing stuff.

  4. Molly

    My 14-month-old knows to wipe spills with a towel and to put his clothes in the hamper. My 3-year-old puts her dishes in the sink and helps put laundry away. Chores are a part of our daily lives and doing them with a positive attitude is something we encourage.