Kids and Chores

Good parenting solutions help children learn life skills.

After reading a recent newspaper article about the value of children doing chores I thought it would be wise to post some ideas about this. Good parenting skills should include helping your child to develop life skills. In the Montessori classroom children as young as three eagerly embrace what we call Practical Life. They can polish their shoes, wash a window, water plants, wash dishes and even iron. Young children are very observant of adults and readily are eager to do tasks that we do but perhaps don’t relish. Inviting young children to help out is a wonderful way to foster independence and a sense of community. The child develops some marvelous skills too, like persistence, completing the cycle of activity, the sequence of the steps and concentration.

So if you are interested in involving your child in family chores, take a page from Maria Montessori’s playbook and make it interesting. Little caddies to hold dust cloths, spray bottles,wiping cloths and small sponges. Much of the attraction to the child is that everything is child size but also that it belongs to them. Think of the size of their small hand and create items that will work. The small spray bottle can be filled with plain water for misting plants or with a bit of vinegar for washing a window or mirror. Keep in mind that you will need to slowly and carefully demonstrate how to do the chores. Introducing these special Practical Life chores might be best done one at a time so the child can learn and perfect each over time.

A good reason to incorporate chores into daily life is presented by Marty Rossman of the University of Mississippi. Kimberly Dishongh reported in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, “She collected data starting in 1967 about children helping with household chores starting at age 3 or 4. She determined that chores instilled in the children the importance of contributing to their families and gave them a sense of empathy as adults. Those who had done chores as young children were more likely to be well adjusted, have better relationships with friends and family and be more successful in their careers.”

It seems today fewer parents are requiring their children to lend a hand. Presenting chores in an interesting way may be exactly what adults need to do to engage the children’s interest. As mentioned before the child size items will be very attractive but there is more you can do.

  1. Create a chore chart to hang at your child’s eye level somewhere in the home. List ten things and allow your child to pick at least three chores a day. Offering a greater choice can encourage more eager participation.
  1. Set the timer and do a Ten Minute Pick up where everyone participates. Turn on some music and go at it as a family. The children are bound to get involved if its fun.
  1. Create a chore jar. As a family write down on small slips of paper, ideas for chores around the home. Place the written slips in the jar and invite each child in the home to choose three slips without looking. The agreement before you begin is that everyone will do the job they have picked.
  1. Be sure to include outdoor chores when weather permits. Young children can pull weeds, (show them which ones are weeds!) spread wood chips, rake leaves, fill bird baths and even sweep and shovel snow.
  1. As the children adjust to doing chores, the list of what they can and will do can grow. Just be sure to always demonstrate how to do it before turning the task over to the child.

The added bonus to your child helping out in the family is that it is also nourishes his or her self-esteem. Feeling capable of making a contribution deepens the child’s connection to family members and strengthens confidence, independence and responsibility.

The following is a list of chores young children can do. They encourage cooperation and responsibility.

  • Put toys away before taking out any more
  • Sort flatware into the tray
  • Set the table
  • Feed the pets
  • Put soiled clothing in laundry basket after undressing
  • Put shoes in proper place so they can be found the next day
  • Polish leather shoes
  • Help put dishes away
  • Empty small wastebasket into larger garbage can
  • Make the bed (if using a simple coverlet)
  • Polish silver
  • Help load and close dishwasher
  • Help clear the table
  • Put dishes or glasses in sink that have been used between meals
  • Sort clean laundry
  • Match socks
  • Put clean clothes away
  • Prepare salad for dinner
  • Dust (Use special little dust cloths and brushes to get into nooks and crannies)
  • Wash a mirror or window
  • Help with baking projects
About The Author

Lois Olson

Founder of The Montessori Children's House Inc. Laramie, Wyoming Montessori Primary Certification 1973
Systematic Training for Effective Parenting facilitator certification
Thirty eight years of experience working with children ages 3-6
Twenty five years facilitating parenting groups
Ten years facilitating teacher training
B.A In Psychology

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